tv Call-in with James Donovan Shoot for the Moon CSPAN April 28, 2019 11:35pm-12:02am EDT
we'll see you soon. [applause] [inaudible conversations] sciene and history in medicine and that will begin in about 30 minutes. joining us now on the set at the university of southern california's author james >> here at the university of southern california, here is james donovan, it is culture for the men, the space race an extraordinary voyage of apollo 11. before we get to july of 1969, let's start 1957, 1958. what was the effect of sputnik. it created a sensation in this country. crazy.
they somehow out science to us. we were stunned. people started wondering what was next, bombs coming down, nuclear bombs from the next larger satellite? space stations with nuclear missiles. it created nasa a year later, we had to respond somehow. it was the height of the cold war, which a lot of people now do not understand how tense everything was. a lot of people thought world war iii was starting. >> to the fact that sputnik happened, did we have a space program at all at that point? >> space might be stretching it. we had a satellite program. you may of heard burner from ground, that was a nazi in charge of the v2 program for germany.
we scooped him up and a lot of other scientists and engineers and brought them over here under the top-secret program called top-secret paperclip. all the services, navy, army each had their own program for space and a satellite. >> how quickly did the u.s. get a satellite in orbit after sputnik? >> a couple months later, it might've been done earlier than sputnik, but they wanted to be sure and they were testing it for safety, and if that had happened, the entire space race might never have happened. >> president eisenhower supporter nasa, did he get it? no he did not get it. he thought it was a huge waste of time and money. he did not think that it meant
anything. he did not understand. and a lot of people did not understand what it meant. and what would happen because of it in may 25, 1961. the importance of jfk speech. that was the challenge before the urgent needs. he challenged america to land on the moon and bring him back safely before the end of the decade. in reality, kennedy was not much of a space buff at all until this happened and he realized we needed something. this was a few months -- few weeks before and we needed some good news to counter that because it was dreadful for his image. >> was it a political speech? >> absolutely. there are two things evolve. in researching the book i realize, it was not just national security.
it was not just that we needed to get something up there to counter the russians, there was a thing called national prestige to show that we were not in second place behind the communist nations. this was the height of the cold war as i said. and there were dozens of nations and we haven't decided which side of the global tug-of-war they wanted to be on. they wanted to be on the winning side and they would show signs who would be winning the war. 202 is area code if you want to talk with james donovan about his book shoot for the moon talking about space travel, talking about moon landing and we will talk about the future of space travel as well. (202)748-8200. [gun shots] two at 274882 zero one phone back in the pacific time some. what did it cost the u.s. taxpayer up until july 20, 1969 to put a man on the moon?
>> about $25 billion of course which that is a lot more in today's dollars. that was in current dollars back then. but you know, nasa pioneers so many things, just in satellite, communication, medicine, and lots of other areas. six years later, 1975, someone estimated the return on investment, as r&d to be somewhere from 16 to one. 4% of the u.s. budget in 1966, this is from your book, was dedicated to nasa at one point. >> as sometime in the mid 60s, now nasa's budget is something like .5%. it is almost nothing like what it was. >> was neil armstrong on purpose or accident?
>> some people and nasa then and now would tell you it was his turn. he was chosen as the commander of apollo 11 which was meant to be the first mission to attempt a landing on the moon. in most i talked to didn't think you'd make it. they thought something will come up and there was too many unknowns. mip apollo 12, apollo 13, but he had a reputation as a customer, he had just barely survived several accidents in space, the f-15, he was one of the few f-15 pilots and i think that has something to do with his choice. >> alan shepard, who was he? first man in space about 15 minutes. in 1961. >> fifteen minutes questioning. >> as 15 minutes. it was a big deal because a few months earlier within -- the soviets had been beat us in some
areas we had to get some and answer and alan shepard. >> he was the first american in space. describe his voyage. >> this was back in a time when these were small nose capsules on top of inter- continental missiles they were meant to deliver nuclear warheads. people cannot believe that somebody would strap themselves on top of this and get in one of these records. they grew up with frightening regularity. and of course they did not know back then what space and what weightlessness would do to a human. they thought maybe it would do something to your brain, pass out, or get all spacey and weird. they had names for it. but it was considered a true hero what happened. >> how high up did he go?
