American Experience


Chasing the Moon, Part 2

Chasing the Moon, Part 2

AIRED: July 08, 2019 | 1:52:06

REPORTER: Now, ladies and gentlemen,

the president of the United States.

LYNDON JOHNSON: Our American dream for outer space

is a dream of peace and a dream of friendly cooperation

among all the nations of the Earth.

We intend

to live up to our agreement

not to orbit weapons of mass destruction.

And we will continue to hold out to all nations,

including the Soviet Union,

the hand of cooperation

in the exciting years of space exploration

which lie ahead for all of us.

(camera clicking, audience cheering)

JOHN LOGSDON: In the immediate aftermath of John Kennedy's assassination,

there was a question put to the new President Johnson,

"What do you want to do about the Kennedy initiative

to do joint missions to the moon with the Soviet Union?"

Johnson was skeptical,

but NASA didn't want to cooperate.

And so the decision was, "Let's not bother."

(spectators applauding)

NASA and the Apollo program had literally

the highest national priority.

REPORTER: Do we have any knowledge how we're doing

in this race to the moon with the Soviet Union?

Well, all we know is that the Russians have demonstrated,

repeatedly, a great competence

in, in their manned-space operations.

I think we... should not believe

that they are suddenly giving up...

giving up in this race.

I'm convinced that they will make an all-out effort

to land on the moon ahead of us.

We stop racing, they will undoubtedly win.

NEIL ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for a man,

one giant leap for mankind.

(rocket firing)

LOGSDON: People didn't know for sure at the time,

but the reality was

that the Soviet Union didn't have a moon program.

Turned out the Soviets were still debating

whether to go to the moon or not.

SERGEI KHRUSHCHEV: My father was pragmatic.

So when Korolyov came to my father

and told, "We have to work now on the new N1 launcher

to send the men to the moon," my father told, "No.

First, give me the cost of the project."

And Korolyov could not answer.

And he told, "I have different priorities.

"We have to improve life of our people.

"We need to invest in the housing,

"in the producing of the consumer goods.

"Americans spend their money.

I spend my people money, and I am responsible for them."

So he, at last he approved the preliminary design

of this lunar program

only in August 1964.

But the real lunar race started

only after my father was ousted of power.

After that, his successor, Brezhnev, didn't count money,

and he told, "Go ahead,

I will give you everything what you want."

GEORGE ALEXANDER: From the very beginning,

the Russian manned space flight program

compiled a very proud list of firsts--

the first woman into orbit around the Earth,

the first multiple crew,

the first spacewalk.

(cosmonauts speaking Russian)

These were all very impressive achievements.

It may have been a little bit crude

and rough around the edges,

but they did it.

(device beeps)

However, the Russians hadn't-- at that time--

mastered the problem of rendezvous and docking,

a critical part of the total lunar landing process.

All the steps involved in Apollo,

those were all things that had to happen pretty much perfectly,

some 230,000 miles away, on the moon.

And you didn't want to try

to do all those things for the first time

so far away from home.

Gemini was going to prove the lunar-orbit rendezvous.


WALTER CRONKITE: This is the equipment that will be the first computer

ever put into space in a manned spacecraft--

a ingenious device

which will enable these astronauts

to do the thing which Gemini is designed to do,

and that's for the first time to maneuver in outer space

so that they can link up with another vehicle out there

and build space platforms for future space exploration.

What they will be doing on this GT3,

this first manned Gemini flight,

the first maneuver will be to change the orbit, actually...

JOEL BANOW: I don't think there was anybody like Walter Cronkite.

He was like a kid.

He loved imparting the wonder of space

and what man was doing.

He made the average viewer really connect,

as he really connected,

to the whole subject of man going into space.

Their target vehicle is

in a perfect orbit encircling the Earth.

It's now midway over Australia.

It'll be back over the Cape here

in 38 minutes.

ALEXANDER: I was excited,

I thought, "Here we are in the new frontier."

