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tv   Public Affairs Events  CSPAN  December 16, 2018 9:57pm-11:01pm EST

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find video of past prime minister's questions and other public affairs programs. ♪ >> c-span's washington journal live everyday with the news and policy issues that impact you. coming up monday morning, former business administrator karen mills talks about the recommendations to bolster small businesses. and the white house proposal to overhaul the u.s. postal service, a conversation. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal monday morning. join the discussion. >> to mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight to the moon, a conversation on the apollo eight mission. this is an hour. >> ok, houston.
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>> christmas eve, dictated by launch windows which open and close in a long cycle. the december window opens. the mission was really when it wasears ago set into motion. reporting a vietnam reaction. >> the men i spent christmas with, it turned out to be as important as anything. everybody grew a little taller. i think it will be months before we know how much it meant to all of us and all the people in the world.
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it was christmas on our and on the moon. earth and on the moon. ♪ >> the moon is a different thing for each one of us. likely -- it looks pumice stone.
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certainly not an exciting place to live or work. it makes you realize what you are missing back on her. from the museum of science and industry in chicago and apollo eight, joining us from chicago. he is the author of the book rocket man. thank you for being here with us on washington journal. let's talk about this mission that took place 50 years ago this week. how significant was it? >> i think it was one of the most significant moments in human history. it was truly home mac in scope. the first time human beings ever
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left home and the first time we ever arrived in a new world. it truly was a space odyssey. let's put some specifics on the table. planet earth from to the moon. how long did it take? the moon is about 240,000 miles from earth. wasworld altitude record 300 -- think about the leap. miles to of a million get to the moon. >> frank was the commander. he was 40 years old.
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who were they, and what do they mean to the mission? guest: frank borman was the commander, and he flew on one who were they, and what do they mission before, gemini 7. jim lovell also flew with frank borman on gemini 7. he was also 48 years old, 11 days different in age between the men. they were joined by a third crew member, bill anders. borman was not interested in picking up rocks on the moon. he joined for one reason, to defeat the soviet union on the most important title field everywhere, space. jim lovell was the opposite. he loves rockets since high school. he was very romantic about the notion, even as a kid, of pushing into the cosmos and places people never been. anders was a beautiful combination of the two. he believed in defeating the
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soviet union and space, but he was also dreaming of being on the moon one day. so the crew came together at just the right time and just the right place. host: how do we get from john f. kennedy's pledge in 1961 to the apollo 8 mission in december of 1968 and neil armstrong in july of 1969? guest: that is a very good question, because when president kennedy made that promise, it did not seem like an ambitious promise, it seemed like an insane promise, especially to the higher-ups at nasa. one describes to me falling out of their chairs when the president made that thomas, -- make that promise because no , one at nasa had any idea how to do such a thing on my and even if it did know how to do it, they did not have the infrastructure, technology, or the manpower to do it. president kennedy only gave them 8.5 years to get this done, and
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nobody knew how to pull it off. the kennedy made that promise not for just publicity reasons, but he did it for existential reasons. we were losing the battle to the soviet union, and the president needed something so spectacular, important, and profound that it went over take the soviets and really win the space race, but he needed time to do it, because we were so far behind in 1961, and landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade seemed like the perfect combination. nasa just have to learn how to get it done at that point. host: why were we behind the soviet union? what were they doing at that time that we were not? guest: that was a big question for the united states at that time. why were we behind? it really all started in 1957 when the soviets launched sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite. the soviets have made their own moon in 1957. in a matter of days, it dawned on the united states that the soviets could control space, put
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men in space, and they can control space militarily. it was a big shock to us. just a few years before, soviets seemed like a primitive country. 1957, they were doing things we were not doing, including putting the first man in space, the first orbit, the first woman in space, the first dog, everything was bigger and better than what the united states was doing. they believe maybe even earlier than we did that the control of space was an existential proposition, and really it could control the universe and control the future. host: we saw the nasa footage a couple of moments ago, but can you explain how this became essentially a christmas mission? guest: yes, well, the mission had not even been achieved for months before it actually launched. it is almost impossible to think about now. most normally they take one year to year and a half to plan,
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train, and execute. this was just four months before it was scheduled to launch and was done so under duress. the lunar module fallen behind in mid-1968 due to design and production problems, and that alone threatens the entire progress of the entire program, but it also puts president kennedy was the end of decade deadline in jeopardy, it allowed the soviets to get the first. -- threaten to let the soviets get the first human beings around the. a brilliant man named george low at nasa had an epiphany in the early summer of 1968, and that epiphany was if nasa could send a mission to the moon without the lunar module, so leave it behind, go to the moon, they can learn everything there is to
