tv Apollo 11 Astronaut Returns to the Launch Pad CSPAN July 20, 2019 5:00pm-5:26pm EDT
>> and now you are watching american history tv. every weekend beginning saturday at 8:00 a.m. eastern, we bring you 48 hours of unique programming exploring our nation's past. american history tv is only on c-span3. >> that looks beautiful. >> it is a start to beauty all its own, much as the high desert of the united states. it is very pretty. narrator: july marks the 50th anniversary of apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the moon. up next, apollo 11 astronaut michael collins returns to the launchpad at nasa's john f. kennedy space center in florida, to talk with space center director robert cabana about his experience. nasa hosted this event. >> good morning.
i'm out here at pad 309a with command module pilot mike collins. mike, it was 50 years ago this morning that you, neil, and buzz headed out here to be the first humans to set foot on the surface of the moon. what thoughts were going through your mind on the way out to the launchpad? michael i came out on the launchpad today and -- >> can you hold the mic up? michael: sure. i came out today and settled into this comfortable chair. it is a wonderful feeling to be back at launch pad 39a. it was a difference this time. i want to turn and ask neil a question, or maybe tell buzz aldrin something. of course, i am here by myself , but at any rate, i know they would enjoy joining into this sort of a conversation as much as i am looking forward to it. did you find it
different coming out for apollo 11 as compared to your gemini 10 mission? michael: the flights of gemini 10 and apollo 11 were quite different. we rode up on a rocket, so that part was similar, but the gemini program got a lot of publicity, some of it worldwide, but nonetheless it had more of a local character. it was almost like a celebrity, celebratory sort of event, like perhaps an athletic contest, where is apollo 11, on the other hand, was serious business. we crew felt the weight of the world on our shoulders. we knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe, and we wanted to do the best we possibly could, put our best foot forward, and that required a great deal of work on our part. but not too much time left over for any of the things we might have more enjoyed. robert absolutely.
having the weight of the world on your shoulders, i know you guys went through an extensive amount of training. can you tell us about the training? how did it prepare you for the mission? michael: i think the simulators were the heart and soul of our training. they were very good machines. they were excellent duplicators of what we would see in-flight. their one failing was that they could not duplicate particularly well the view out the window that we saw. but 99% of our work, throwing switches and communicating with houston, 99% of our work, we really didn't need to simulate the view out the window with great fidelity. so the simulators were very powerful instruments, and we spent a lot of time in them. i think the command model simulator, i spent 600 hours and
for apollo 11ing alone. robert: what did you find the most challenging? michael: i think about the flight to the moon as a long and fragile hazy chain. links in that chain, certain, finite points along the route, we have names for them, like going faster than escape velocity, slowing down into lunar orbit and so forth. but the point is, no matter how well things are going for you, you cannot just relax and pat yourself on the back and say, well, isn't this wonderful? you have to say ok, 17 down, what is number 18 coming up? i better get on the ball and worry about it. for me, it might have been different for someone else, but for me at least, the flight was
a question of being under tension, worrying about what is coming next, what do i have to do now to keep this daisychain intact? robert: you guys were down here supporting the vehicle processing, training and emulators, you spent a lot of time in florida. was that a challenge to your families? families react to you going to the moon? michael: different families react in different ways. in my family, with three young children who should not be uprooted from their schools, my wife pat stayed in houston, and i was by myself here. some crews imported their family from texas to florida, and it worked out well for them, but we used a different system and it worked out very well for us. robert we had a chance to visit : crew quarters this morning. we were in the dining room and
the rooms where you stayed, the suit room and everything. did it bring back any memories? how long were you in quarantine before the flight? michael: i don't know how long we were in quarantine before the flight. quarantine was sort of a bureaucratic stamp that had been put on some piece of paper. it did not really changed too much our normal training routine. i think we were in quarantine maybe two weeks? oh, if there is a historian out there, i am sure he or she will correct that number. robert: did you see an apollo launch prior to years? michael: yes, i saw, not an apollo saturn, but i saw the first saturn to launch, 501, and i will always remember it. we had pretty good seats for that. we were about, i would say
between two and three miles away, which sounds like forever and a day, but when you are looking at a saturn 5, certainly you find out in a big hurry that you are pretty close to it. the thing ignites, it takes off, it very, very quietly starts ascending. and you look out across the lagoon, and you say oh, that is not a big deal, i have seen rockets go off before. and then it starts going up and picks up speed, going faster. it looks a little more impressive, but still nothing very exceptional. and then the shock wave from the rocket power hits you, hits you in the viscera. your whole body is shaking, your feet underneath you are shaking in the mud, and you think, my god, this is what they mean by power. it gives you an entirely different feeling, a different
concept of what power really means. so you have to be there and have your belly shake before you can really evaluate a saturn 5. robert: did you get a chance to strap into the vehicle in practice before you launched? the first time you strapped in, that was not the first time. >> i don't think so. we had been inside the vehicle quite a number of times. going way back, our command module, 107, i had nursed it through the assembly process in california, and so it and i world friends. and very graciously, i invited neil and buzz to come aboard under certain circumstances, that i would be the czar of the trio, but i invited them into exercises torious prepare us for our separate
duties after launch. robert we are coming up on the : exact time of launch, so let's take a look at this video that is coming up. [video presentation begins] we have accomplished a successful vision we landed men , on the moon and return them safely. that was the primary goal, as stated. >> t minus 10 seconds. guidance is eternal. 10, 9, 8 -- ignition sequence starts -- main engine starts -- 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, lift off. ♪ >> apollo 11 was about exploration, about taking risks for great rewards in science and engineering. an ambitious goal before the work. ♪
>> for the first time, man has the flexibility or the option of walking this planet, or some other planet, be it the moon, mars, i don't know where. and i am poorly equipped to evaluate where that may lead us to. ♪ president kennedy: we choose to go to the moon in this day cad -- in this decade, and do other things. ♪ >> perhaps the highlight for lem woulds in the probably be a successful touchdown. i really look forward to that the most this time.