And there was support for the cost and the risks initially,

but as time went on,

that began to erode.

MARK BLOOM: We had mixed obligations, I always felt.

We had the obligation to present the enthusiasm.

Historically, man going to the moon--

that was an amazing thing.

The second part of the story is,

we are covering a government agency, NASA,

which is spending $24 billion,

which, in those days, was a huge amount of money.

So we had to cover that element to it.


I don't think I covered it properly.

If anything, I erred on the side of covering the adventure.

The space program is costing us about $5 billion a year,

and if there is anyone left anywhere

who still cares about money,

he might reasonably ask

what we are getting for all of it.

If it is simply a matter of keeping ahead of the Russians

in a procession of high-altitude tricks and stunts,

it probably isn't worth it.

It is doubtful that a few points

on the international Gallup poll in Asia and Africa,

a little increased national prestige in Asia and Africa,

it's doubtful that's worth more than maybe 35 cents.

If it is simply a matter

of displaying our technical expertise

by orbiting around the Earth a series of metal tanks

carrying men, radios, switches, knobs,

and chicken salad in squeeze tubes--

that probably isn't worth the money, either.

(crowd cheering)

But there is another element.

It is said that by exploring space,

we will increase the sum of human knowledge

and perhaps make some basic discoveries,

learn some dimensions and insights previously unknown.

ANDERS: NASA was always trying to sell the program.

(crowd cheering)

And we'd go out and talk to kids in schools,

and, and we'd call it the Week in the Barrel.

MAN: I think those already that know me...

ANDERS: In the old days, in sailing ships,

they'd stick one guy in the barrel,

and he'd have to put his rear end by the hole,

and everybody would take their turn.

REPORTER: Flight of yours is...

ANDERS: So we had our week in the barrel.

(reporter talking in background)

ED BUCKBEE: "Astronaut in a Barrel"--

one astronaut per week would be selected,

and that astronaut, for one week, they were ours,

for speaking engagements,

television appearances, whatever.

You know, we managed them.

Astronauts hated it.

(crowd applauding)

FRANK BORMAN: The astronauts were used

as a PR tool by NASA very effectively.

And I have been on more parades

and spoken to more chambers of commerce...

You know, this was more than just PR.

This was, was ingratiating congressmen

to get their support.

Unless $141 million was restored in the supplemental

and the five billion, 304 million dollars approved,

we are near the position

where we simply will have to say,

"We're not going to do it in this decade."

BORMAN: Mr. Webb used it very, very effectively.

Webb understood you had to have the support of the Congress

to get this thing done.

You're not supposed to be a Texan.

Jim, you should have seen him with his Texas boots on.

I had my boots on a minute ago...

BORMAN: He understood how democracy works.

ANDERS: There was a lot of apple-polishing

with congressmen,

and so if a congressman wanted

to have some astronaut appear with him,

he just snapped his fingers.

(phone ringing)

Congressman Teague of Texas's office.

ANDERS: I became buddies

with Congressman, Chairman Teague

of the House Space Committee.

"Tiger" Teague was from a district

where I had lived in Texas.

I was one of his favorites.

George, would additional money

to any degree improve or change the Gemini program?

If I may have the first slide,

I thought you might be interested

in the rendezvous operation.

I think the Gemini's in good shape,

but I think the Apollo program

is going to have to have more money.

I understand that NASA is hesitant

about pestering the Bureau of the Budget for more money,

but if NASA's going to tell us

that we're not going to get to the moon by '70

because of money,

I think that the committee should certainly be aware of it,

and that NASA doesn't come back here later

and say, "We didn't succeed

because the committee didn't get the money for that."

BUCKBEE: I remember being there one day,

and as we were breaking up, this congressman stood up

and said, "Dr. von Braun, do you need any more money?"

And I thought, "I've never heard that comment made."