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learn about a lunar mission for the landing itself, and they can keep the program moving. as he thought this through, he realized given the position of the earth and the moon and in everything at nasa could somehow come together in a near miraculous way, they could go as early as late 1968. there was a call for them, believe it or not, christmas eve and christmas day of 1968. somehow low believed it, and he convinced chris kraft, the director of operations at nasa, to sign onto your it seemed impossible, but if they could do it, they could keep the apollo program moving, they could keep kennedy's promise alive to the country, and maybe most importantly, infinitely to the first man on the moon. host: of course the assassination of dr. king, the
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riots and demonstrations in chicago, the escalating protests of the vietnam war and finally the election of richard nixon in november of 1968. i want to put on the screen and photograph that has now become iconic. it is the earthrise photograph that took is when the old auto a mission was taking place. explain this picture. guest: well, i believe this is the single most important, powerful, and profound photograph ever taken. it represents the first time human beings are looking back at themselves as a whole, a single, self-contained entity. none of them expected to see this beautiful scene unfold before them. it happened on the fourth of the 10 revolutions that apollo 8 was planning to make around the moon. through all the training, which
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was all compressed into 16 weeks, no one had ever thought to plan for an earthrise, so what happened was the astronauts were coming around the moon, and mormon change the orientation of the spacecraft, so when the astronauts look out, all they could see was that gray lunar landscape. it was all gray, no color, craters, mountains, hills, and gray. and beyond the horizon was the pitch black infinity of space. out there, black is a different kind of sensation than we know here on earth, it is infinite black. that is all there was in all of the universe. when the pitch black infinity of space, over the horizon was a tiny flash of blue. it was a miracle, it was blue, and none of them was expecting
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it, and suddenly it rides a little bit, and there is a crest to the top, and all of a sudden what they realize they are looking at is the earth rising over the horizon, and it was magnificent for them to review should hear tapes and listen to their discussions. they are beside themselves, they are overcome with joy and wonder at the spectacle. they rush for their cameras. frank borman actually gets the first picture of the earthrise, but he said the short lens was really for the principal photographer on board and an artist at heart, and he takes pictures of the earth rising over the lunar landscape, and these men are overwhelmed at what they are seeing. anders gets this shot that becomes known as earthrise. we all know the photograph. i think it is the most important and powerful photo taken because it does show us all as one for the first time, especially at the end of this year, which is one of the most divisive years
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in american history. host: our guest is robert kurson, joining us from chicago. his book, "rocket men: the daring odyssey of apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man's first journey to the moon." we want to bring in the viewers and listeners. if you remember the apollo 8 mission, call (202) 748-8000. central and eastern time zones, (202) 748-8001. and for those out west, (202) 748-8002. mr. kurson, you mentioned what the astronauts were seeing and hearing. here is part of it. [video clip] >> 68 hours, the astronauts past around the dark side of the moon. 10 minutes later, they fired the thrust engine into the successful lunar orbit.
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by now, the spacemen were radioing back their post only 70 miles away. >> the moon means a different thing to each one of us. i know my own impression is that it is a vast, lonely forbidding type of existence, like nothing. it looks sort of like clouds and clouds of pumice stone. it certainly would not appear to be a very inviting place to live or work. >> during their 10 orbits of the moon, the astronauts photograph of the sea of tranquility and other potential landing sites for use for future explorers. host: courtesy of the lbj presidential library. robert kurson, when you hear
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that, what do you think? guest: it still stirs me. this is a moving thing. this is the first time we arrived at a new world, and they are describing it for us live. it is a miracle of technology. 50 years ago, almost to the day, these three men climbed aboard a rocket that had the power of a small atomic bomb, a rocket that, by the way, had only been flown twice before they went, the second time of which has failed catastrophically. these men were incredibly courageous, and here they are at the moon describing this body that has called to humanity since we began walking on the earth, has on our souls, and here they are delivering a first-hand report of it. i never get tired of hearing it or cease to wonder at what they did. host: you wonder at one point there would never have been neil armstrong on the moon in july of 1969 other not been an apollo 8, correct? guest: that is very true.
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one of the things that attracted me to the story in the very early days i found it is that when i listen to interviews with other astronauts and read interviews with other astronauts and nasa personnel, they seem to speak about the apollo 8 in reverential tones, often in tones they did not even use for their own flight. it often came down to this -- by the time the apollo missions flew, so much of what needed to be known and done had already been done and proven, but when apollo 8 went, nobody knew that any of it could be done for sure. apollo 8 represents the first in so many ways, and nobody knew before they went that any of it never happened. -- that any of it could really happen. they were the true pioneers and really took the highest risks, in my estimation, it is the most dangerous of all the missions. host: we will get your calls in just a moment, but first, robert kurson, you told the story of how the book came about. tell the story again, if you would.