[video presentation concludes] robert: so mike, does that bring back any memories? could you talk about what it was like watching a saturn 5 launch? what was it like to ride that rocket? michael: the feeling on a saturn 5 is much different after engine ignition, it is quite different than what you might imagine. if you watch it from a distance, it makes this stately ascent, and you are quite aware of the gigantic power it is producing, 7.5 million pounds of thrust. but inside it is a different , situation. inside you are not worried about your power so much as you are worried about your steering, and you are suspended inside the cockpit, not too far away from that launch umbilical tower that is right off to one side. as you lift off, if there is any imbalance, it is compensated for by the swiveling of your motors below you. you have five engines down there. as you ascend very slowly,
majestically, inside it is a different situation. you feel jiggling, left to right. add you are not sure whether those jiggles are as big or as small as they should be, or how much closer they are going to put you to the launch umbilical tower, which you do not very much wants to hit right that moment. so it is a totally different feeling at liftoff. the nervous novice driving a wide vehicle down a narrow alley. and once you clear the tower and out a bit, pick up speed, then it becomes more like you might imagine, watching it from afar. you are more conscious of the gigantic amounts of power below you, you are more conscious of the acceleration and the speed that you are picking up, and then you soon find out that your
machine, your saturn, breaks apart into pieces. when it is finished with piece number one, it jettisons it and that gives you a momentary skyrocket inside the cockpit. the cockpit is immediately full of -- not any fire or flames, but the vision, the idea of the sight, of being surrounded by fire. when it gets through that little hiccup, fromttle then on it is a quieter, more rational, silent ride all the way to the moon. robert: what did it feel like when the second stage late. was that a pretty good kick? michael that is a stage we had : worried someone about during its birth and genesis. the designers and engineers have
had some difficulty with the second stage, and we were a little bit leery about how ready was the second stage for a manned flight? but it was perfect, smooth as glass, much smoother than either the first or the third stage, so it was our friend that day. robert awesome. : at the end of the video, neil was talking about being in the lem down on the surface of the moon. i know you have been asked this many times before, but i will ask it again. what was it like being all alone in the command module while neil and buzz were down on the surface of a moon? michael you know, i was amazed : that after the flight -- by the way, we were locked up in quarantine after the flight, with a huge colony of white mice. they were worried that we might have brought back some harmful pathogens from the moon. so they wanted to keep everything under observation.
so i was always asked, was entitled only as person in the whole lonely solar system when i was by myself in that lonely orbit? and the answer was no. i felt fine. i had been flying airplanes by myself, so that, being a loft in a vehicle was no novelty. , i trusted my surroundings, i was very happy to be where i was and to see this complicated mission unfold. but the time that i was by myself, i was perfectly enjoyable. i had hot coffee, i had music if i wanted it, good old command mod you'll columbia had every facility that i needed. and it was plenty big, and i really enjoyed my time by myself, instead of being terribly lonely. i was not one iota lonely. robert: did you ever enjoy -- did you guys ever feel like every time you had contact with
mission control, did you enjoy the breaks when you are on the side of the moon where they were not able to talk to you? michael: yes, it was kind of nice. the trip around the moon at 60 miles above the surface, that was my altitude, that is about a two-hour deal. it is almost like your radios can see around corners. they can't quite, but instead of being half of two hours, it was more like 40 something minutes of peace and quiet. and i enjoyed the peace and quiet. you know, mission control is our friends, our savior, our mentor, but they could also be a terrible nuisance -- yak yak, they want this, that, and the other little tidbit of information minute after minute, hour after hour. so to have a peaceful period of solitude was far from being terrifying. it was very nice, pleasant, easy, and i enjoyed it.