(birds squawking)

CRONKITE: In these final days before the launch of this Gemini flight,

now scheduled for next Tuesday,

dozens of contractors in dozens of buildings

all over Cape Kennedy

are going through the final tests

of their pieces of equipment

that will be in this complex booster and spacecraft

when they blast off from Pad 19.

LOGSDON: The start of the Gemini launches,

I mean, there were ten launches in 12 months.

There was lots of stuff going on,

lot of public interest,

and all of it clearly leading up to the Apollo landing.

CRONKITE: 1:40 and counting at Cape Kennedy

under cloudless skies.

Astronauts McDivitt and White,

preparing for four days in space

and America's first walk in space.

JACK KING: T minus 90 seconds and counting.

The launch vehicle has gone to internal power.

The launch vehicle is now on its own battery power.

CRONKITE: Everything is go for this mission,

from all the tracking stations around the world.

KING: Three, two, one, zero.

(rocket firing)


(people talking on radio)

CHET HUNTLEY: Space pilots McDivitt and White are at this moment

in their 18th orbit of the Earth.

They've been aloft 27 hours, 44 minutes.

They are currently over Western Australia.

The two pilots have flown about 430,000 miles,

nearly the distance of a round trip to the moon.

MISSION CONTROL: ...your heat exchanger to four...

Gemini 4, Gemini 4.

ANDERS: A major element of Gemini

was getting outside of the spacecraft.

And we called it the E.V.A., or extra-vehicular activity.

MISSION CONTROL: Gemini 4, copy...

MICHAEL COLLINS: The first E.V.As., of course, were on the Gemini 4, Ed White.

Ed White was just to get out and see what it was like

and then to come back in.

WHITE (on radio): Okay, I'm out.

MCDIVITT (on radio): Okay, he's out, oh-three.

WHITE: This is the greatest experience I've...

it's just tremendous.

Right now I'm standing on my head,

and I'm looking right down,

and it looks like we're coming up

on the coast of California.

Okay, I'm dipping down underneath the spacecraft.

What I'd like to do is get all the way out, Jim,

and get a picture of the whole spaceship,

I don't seem to be doing it.

MCDIVITT: Yeah, I noticed that.

You can't seem to get far enough away.


COLLINS: He was cartwheeling,


up and around and about.

He had a dorky little handheld maneuvering device,

which in itself was very difficult.

WHITE: Listen, it's all the difference in the world with this gun.

When that gun was working, I was maneuvering all around.

COLLINS: We should have paid maybe a little more attention

and said, "You know, we need some help

in terms of tethers, lanyards, handholds, footholds,"

but those were the things that we didn't really think of.

MCDIVITT: The flight director says get back in.

WHITE: Okay.

ALEXANDER: Ed White found it exhilarating.

(chuckling): He had more fun floating in space.

WHITE: I feel like a million dollars.

ALEXANDER: And so when NASA controllers in Houston said, "Okay,

"we've met all the objectives of this test,

get back in the spacecraft,"

and Ed White said, basically, "No."

WHITE: What are we over now, Jim?

MCDIVITT: I don't know, we're coming over the West, West...

Only they want you to come back in now.

WHITE: Back in?

MCDIVITT: Back in.

GUS GRISSOM: Roger, we've been trying

to talk to you for a while here. (device beeps)

ALEXANDER (chuckles): He stood up to Mission Control.

He became a hero to his fellow astronauts,

because so much of their life, by being in the program,

was circumscribed.

Mrs. White, to you, what was the highlight

of your husband's 20-minute excursion in space today

outside the space vehicle?

Oh, just the whole thing,

just knowing he was out there,

I knew how thrilled he was to, to do it.

And I'm glad he was able to do it.

REPORTER: And the Whites were greeted by neighbors and reporters

at their home.

...very nice here, I certainly appreciate it.


How are you? Thanks, Marty,

Come on in later on, I'll tell you some stories.

(Pat laughing)

REPORTER: Soon after returning home,

the Whites went swimming in a neighbor's pool.

(children shrieking happily)

CHILD: Daddy!