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guest: the book really originated where i am standing at the museum of science and industry in chicago, which is one of my favorite places on earth. when you grow up in chicago as i did, you go here on field trips starting at nursery school, can you answer it one of the great miracles of the museum of science and industry, one of the great joys, is that it is almost impossible to find your way out. about a few years ago, i was showing friends of mine the u-505, then german u-boat, which is similar to the u-boat i wrote about in my first book am a "shadow divers." i tried to get out and find my car, but as this happened to me since kindergarten, i got lost. i found myself in his room, and in the center is a wonderful spacecraft, that you see behind me, which looks as comes from the past and the future all that once. i went and read the explanation for what this spacecraft was.
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i had no idea. it is said that this is apollo 8, which made mankind's first journey to the moon, and that startled major and i love space and astronauts, i bought at the local grocery store, but i knew almost nothing about it. this was really incredible, man's first journey away from home and the first arrival at the moon. when i did get and find my way out, i started doing research. even among all the other miracles that nasa had pulled off, this one has stood out to everybody, it seems, and that is how it got started on the book. host: and the book is titled "rocket men." ted is joining us from fletcher, north carolina. good morning.
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ted, do you remember the apollo 8 and where you were christmas of 1968? caller: i do not remember where i was christmas of 1968. i was 14 at the time. i want to thank mr. kurson for the articulate explanation. looking at the space capsule on my television, it is amazing to imagine that those three men went to the moon in that and came back. i want to compare with where we are today with elon musk and i guess the blue orchid or blue space exploration with the reusable spacecraft. i think we are in another time when exploration is beginning to, you know, go beyond our expectations, and it is an amazing time, again. we are lucky enough to be witnessing new exploration into space. thank you for this program. it is very interesting.
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thanks. host: thank you. guest: thank you for the kind words. i agree with you about the excitement of the new space age, as we can call it. private enterprise is doing remarkable things. if you watched the launch of the falcon heavy a few months ago, it was like watching true science fiction coming to life, for the rocket to come back and land itself, better than anything hollywood has ever pulled off. in to think about the fact that they invest their own money and explore not just the moon but going back to mars and even further. it is a thrilling time to be alive, and i feel lucky to be able to appreciate it. i was five years old when apollo 8 launched, but i sure can appreciate the insight of the craft on the surface of mars and
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taking high-resolution surface pictures. it is such a miracle, and i feel so lucky to witness it. host: walter cronkite was a space advocate, loves covering the space program in the 1960's and 1970's. i mentioned that because david has this tweet -- "as a bucket list, to witness a rocket on the scale of a saturn 5 launch up close." will we see something like this again? guest: i think it is in our dna and politics, i think it is in our system, and we must do it. by the way, as we all sit here today at the very end of 2018, the saturn 5 remains the most powerful machine ever built. think about what that means, 50 years later, when technology is obsolete in a matter of months, 50 years later, the saturn 5 is still the most powerful machine ever built. the testimony of the people who
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witnessed it, it is incredible, and walter cronkite himself when he announced the launch of apollo 4, as you can see on youtube and online, the normally staid and conservative walter cronkite is overwhelmed. he is shaking. he is trying to hold the glass panel together, and he is miles away. the power almost cannot be described. 13 miles away in a howard johnson hotel, windows were rattling and threatening to collapse on hotels there. to get anywhere close to a rocket launch is on a bucket list item. if they ever launch something like a saturn 5 again, stop at nothing to see it. host: from lizzie another tweet, "the excitement will never appear again about space travel. we let it all slip away and will never get it back." guest: i hope that is not true. certain things will never happen again for the first time, and
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that is one of the things that's really me about the apollo 8 story, nobody will arrive at the moon for the first time. that was apollo 8. that is what remains so exciting to me. i hope that we have that sense again as we someday land on mars and go beyond. host: let's go to ron next in philadelphia. good morning. caller: good morning, sir. i remember 1968 was such a bad year for this country. we had the tet offensive, the war was unavoidable, two assassinations. i think they picked up the spirits of the country on christmas eve. the mission, his motto was "bring us together," and i think this launch basically brought
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our country together. i was sitting with my family on christmas eve, ready to go out to midnight mass and watch this on tv, and it was amazing. it was just amazing. i cannot believe it has been 50 years. it seems like yesterday. guest: yes, thank you. people were really worried about it, because apollo 8 was so convinced and compressed as far as flight plan and training. people were very worried about this. major newspapers editorialized against it. famous astronomers begged nasa not to do it. one thing i found in my research with a letter written a schoolteacher to nasa them not -- that begged them not to go at christmas time, in his point was this, it has been such a terrible year with the tet offensive, as he mentioned, 15,000 dead in vietnam, violence in the streets all over the country every week, including right here in chicago at the democratic national convention. you had a president who had decided not to run for
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reelection. everything seemed torn and divided against itself, and the teacher made that point, this is the worst year, 1968 that any of us ever lived, and christmas is the one day that we can all exhale and relax for just a few hours. it is the only thing we really have in this terrible year. can you please not risk the lives of these men, men who have wives and children at home? if anything happens to these men, nobody will ever think the same way of christmas again. but they were committed to go, and go they did.