>> maybe a hundred miles or hundred 25 miles. spent many nights in space. space starts about 60 miles up and came right down. >> rated healing? >> in the pacific a few hundred miles downrange from cape canaveral at the time. >> how many people died in space for trying to get to space in pursuit of getting to the moon? >> there's always been rumors that there were soviet but died. >> the russian government, they were open with the space program. they only announced the successful one after happened. so there is always been that. i never tracked on anything that was evident of that although several russians have died and of course there was the three americans, 1967, apollo tool for which was termed apollo zero one
who died and which should've been a simple dress rehearsal on a launchpad. it actually made the program safer. >> james donovan we were talking prior to the segment about our memories of seeing the moon landing. how was it, were we watching it live on july 21, 1969? or was that tape. how are we seeing cameras focused on neil armstrong? >> i've done radio shows with an alien holding the camera because how can we not see him. what happened was kind of where he backed himself out on the porch of the lunar module and he reached down and he let something go and it flopped out and there is a camera on the bottom of this thing. it was aimed right at him. that is how that happened. >> were with cnet life? >> we were cnet life a few
minutes delayed because that is about 240,000 miles away. >> it is been said that there is more technology in this phone then there was on that capsule. >> the apollo guidance computer, there was one on the lunar module and one on the command module. which was revolutionary. this is the time for ibm took up most of the room. each one of them had approximately 72 kilobytes of processing power and 1 megahertz of memory and one processing card in my iphone as has millions work. >> james donovan is our guest. the book is called shoot for the moon his first call is troy from missouri. troy go ahead. >> caller: james and peter thank you for taking my call.
regarding apollo one, did the astronaut suits fail? were they burned to death? and in addition, had he survived would he have been the first man on the moon? thank you. >> guest: if he would answer that, but also tell us what apollo one was. >> guest: apollo one, virgil and his crew, of ed white were scheduled to be the first crew of the first actual crew of apollo spacecraft in space. in january 1967. they were involved in which should've been a routine dress rehearsal to see if the power worked and unfortunately they were one 100% oxygen atmosphere which changed later of course in of anything we know what oxygen
does to a fire. and there is a spark, lots of material that was flammable, they were dead within 30 seconds and unconscious within 30 seconds. dead within minutes. they suffocated. and they were burned, but that did not cause their death. a lot of people people thought he might've been the first man on the moon. there is a feeling of the first astronaut to be the first man on the moon and he was one of them. anyway, he might have been, we don't know for sure. >> what was the date of that? >> i don't know the exact date, january 1967,. >> from shoot from the moon, nasa posted the qualifications for the job, research astronaut candidate the starting salary
would be between $8,312,000. the minimum requirement for the job including 1500 hours of flying time, graduation, axle under excellent physical condition be between 25 and 45 years old and no taller than 511. why the height requirement? >> this was the dawn of the spacecraft age and they had boosters that could only get a certain halo in space. so they did not want anybody big in the capital itself was kind of small. >> didn't they have an issue recently that the two women who were supposed to do the spacewalk could not because they were not spacesuits? >> those spacesuits were tailored to each man down to the size of his fingers. so when he pinched the fingers in his heavy gloves, it would work as well as it could.
the funny thing about those qualifications you mention, that was later, and at first before they decided on test pilots, they did not know what this was going to be like in space. they had considered an open call in america for daredevils, circuit performance, and they had prevailed and they decided that we have all these pilots and test pilots, we have all the records and this was of course a time of national security and emergency. so they just did that. >> did a lot of men apply? >> the call went out, not everybody did. because of the time they were not sure the program was going anywhere. or what it would do to the crew truck. there is a crew track and every one of the services. they did know if it was sidetracked or who would work at all. >> peter in alexandria, virgin
virginia. >> caller: hi, peter and james. peter this is so funny, i actually called about seven years ago, you are interviewing a gentleman at the space museum. and my question is, thank you so much for cspan. mr. donovan, i wanted to get your views excuse me i'm a little nervous. on the nuclear rockets successful ground test in 1969 and part of the issue is that is being done at the marshall center and this is just an idea the particular idea that a rocket laboratory and what is needed instead of the current term of laboratory. i think we should upgrade everything to rocket laboratory
and marshall to move marshall to california texas, or florida. i just want to get your opinion. >> host: peter in alexandria, virginia thank you. >> guest: there was some research and development into nuclear propulsion. it was abandoned, they stuck with chemical which they been using a course, but right now, of course they are thinking about going to mars and is a long, long way. 34 million miles. they're looking at other systems, ions, nuclear, a few others, i don't think they made the decision yet. there is a potential return to the moon. you have an opinion about that. >> guest: some people say and some astronauts said that we've been there, where we going back
50 years, but just move on. but there's a lot of things you can do what you get out of the gravity of earth. a lot of things you can do on the moon as a staging area. i don't think it's about idea at all. >> host: dave and vancouver, washington. >> caller: this dovetails on what you are talking about. as going back to the move. would we not need to go to the moon first before we go to mars to establish a research outpost that could develop fuel on the moon that would get us to mars that much easier because out of the gravity area, and secondly, the russians, the soviets propelled us with sputnik to do the apollo program, let's say the chinese, put a man on the moon with that motivate us to
really go forward with establishing a research outpost on the moon to go to mars? thank you. >> guest: we are in a different time now and we are not in the middle of the cold war with china. which really propelled us to do all the great stuff in the 60s with the space program i don't think it's the same situation. i doubt that would spur us on. i have seen more interest in space and space exploration right now and i think we have had in 50 years. all the commercial exploitation, and other companies working in partnership with nasa. so it is wonderful to see. >> host: michael calling, is he still alive? >> guest: he is still alive and going strong. he will be 89 on halloween.