ED DWIGHT: This confusion about the name

with Ed White, Ed Dwight,

about the black community getting him mixed up with me,

all came to a head when, when Ed walked in space.

Ed showed up one day-- he was, he was a very, very nice guy--

and he brought me two boxes of mail.

He said to me, "I got two boxes of mail

"that are really addressed to you,

"and they're congratulating you, Ed Dwight,

"as the first African-American to walk in space,

"confusing you with me.

"Now I understand why it's important

for you to go into space."

It was 20 years from the time I went into training

to the time the first black astronaut was sent into space.

Now, 20 years is a long time.

America had to adjust

to allow non-white people to go into space.

Women, as well.

ANDERS: The primary purpose with regard to Gemini

was to demonstrate Earth-orbit rendezvous.

And, of course, docking was important.

And all of those things met with a lot of problems.

Even though I had studied orbital mechanics in college,

it still is perplexing to me.

There's so many counterintuitive things.

You slow down,

which drops your orbit,

which means you go around the Earth faster,

and pretty soon, the thing that was in front of you

is now above and behind you,

and then you can speed up and catch him.

The orbital rendezvous was so counterintuitive

that you really had to use the onboard computer in Gemini

in order to implement it.

The expert in the group was Buzz Aldrin.

I wouldn't be surprised if Buzz couldn't do it in his head.

MAN: Roll 23, scene three, take one.

I'm Lieutenant Aldrin.

I just got down off my 56th mission.

I'm stationed here at a advance base in Korea,

flying with the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing.

We were closing rather rapidly on the MiGs.

I opened up fire on them

while they were in this gradual turn.

ALDRIN: Two MiGs were flying,

and they never saw us.

We just snuck up from behind,

and as I was coming closer, why, a canopy came off,

and then there was a flash, and the ejection seat went,

and that was the first time

a gun-camera film had ever seen an ejection.

So that made "Life" magazine.

Later, while I was at M.I.T.,

I wrote a thesis called,

"Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques

for Manned Orbital Rendezvous."

That came from fighter pilot experience,

translating fighter pilot intercepts

to spacecraft rendezvous.

(device beeps)

ARMSTRONG (on radio): Hello, Houston,

this is Gemini 8.

We're stationed keeping on the Agena at about 150 feet.

BLOOM: Gemini 8, of course, was the Neil Armstrong flight

where they, they had the first emergency in space.

PAUL HANEY: Roger, do you have solid radar lock on with the Agena?


ARMSTRONG: That's affirmative.

We have solid radar lock.

HANEY: Neil Armstrong called in,

and he was able to confirm at that time

that radar lock had been...

ALEXANDER: The Gemini spacecraft did hook up with an Agena.

That was the stand-in

for what became the lunar landing module.

(clanks loudly)

MISSION CONTROL: Let me know what you get out of that.


ARMSTRONG: Flight, we are docked.

BLOOM: This emergency occurred when a thruster got stuck open,

and they were spinning wildly, and they were in trouble.

ARMSTRONG: We've got serious problems here.

We're tumbling end over end.

We're disengaged from the Agena.

We're rolling up and I can't turn anything off.


ARMSTRONG: We're in a violent left roll here

at the present time.

(Armstrong fading in and out)

The RCSes are off and we can't fire...

And we apparently have a roll on the stuck hand controller.


(alarms blaring)

BLOOM: When the emergency occurred,

I was in Houston, and you could hear everything.

MISSION CONTROL: We can't seem to get any valid data here.

It seems to be in a pretty violent tumble right now.

ALEXANDER: They were into a really horrific spin,

so much so that the astronauts

were beginning to feel disoriented.

MISSION CONTROL: We've lost considerable gas pressure...

ARMSTRONG: Okay, we are regaining control of the spacecraft slowly

in the RCS direct.


BLOOM: They were going to abort, and that was critical.

They had to splash down early.

(helicopter rotors whirring)

ALEXANDER: It demonstrated

that Neil Armstrong was a superb pilot,

a superb judge of mechanical systems.