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host: and there was one telegram best at what about 1968? guest: "time" magazine had already named its man of the year. by the time apollo 8 made its return, "time" magazine changed its mind and named the crew of apollo 8 its man of the year, that is what apollo 8 meant to the year and the world in 1968. the astronauts, when they came back home, were inundated with tickertape parades, all of the country, millions of people came up, tens of thousands of calls, letters arrived, it was the astronauts could not read all of them. one of them stayed with them and remains with them 15 years later today, since by an anonymous is in the midwest, and it said simply "thanks, you saved 1968," and indeed they had. host: from a layman's perspective, it is really remarkable how simple this
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rocket was. guest: yes, it is that once incredibly simple and also incomprehensibly complicated. you know, to get to the moon, and not just get to the moon, remember, the soviets, they just wanted to fly. chris kraft wanted to fly around the moon. bill anders once pulled out his iphone and showed it to me and said there is more computing power in this iphone and mission control had combined. he also had a little casio calculator watch and said it had more power than the spacecraft behind me, so in a way, it was very, very simple, but the calculations they made an the technology they put together --
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in comprehensible. they were scheduled to arrive at the moon at a certain time that was predicted by trajectory specialists. when frank borman heard the predictions, he started to do his own calculations, and he figured the average age was 24 years, the average age of the people plotting the course to the moon. when apollo 8 arrived to the moon and slipped behind the far side, causing communication with mission control to go to, the astronauts checked the clock, and mission control in the trajectory specialists had gotten the predicted cutoff right to the absolute second. that is what they were doing 50 years ago, sometimes with slide rules. it is incredible to think about how complex and how simple it was at the same time. host: you can get more information by logging onto the museum of science and industry in chicago, a website that includes celebrating the moon and the apollo 8 mission.
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stan is joining us from staten island, new york. good morning. caller: good morning. first off, thanks for c-span, because there is something about the way you guys do things always brings joy and happiness to people, especially when things are going all screwed up around here. in the meantime, what i remember back in 1968 was the fact that everyone was saying "why are we wasting all of this money going to the moon, we have poverty," and whatever it is. people did not get how important this was, because with everything that went on in 19 -- 1968, it provided an opportunity to bring a great amount of peace and joy to the nation, and what those three guys did, which is a question that i have for the author, which is -- how do you find three individuals to go into a space like that, go someplace
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where no one ever went before, during that those three individuals can work together? because i can imagine, you know, how do you end up taking out three individuals that have the personality to do something like this? i would really be curious as to how these individuals were picked. host: stan, thank you for the call. guest: you know, it is a very good question, and i agree with you about what they brought to the country in 1968. i am still not sure how they picked these men or the men for the other missions, but nasa has something deeply, fundamentally correct about how they picked these men. how they screened them, and how they bring them to the astronaut corps. these men truly had the right stuff. in terms of apollo 8, there was a pretty good idea that this would go well, because borman
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and lovell had flown together on gemini 7. it was a capsule much smaller than the one behind me, no larger than the front half of a volkswagen beetle, and to be together for 14 days. if you can do that together, you can probably go to the moon together. after the splashdown of gemini seven, when lovell and borman came together, they said i would like to announce our engagement. host: [laughs] guest: even though there were different men, they got along perfectly, and anders was an unlikely but perfect combination to the two. nasa knows how to find the right stuff. it was really miraculous how they picked them. as you said, at the end of 1968, it really was something special. it seems like when apollo 8 launched, nobody could agree on anything, the fabric of society have really been torn apart. by the time they splashed down, it did not seem like there was
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anyone in the country or maybe all the world that could disagree that something beautiful have happened. host: we should point out that the backup crew for the apollo 8 mission, who were they? guest: the backup crew were buzz aldrin and neil armstrong. the backup for apollo 8 became primary for apollo 11, and when you hear the armstrong and buzz aldrin talk about it, they knew something very special was happening. host: just as a side note, why was the armstrong designated to be the first man to walk on the moon? guest: i am not an expert completely in that, i think it just happens to be the way the rotation fell at nasa, but i cannot say that for certain. all i know is they were very confident in armstrong and aldrin and mike collins. by the way, fred haise was the
