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tv   Apollo Program  CSPAN  March 17, 2019 3:34pm-3:51pm EDT

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americantching history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. >> next, former nasa chief roger launius spaceabout the apollo program. he describes how the cold war influenced the first missions and the excitement inr the moon landing 1969. explores apollo's legacy and speculates on the future of space travel. this 15-minute interview at the annual american historical association meeting in chicago. >> roger launius, the former chief historian for nasa. let's talk about the apollo to beginnd i want in the 1950s because that really is the extorting point to where we were in '70s.0s and explain. >> well, one of the things that's important to understand is it's hard to it for those who didn't live through it, but this cold war rivalry between the u.s. and soviet
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union was incredibly intense and one of those areas of space,tion was in because technology was going to win this cold war, and in had thetext, who best technology had a lead the other side. space was a demonstrator of that technology so all through the 1950s the americans and the soviets are competing in a whole arenas, but one of them is rockets, spacetic missiles, flight for peaceful purposes and ultimately, human space flight. >> early in that period, what did the soviets have that we did not? rocket.had a big and the irony in the context of that big rocket, they it as a ballistic missile so they could send a nuclear warhead to the united states. building them, too, to do the same to them, but we had the capability to miniaturize our weapons. they didn't have quite that
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same capability so they had build a bigger booster which enabled them to launch payloads into space and into orbit before we could do so. >> is why did they call it program?ik >> it wasn't really called the sputnik program per se. that was a name that was really by crus chev ther they launched first satellite. an alphanumeric system for designating these things and they would tend name them as they publicly described what they were doing. 1, the famous satellite that went into ofce on the 4th was really1957, something that they came up with after the fact and it big splash, initially the russians didn't make much out of it, such a big made splash, they played it for all the progged value they
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could. >> you lived through this period. like?as it >> just barely. i was a little kid when this was happening and i have no first-hand knowledge of sputnik. i have a pretty clear understanding of what the reactions were but one of the things that did happen is that everybody recognized new age had begun. we usually think of sputnik my gosh we're so far behind the russians. for did happen, but not a few weeks. the majority of americans interested in what was taking place. they talked about how this accomplishment, regardless of who did it, it was a step forward by humans, not just by russians or americans or whoever else and the result of that was took a while and argued bys american political leaders on the democratic side wasuse eisenhower president as something that
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had gottencans behind the russians on this and they needed to catch up used every opportunity to embarrass the other political side over issue. >> so during the time period especially 1956 through 1960, how much pressure was president eisenhower under? >> there was periodic pressure in a variety of fronts, but in terms of space, he didn't feel much thesure at all until sputnik 1 launch in 1957. of 1957. the reality was he had spent a fair amount of money on space activities. all done in the context of ballistic missiles building and rockets. that's a technology that has a variety of uses. you can use it to kill people and break things, but can also use it to orbit satellites into and ultimately, people. the other area he spent a lot of money was reconnaissance satellites and in 1960 the americans launched their first spy satellites that were able to
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pictures over the soviet union and eisenhower's motivated on we never want to have another harbor. we're not going to have a sneak attack again. we're going to know they're coming and this was the of these spy satellites. so he had spent a lot of in areas that were talked about very much, that most people knew very much about. and it provided a good bedrock on which to build public aspects of the program, but it did take a while for them to move in that direction. >> a new decade, a new president early in his term, john kennedy famously saying we're going to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade and return him safely. ready for that? was the country scientifically ready for that? >> nobody was ready for the decision to go to the moon in time.oint in fact, if you talked to the nasa hands who were there at the time their was oh, my god now this.e to actually do and they had the building blocks in place and they knew that with enough time
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and especially money, they could be successful. but if the objective was half-hearted way if they said we're going to do something and walked away, it wouldn't have happened. int they did have kennedy was an individual who said we're going to make this happen, and he it with budgets through the rest of his administration and johnson presidents vice and became president upon kennedy's assassination was committed to these things and had been a champion since the 1950s. did we get there? >> there was a lot of work. you know, the nasa budget rose from about $300 million 1960 dollars to and billion in 1965 that's the investment that took us to the moon. it started to go down after that. and that was the building of infrastructure like the
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kennedy space center down in florida, of the launch complexes, the assembly buildings, all the things see today, that was the result of the apollo buildup. and they've been modified time, but they're still being used. that theything did was invest in the technology, especially the rocket technology, the get to the moon. and the human piece of this, thespacecraft and astronauts and the spacesuits that they wore in space walks and so on and so forth was all the result of developments in that first half of the 1960s. the moon? why was that the objective? >> because the moon is the most romantic place that anybody can imagine. think about this throughout human history. we have always assigned significance to the moon. you know, it's viewed as romantic, you know, i love you so much i would give you the moon, those kinds of had as so it resonance in that particular way, but more importantly target. closest