he's been gone for a few years. mike collins is a wonderful gentleman, very thoughtful, speaking of her future in space, he said, people will go where they are able to go. i think that kind of says it all. it speaks to the human need, the human earning to explore, to find out what is in the next hill, next valley, on the next world. >> host: did he ever expressed regret being the guy who had to drive the ship around the moon while his two friends -- >> guest: he was a constant gentleman and he never complained. of course, he said once or twice in his book, which is the best national autobiography. of course, these were awful males, and everybody wanted to
be hired part of the stuff. and you wanted to walk on the moon. but he was a team player. he was happy to be part of the first group. >> host: new york city, joe please go ahead with your question. thank you. good evening, welcome to usc, i'm a proud children alumni and of course, it is special that you're discussing the moon. neil armstrong did his graduate work at usc. so with that, i will ask you, i was pretty upset to learn that there is not a celebration in washington for the public regarding the 50th anniversary of apollo 11 and i noticed that there is a contractor celebration hosted by kennedy space center which they are
saying the official celebration and with tickets of $5000 each. i was wondering here opinion about this and whether in fact, the notoriety of the media, movies that has now varnished the historical significance has overwhelmed the original tenant of what the space program was about to this country and is now just become a paid as you can to be a part of the program now. >> host: i think we got the idea. thank you. >> guest: of course he was the aircraft company that got the contract to design and build the moon or module. he played a very important part.
i've heard about the celebration. i have to say, what to celebrate, and what the governors decide to celebrate, it would've been nice to have something on the 50th anniversary. i'm sure they will have some kind of a celebration. you're right, it does not sound like the public is invited. i wish they were. >> host: what about in the control room at houston. why houston? how did houston get that? >> guest: you could write a chapter on that and i have. the vice president at the time was from texas. >> host: was their connection? >> guest: i wonder? the chairman of the house appropriations committee that was involved in budgeting for nasa was albert thomas and in his district was a place called houston. so they got the lion share. all fairness, they tried to spread out the goodies all over
the country in different states got different parts of the program. but of course the choice was nasa. the man's spacecraft center. >> host: here in california, isn't the lab and a couple other places? >> guest: exactly. cleveland, ohio, and of course langley, virginia was the origin of nasa's first headquarters. >> host: you to pretty clearly draw a political example to those locations? [laughter] >> host: is not fair to say? >> guest: to a fair extent yeah, you're right. the extensible reason that houston was chosen was one of the reasons was -- i always wondered also, why, as soon as the spacecraft clears entry everything shifts over to
houston, why don't they just do it all in cape canaveral, one reason was there might be signals mixed up from all the other programs in communications. >> host: fill in indianapolis, thanks for holding. you are on. >> caller: mr. donovan, my question what the liability is in going to mars. it takes so much time and money and what is the value in it? >> guest: right to the core of the question. economically it is outrageously expensive. spaceflight has always been expensive. that is why, nasa has not done much with manned space exploration since the early 70s. because the budgets were cut. there are economic reasons,
there are things to be found on mars and actually on the moon two. that might be well worth going there. but part of it speaks, i think i mentioned before, the human earning for exclusion. an anthropologist said, once that the civilization that does not move forward dies. i think there's something to be said for that. i think no matter how far in the future we are talking, i think as far, as long as some part of human we will be exploring. and for right now that means leaving the earth. >> host: tim donovan, based in dallas, about the alamo, and going to the moon. what is the connection?
>> guest: i cannot figure it out but a friend of mine finally said, this fits right in with the other two books and i said what are you talking about, he said man on the frontier, i guess that's it. >> host: shoot for the moon is his newest book, chances are between now and july of 2019 we will be seeing him