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third backup astronaut on apollo 8. collins ended up flying on apollo 11. they were considering sending the crew of apollo 8 as the crew of apollo 11, but that did not rule out to be true as i tracked down that information. host: this tweet, going back to your earlier point, mr. kurson, "consider: every one of us is tweeting on a computer device that is more powerful than the computers on the apollo mission." guest: yeah, it is beyond belief. they had to wired, the amount of memory that they had at their disposal, jim lovell told me such a good story that when they were training for apollo 8, when they use the navigator, he would go to boston and work at m.i.t., and he would use a bright light
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on top of the building looking out from over the charles river. that is how primitive and rush things were at the time. if you look at them today, the computer models, and they looked like objects that were designed by jazz musicians, cubist painters, and poets. it is wild. they brought it together and made it work, almost without a hitch. host: and when they return, commander frank borman speaking about the apollo 8 crew at the white house. here is what he said. [video clip] commander borman: mr. president, i thought we had experience every motion known to man in the 20 hours we spent in lunar orbit, but i must confess i believe that this passes it. i can speak for jim and bill when i say we are three grateful americans, grateful for you personally, we are grateful for your contributions to , and we are grateful for your service to the country. they have supported us in every
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way, and although we are symbolic of the country's greatness, we certainly feel very inadequate, and we are just very, very grateful. and sir, we did want to give you two things. we carry with us a space treaty around the moon, and bill anderson would like to present that to you, sir. [applause] commander borman: and mr. president, jim lovell have a picture of the ranch i think he would like to share. [laughter] [applause] host: from 1968, and all three crew members, as you pointed out, still alive. this is a more recent photograph, william anders, james lovell, and frank borman. don is calling from alexandria, virginia. good morning. caller: good morning.
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i want to thank mr. kurson and commend c-span for bringing or reminding us of what mr. kurson said was one of the most tremendous events in human history. i know people will be thinking quite a bit about the first man on the moon, to walk on the moon, but this event, which was the first time humans went to the moon, is, in my mind, just as substantial as the apollo 11 next july. so thank you for bringing that to the nation's attention. i hope the media will pick up on this event. the three humans, thank god they are still alive, that first went to the moon. i was 8 years old at the time. if you had told me when i was 8
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years old that in 50 years we would not be capable of putting man not just back to the moon but not even putting him in earth's orbit -- i know we are trying the last few years, there have been some attempts to get back, a manned spacecraft not to be capable of putting a man and lower orbit, i would have said, even as an eight-year-old, are you kidding me? are you crazy? anyway, thank you, c-span, and thank you, mr. kurson. host: don, thank you very there is a photograph in your book, mr. kurson, of valerie anders and susan borman, and we are told that james lovell radioed to earth and said "please be informed, there is a santa claus." what does this picture represent? guest: the picture is layers deep. if you read the story, susan
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borman was suffering very badly by the time apollo 8 launched. about a year and a half before apollo 8, three astronauts were lost, lost their lives during a test on the launch pad for apollo 1. one of them, ed white, was the husband of one of susan's closest friends, and susan watched the devastation that the loss of ed white wreaked on her family, the children, and susan became convinced -- not with relative certainty or mostly certain but with 100% certainty that frank was going to die in the line of duty, and when the apollo 8 mission was given, then she was sure that it was going to happen on apollo 8. she had been drinking a little bit when ed white lost his life, and a little bit more, but frank knew nothing about that. susan believed it was her duty, not just to her husband, but to the country, to spare husband from any problem or anxiety at all that might be going on in her life or in the life of her home, and so frank was oblivious to the suffering that susan was enduring. so susan was so convinced that frank was going to perish that
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while he was in lunar orbit, she began composing his eulogy at her kitchen table, because she wanted to be in charge when the inevitable happened. nonetheless, perhaps the most dangerous part of the mission came when the astronauts had to leave lunar orbit, they had to relight their single engine -- they had no redundancy, unlike future apollo flights, they had only a single engine, they had to relight, and they had to relight correctly in order to return to orbit. and so that moment came when the astronauts were behind the moon and so nobody really knew what was going on. they had to wait for a transmission from the spacecraft in order to confirm that the astronauts were in fact on their way home. when that finally happened -- and it was a heart stopping event -- it happened much later in the process than anyone thought was safe or viable, when radio communication was finally reestablished with earth, jim lovell came on and confirmed that there is a santa claus, and that moment, that very moment