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no place else is accessible in the same way. they found the target that was hard to get to, the soviets couldn't do it foundately, and they a target that was reasonable. they weren't going to be able to get to mars, for instance, that was too far. but the moon was perfect. >> and, of course, this year anniversaryh of the famous moon landing and the walk on the moon by armstrong, but after that as we moved into the 1970s, where was the program?ace what were its objectives? >> well, after the first began to they extend the missions and make them longer and more scientifically focused. i mean, the astronauts on apollo 11 deployed a few experiments and they collected some rock samples and did some things like int, but that was simple comparison to especially the last three missions. 15, 16 and 17 where they had a lunar rover that allowed them to drive around and go out as far as 20
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miles away from the landing site and deploy all kinds of satellites, some of which are still operating. and also to collect a wide variety of lunar samples and back for study. that was a real bonanza in of the activities that scientistsor the and we learned a great deal from that process, but that didn't have the kind of public resonance that those early flights did. get bored after the first few times we do this and passe and that apollo. with >> we've done a number of programs on c-span on the apollo program and one thing me is the smart phone we carry around has more technology than what nasa had innd the 1960s, which is really remarkable. is.t you know, they had good technology. there's no question about
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thatand they pushed technology pretty significantly. but they didn't have what got today and the microelectronics revolution the 1970s made it possible for us to carry around mini computers in our pockets the way we do today and talk on them and do all kinds of other things on them. interesting thing about apollo in some ways, nasa loves to talk about spin-offs and things that are everyday products that are the result of the investment in the space program and there are some of those. indirect.of it is you know, in the 1960s, they assembled a group of peopler specialists, who understood a little bit about computers to push the technology for the landing computer that was used on the apollo spacecraft. and they were at the lab at m.i.t., they did their work, small,ilt a very very robust computer fritz
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time, but it was very simplistic by our standards and at the end of the program, those people dispersed. it's interesting because they took with them the knowledge they had gained their rolodex. and all the names and addresses and contact information for all the people they had worked with and they seeded the industrycs everywhere. they went to industry, universities, all kinds of places. would contend that that indirect investment in microelectronics that came guys moving on to other jobs was really an important outgrowth of apollo. you say that was its biggest legacy? >> i wouldn't say necessarily it was the biggest legacy. is biggest legacy actually setting foot on another body in the solar bringing back the scientific data necessary to understand how the solar evolved and that's ultimately i believe more important, but from a perspective, that microelectronics seeding i think was significant.
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>> why is this of such you?est to >> well, i mean, space intrinsically exciting,g and and it's a history that is replete with heroes, in some villains, with rivalry, with races and success as well as failures. i mean, i can't think of a better topic. >> should we go back to the moon? >> i totally believe that it would be great to go back to the moon, and i think ultimately we will. it withready doing robots. we'll be doing it with humans, at some point, in indefinite future, but the biggest problem we had not the moon and us going back is we did not find anything there that we wanted. problem.e real terrestrial exploration has always been built upon a series of objectives. some of those might be geopolitical and we went to the moon for geopolitical purposes. but ultimately, it kind of boils down to if you find
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want,ing there you and that really means something of value that is commercially useful, that's when you keep going. found that on the moon, at least not yet. it might be there. know.t don't >> so based on the history of the nasa, the apollo ahead,, looking especially with private enterprise, looking at space exploration, what is the future? that we'rethink going to see a lot of activities in space. most of them are going to be orbit.h earth orbit is a very comfortable place for lots to happen.es and those can happen in the of governments, of individual organizations, companies and so forth, and all kinds of other things like that and, in fact, one of the things that apollo did and the orbital flights that preceded it and especially the shuttle afterwards, was made earth orbital
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activities no longer a frontier. it's not something that is unknown. we know exactly what is of people are starting to use it for all kinds of purposes and that's really where the companies story, as well. lunar space is much harder to do. unless there's a profit not going toe see commercial entities just going and doing it. they have to have some on investment. and there might be individual billionaires to spend some money, but they're not willing to spend everything to achieve this and when you start talking about multiples of billions, you can go through fortune in a hurry so that i think will remain the province of probably nation doing itaybe cooperatively. but i definitely think we'll be going back. youne final question as look at some of the key players in the apollo program. you mentioned presidents and else?, but who who are the unsung heroes in this effort? >> i'm not sure there's e --
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they're so unhung. there's a whole range of people who are unknown to nasa. outside of the person i keep pointing ruth. bob gill ofwas a veteran aerospace activities by the time of the apollo program. becomes the lead at what becomes the johnson space center where the human space activities all took place and he shepherded that effort all the way through program and finally retired in the early 1970s. ison't think that name well known. i don't think that individual is well known, but it certainly should be. >> what's your message to historians here in chicago? >> there are lots of things yet to be done in the flight.of space that is a really interesting area for exploration. toties very closely larger concerns that we have in a whole variety of areas, economically, politically, socially, culturally and we've only begun to scratch the surface of what we
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this.tand about >> roger launius, we thank you for your time. >> thank you. >> interested in american history tv? visit our website, c-span.org/history. view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs, and watch college lectures, museum tours, archival films and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

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