robert: >> did you have the opportunity to fly again? did you choose to fly again or not fly again, and would you like to have walked on the moon? michael: i was flying in a t38 one time with my boss, deke slayton, at one point between houston and the cape era, and deke said, i will plug you in. he would go forward, ding ding back on the radio, keep going, ding ding and so forth. was, he was offering me, as i interpreted it, to be the commander of the apollo 17. said to him, well, listen, deke if 11 doesn't work out, if , we screw something up were something goes wrong, i will come back and you will find me knocking on your door. but if everything goes like it is supposed to on apollo 11, i'm out of here.
and the reason i made that decision to leave was composed aspects, primarily involving the long interval. i would be another three years, i figured in my life, three years of living in dingy motels in strange places, trying to learn new things once again. rosydn't find that too a future. the other thing was, i would be separated from my family with , young children and a wife who have been wonderful about supporting me all the way through, including up to and through apollo 11. i would be asking her to go
through that whole rigmarole one more time, and that did not seem fair somehow. so i put all those things together, and i told deke, i didn't say i'm out of here, i forgot what i said exactly, but he understood. he didn't question it, and that was the way it was. robert sure. : i think one of the best books about the apollo era was your book, "carrying the fire." is there any epilogue you would add to it today, anything you would add to that original book? michael i don't know. : i would have to go back and reread it. it after itereading was published -- i believe it was published in 1974 or something like that. and i liked the interval between 1969 and 1974, because it gave me a few years to stop and think about things and what i wanted , to say, and yet it was close enough that i had not lost the detailed memories of these various components about the
flight to the moon. but the addition to it -- i think today, of course, there would be a number of additions that i would want to add. one would be the business of, where do we go from here? and that is a fascinating question to pose. i would address that if i were and to do a retake of carrying the fire. robert where do we go from here? : that is a great lead in. i am a product of the apollo generation, but we have a lot of folks on the planet are that were not even alive back then, and we're trying to create the artemis generation now as we returned to the moon and try to get the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. what do you think about our path forward? michael: i love the word artemis, the twin of apollo. i thought that is a wonderful name, and more important than the name, it is a wonderful concept. i think women can do anything that men can do in space,
perhaps they can do it better. so i think artemis -- i like that, i like it. i like how it rolls around on the tongue, you turn it over and think about it. but i don't want to go back to the moon. i want to go direct to mars. i call it the jfk mars express. john f. kennedy gave us the apollo express, and that was a wonderful, a masterpiece of understatement, of succinct instruction. what kennedy said helped us so much in our preparation for the first lunar landing, i cannot emphasize too much. wherever we went, we would use kennedy's name -- you guys got to get busy here, you are lagging behind. do this, that, and the other. kennedy said by the end of the
decade, and i would like to transfer that spirit from where we are to where we might go. and i would propose going direct to mars. under what i would call the jfk mars express. having said that, i grant people who want to go back to the moon, i grant that they have a great deal of merit to their argument. and neil armstrong, who i consider to be a lot better engineer than i, thought there were gaps in our knowledge and that we could fill those chinks by a return to the moon, and that would assist us mightily in our attempts to go to mars. robert and we believe the faster : we get to the moon, the faster we get to mars because we develop those systems that we need to make that happen. you mentioned neil. i wish buzz was with us today, but we have lost one of your crew permanently.
do you have any fond memories of neil you would like to share? what you think he would say if he were with us here today? michael: the neil i usually talk about when people ask me that question is not neil flying to the moon or back, although he did a superlative job as a crew commander. no complaints there. but what i think of is neil the spokesperson, for three men who were privileged to go around the world after the flight of apollo 11, and explain to the world what it was all about, or what neil thought it was all about. he was a masterful speaker. he was an introverted person in many ways. he did not want to grab the microphone, but if he found the
thrust in front of him, he could use it to wonderful advantage. he was extremely intelligent, had an extremely wide background of knowledge, scientific knowledge, historical knowledge, really, probably more than scientific, but both. the history of technology fascinated him, and on our around-the-world trip, time after time as our spokesman, he would make a speech -- i am so glad to be in your city here, let me do a quick check and see which city i'm in right now -- and he would have the audience audience just -- feeling like they almost crawled aboard columbia with us by the time he was through with his speech. he was wonderful in that regard. i think he was a perfect man of the group that i knew. i think there were probably 30 of us that might have been
candidates to be first man. i liked the other 29, but of that group i think neil was the perfect choice, and i am glad the otherslayton and had the smarts to decide also. robert i could not agree with : you more. he is one of the finest men i have ever met, not to be surpassed by you. it has been a true privilege and an honor to be out here on the pad with you today. thank you so much for everything and i wish you the very best, , sir. michael bob, thank you. : the operation you run here is so much more complex and many ways than what we had during apollo. i salute you and your ability to bring all these myriad, little pieces together in a successful future for nasa. >> thank you, sir.