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when apollo 8 emerged and confirmed it was on his way home, was snapped by a "life" magazine photographer of susan borman, and there she and valerie are at that very moment when it is confirmed that the spacecraft is on its way home. it is an incredible photograph, and the history behind it and the suffering of susan borman was immense, and that is part of what you need to know to fully appreciate that photograph. host: let's go to melvin joining us from chicago as we look at how the country, including president lyndon johnson, watched this live during christmas of 1968. good morning, melvin. caller: yes. i'm calling to verify whether my ship, the uss pierce was the recovery ship for apollo 8. i was aboard the uss pierce at the time we did the recovery. there was a very important experiment that we were using for that mission. a million megawatt pole was sent to the ship in order to bring back pictures from the moon, and i never found out whether that mission or that experiment went
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over or not. i was wondering, did mr. kurson have any information about that particular thing with the apollo 8 mission? host: melvin, thank you. guest: i don't. i am sorry to say that i don't. that sounds fascinating. i do not know about that experiment at all. host: what was going through their minds? guest: boy, it is hard to say. you know, when you ask them, i think what they felt most when i got on the recovery ship was grateful to be americans. they felt very proud of their country, for what it represented, for what it had done, and for what it has risked and dared to dupe your you must remember that we were still in the cold war, and this was a battle of ideals, a battle of freedom and communism. it really was thought that the
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side that would win the space race was going to win the cold war. so i think they really appreciated the sense of where they come from and where they returned to most. that and the ability to breathe fresh air after six and a half days in a spacecraft. host: and the fact that all three crew members are still alive, and in putting together this book, you have firsthand oral accounts to chronicle. guest: yes, it was the luckiest thing in the world for me. that all three were not only living but they welcomed me into their homes and really gave me unlimited access to me. they were happy to see me when ever i needed to pick up the phone. they could not have been nicer people, but one thing i discovered early on in the research in working with them is just how important the wives were in this story. i am ashamed to admit that i did not really contemplate that in this story. but i realize that each woman,
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valerie anders, marilyn lovell, and susan borman, were just as courageous, important to the success of the mission of apollo 8 as their husbands were, and what they did, and when they made possible with so moving to me and so deep that it became a major part of the story and about my book. the astronauts themselves could not have been nicer, more regular guys. when i was growing up, watching the space mission, they would push in the old little black-and-white tv on a big giant metal coaster, the kids would gather around and watch, i thought of astronauts a sort of demigods -- they were sort of half human and have godly, almost like a different species, this other creature that was so spectacular, there were many levels beyond rock stars are superstar athletes. there were just a few of them, and it did not seem like anyone had ever done or attempted to do before. when i finally met frank borman, jim lovell, and bill anders, i have to get used to the fact
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that these are just three of the nicest, most ordinary, wonderful, warm, regular guys. and i had to remind myself sometimes after days with them that they had actually done something unprecedented and spectacular, and just appreciate that, save for one or two strands of dna that are crossed a different way, or wired a little different than the rest of us, they are very much like us, but there is something a little different about them. they have the right stuff that separates them from the rest. that allows them to climb a 350-foot-tall rocket and lost to a place 240,000 miles away. it was a real privilege to get to know them and their wives and their families. host: before we get to the next call, i want to go back to the point that you just made, no backup engine. had the mission failed, what would have happened? guest: i will get you a good idea of what would have happened, because remember, the trouble that caused this whole plan to be rushed into existence
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and executed, so the lunar module needs to be left behind. they can learn everything there is practically to learn about making a lunar landing safe for the landing itself. the lunar module survey very critical secondary function, and that was as a backup engine. that meant when the apollo 8 when to orbit around the moon and needed to come home, it had to relight the engine, the only engine they had on board capable of getting them out of orbit. if the engine failed, misfired, hired to hard or too gently, they can be trapped into orbit, they could crash right into the surface, or they could be flung off into eternal orbit. they did not have the backup engine that the lunar module represents. now on apollo 13, which is flown by jim lovell, the secondary function of the backup engine of
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that lunar module proves critical to saving the after this explosion in the oxygen tank near the moon. that is what they used to get home. if an accident had happened aboard apollo 8, apollo 8 would still be out in space. host: joining us from pottsville, pennsylvania, good morning. thank you for waiting. caller: good morning. i am so excited about the program. i watch this, and the year after in 1969, when neil armstrong went on the moon, a woman came on the flight, she went into the control room, and all of the people in the control room have a recording of neil armstrong with a letter, and she got that recording of neil armstrong for $40, at that time, and ever since then, i have kept all of his clippings, everything from
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the newspapers, and now it turns -- i turn c-span on, and i'm hearing this, and i am all excited. i have my face right in the tv. i love it. thank you so much for everything you are telling us. this really brings back memories. host: rosslyn, thank you. robert kurson, your reaction. guest: well, i am as excited as she is, i have to tell you. it has that effect. again, i think this goes to something the inside our dna, this hunger we have to explore and to go beyond, it is something that space to all of us, especially, as we said, at the end of 1968, they did it, and i think we could use another apollo 8 for our time today. host: i want to go back to some more film. this is the white house dinner honoring the apollo 8 astronauts. keeping in mind charles lindbergh was in attendance. you can see how far we came in 1968 from when charles lindbergh
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made his historic flight. [video clip] >> a few days before the apollo 8 countdown, at the first white house dinner honoring america's entire space team, president johnson praised the leadership of nasa's outgoing director james webb. on hand was charles lindbergh, famed for his solo flight 41 years ago, and the astronauts of apollo 7 and apollo 8, who in 1968 earned their place in history. en route to the dinner, they autographed a document, which will hang in the treaty room, alongside mementos of early spacemen who visited the mansion. >> and now before the countdown before apollo 8 begins, i want to say this to the men and its crew, colonel borman, captain lovell, and major andrews, we pray for you, we think of you,
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we wish you godspeed, we wish you a safe return, and the only person in the world that is going to be more concerned about you than i am is the girls who will wait for your return. >> 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9 -- we have ignition sequence start. the engines are on. 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. we have commenced. we have liftoff. liftoff at 7:51 a.m. eastern standard time. we have cleared the tower. >> roger. >> i hear you, houston. >> loud and clear. >> 65 years to the month after orville and wilbur wright
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propelled the first american airplane over the ocean dunes at kitty hawk, powerful saturn rockets launched apollo 8's crew on man's first trip to the moon. host: robert kurson, that is a remarkable point, just how far we came from orville and wilbur wright to charles lindbergh to apollo 8. guest: yes, and charles burke actually visited and asked about the fuel that it would expend. he made the calculations and told them that in the first second of the apollo 8 flight, it would burn 10 times more fuel than lindbergh himself had burned in 1947. host: charles in new york, good morning. caller: good morning, gentlemen. thank you to you all. robert, i was just six years old
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when ed white became the first american to walk in space. the missions were exciting, because there was a launch every few weeks, but apollo 8 what's important, because it was the first mission to leave earth's orbit. apollo 8, 12, and 11 are the most famous accomplishments, in my opinion. guest: i could not agree more. matter how much you look into it, in fact, the more you look into it, the more astonishing it becomes and it happened 50 years ago. it does not seem old, it does not seem ancient, it is perpetual what these flights created. i do not know that we had the kind of existential threat that
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would cause us to push into the unknown like that, but i do have hope that we will do it soon, because we could really use that kind of wonder again. host: i want to show you on screen the apollo 8 mission, how the lender and the module really does look like the number 8. guest: right. that logo was designed by jim lovell just after the new assignment for apollo 8 came in. he and borman were sharing a jet to tell their wives about their new mission, and lovell sketched the figure eight around the moon. it was the first of many perfect confluences, where that logo really represents everything there is to know about the flight. host: and here is the lunar orbital plan from nasa, december, 1968. john, florida, good morning. caller: good morning. i was 10 years old when apollo 8
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happened, and yes, it seems like it was only yesterday that it happened. i remember me, my mom, and my dad watching this him as saying "is this real? does this mean we get to go to the moon soon?" and sure enough, in july, neil armstrong set foot on the moon. and it is a shame that america has lost its will to continue the apollo missions, specifically apollo 18, 19, and 20. i think america needs to be lifted out of its doldrums that it currently finds itself in. have a nice holiday season. host: john, thank you. robert kurson, i showed it earlier, but i want to show it again, president johnson at the white house, watching the coverage. explain what we had from the three broadcast networks during this time period. what was happening? guest: right. more people are watching these events that have ever tuned into an event in history. i think he is looking at three television screens represent the
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three networks. he is watching the splashdown, which is coming, another risky part of the mission. but only until it hits the water are people going to actually believe that this really happened. they may believe it, but it will not really dawn on them that it came true until they are back to earth, so that is the moment they are looking at there. it is one of the greatest moments ever, but you have to remember about the world tuning into this. before apollo 8 left, frank borman was told of the broadcast they would make would be listened to by more people than it ever turned into a human voice in history. nearly 1/3 of the world population would be tuned in by radio or television. and nasa gave him these instructions. they said "say something appropriate." he said "can you imagine being given that direction on something so important today? it would go through committees, the white house, marketing agencies."
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they left it to borman and his crewmates. they struggled with what to say on this historic christmas eve broadcast. they thought about changing the lyrics to a christmas carol, but that seemed to her list for such -- seemed to frivolous for such a momentous occasion, so he tasked a literary friend if he had any ideas, and that man cannot think of anything. he tasked another man, and that men also struggled. he explained his frustration to his wife, and he said i know what they should say. and he was taken aback when she explained with the men should say on christmas eve as they orbit the moon, and he knew immediately that it was right. he told bormann, and borman and his crewmates knew immediately, they put in their flight plan, and forgot about it. did not tell anyone at nasa, they did not otherwise her -- their wives or children, they were too busy. and they went back to training. on christmas eve, here is like television broadcast, and nearly 1/3 of the world's population is tuned in, it is spectacular to
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see the screen flickered life. and you can watch all of this online. it is amazing. the astronauts give you a tour of the moon. the moon is beneath them. it is amazing. here is what we have experienced, and then with a minute or a minute and a have to go, before the signal goes dead, bill anders begins to speak, and everybody at nasa's heart is pounding. the wives' hearts are floundering, they do not know what is coming, with a few minutes to go he had a few , minutes to speak, and he says to the world "in the beginning, god created" -- and immediately, men and women began to sob. bill anderson is reading from the first line of the book of
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genesis in the bible, a story that speaks to millions of us at once, a story of creation that is not have to do with tribes or conflicts, then lovell takes over and read a few lines, and then borman reads a few lines. with just a few moments left before the signal goes dead, he says with "happy holidays, merry christmas, and merry christmas to everyone on the good earth," and with that, the signal goes dead, and around the world, people stream from their homes, out of taverns, under bridges, everywhere, hoping to catch a glimpse of this spacecraft that spoke to all of us at once, knowing full well that they cannot catch a glimpse of anything, but looking all the same. that is what it meant to all of us. host: robert kurson, you have set up perfectly that piece of film.
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[video clip] that moment that you just described. >> we are now approaching, and for all the people back on earth, the crew of apollo 8 as a message that we would like to send to you. "in the beginning, god created the heaven and the earth. and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. and the spirit of god moved upon the face of the waters. and god said, let there be light, and there was light. and god saw the light, that it was good: and god divided the light from the darkness." >> "and god called the light day, and the darkness he called night. and the evening and the morning were the first day. and god said, let there be a
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firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. and god made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. and god called the firmament heaven. and the evening and the morning were the second day." >> "and god said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. and god called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he seas: and god saw that it was good." and from the crew of apollo 8, we pause with good night, good luck, a merry christmas, and god bless all of you, all of you on
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the good earth. host: that is from 50 years ago. robert kurson, in our final minute, what is the lesson 50 years later. what are the lessons learned from the apollo 8 mission? guest: i think the lesson learned is that if people in this country have the will, and if they believe in something strongly enough, they can do anything, even if they think it is impossible. it is possible with enough heart and enough commitment, and especially with our backs against the wall, the united states is capable of anything, and not just anything, but think that benefit our country. host: the book is titled "rocket men: the daring odyssey of apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man's first journey to the moon." joining us from chicago, thank you very much for your time. guest: i am grateful. thank you for having me. >> c-span's washington journal,
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live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up monday morning, former u.s. small business administrator karen mills talks about the bipartisan policy center's recommendations to bolster small businesses. house backed proposal to overhaul the u.s. postal service, a conversation with kevin gosar. be sure to watch washington journal live at 7:00 eastern monday morning. join the discussion. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> tamara, senior executives from esther carter microsoft, and exxon mobil talk about cyber security threats on small and medium-sized businesses. the national press club host the event on c-span2, online at, and on the free c-span radio cap. q&a with sarah
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churchwell and her look at the phrases america first and the american dream. their discussion on the political situation in great britain and the e.u.. bill nelsontor gives his farewell address on the senate floor. ♪ >> this week on "q&a," sarah churchwell discusses her book "behold, america." brian: sarah


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