God had given it to him with both hands,

and he knew how to use that skill.

He was decisive.

ALDRIN: Lovell and I flew on the last mission of Gemini,

Gemini 12.

If I hadn't flown on Gemini,

I never would have gotten a choice assignment in Apollo.

JIM LOVELL (on radio): You get in a good position for photography now.

ALDRIN: Well, the space walking in the Gemini program

was not very successful as it proceeded along.

COLLINS: We had not in our designs really thought through

what happens to objects

that bang together in weightlessness.

If I touch that table,

I go off in some totally three-dimensional,

random direction,

and very soon, you're just out of control.

ALDRIN: They didn't want a partial success or failure

on the last flight.

A lot of things can go wrong.

And I said, "Well, look, I've been a scuba diver,

"and you, you don't work against the current,

"you slowly kind of maneuver,

"and it's delicate, how you move around.

You need to do them delicately, not muscle."

Some of the astronauts said, "No, no,

"that's not going to be any good.

There's a big difference between water and space."

But everything I did do worked out so well

that neutral buoyancy

has, ever since, been the way you train.

ANDERS: Gemini 12, with Aldrin and Lovell,

was exceptionally successful.

ALDRIN (on radio): It is November 11, Vets' Day.

ANDERS: And I hand it to Buzz Aldrin.

He really made advancements

on working in space, to try to do things.

ALDRIN (on radio): This is a little bit harder than it was underwater.

ANDERS: That was the good news.

The bad news was, they did such a good job

that they canceled Gemini 13,

which Neil and I were going to fly on.

GARRY MOORE: Well, Mr. Armstrong,

your son is one of the two civilians chosen.

How long has he been flying, sir?

Since before he was 16 years of age.

Before 16?

This would mean that he had his wings

before he had his driver's license.

Right? That's right.

Now, how would you feel, Mrs. Armstrong,

if it turned out-- of course, nobody knows--

but if it's your... if it turns out that your son

is the first man to land on the moon,

what, how... how will you feel?

Well, I guess I'd just say God bless him,

and I wish him the best of all good luck.

HANEY: Well, gentlemen, the occasion, of course,

is the naming of the first Apollo flight crew.

The crewmen will be Lieutenant Colonel Virgil "Gus" Grissom,

Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. White,

and Lieutenant Roger B. Chaffee.

Gus Grissom was the first of the astronauts

to make two space flights,

and now he will be the commander

of the first Apollo flight mission.

Of course, you know Ed White,

he's become a pretty famous man in the last year.

And I believe this will be

Roger Chaffee's first space flight.

And, of course, we wish all these men extremely well.

Could you philosophize

on just why you think we should go to the moon?

I think there are so many questions...

So many reasons why we should.

And if we don't try to expand ourself and expand our horizons,

which, I think the space program

is the biggest example of expanding your horizons

that man has ever undertaken,

we're not going to progress as a nation.

From all standpoints, it's a good program.

And why we want to go to the moon specifically,

well, it's the closest thing, that we haven't explored,

to our Earth, and it's the first step

into understanding the, the whole universe.

MAN: 39X3, Take One.

DIRECTOR: Background, action!

MAN 2: Doris.

Now, this is called the clean room.

It's completely sterilized

so that no dust or dirt will contaminate the critical parts.

Workers entering the clean room must first stand

on this crate,

which shakes all the dirt loose

from the shoes and the clothing, like this.

(crate rumbling)

(loudly): Um, I think we better move on now.

We'll go in that direction.

(rumbling continues)

DIRECTOR: Cut, that's it.

Well, we had a little trouble with that one, didn't we?

As you've just seen, when we make a motion picture,

we can shoot a scene over and over until we get it right.

Now, Saturn and Apollo must be successful the very first time,

because the astronauts' lives depend upon it.

And from the caliber of people

I have met in the aerospace business,

and from the quality of the work I saw being done there,

I'm certain that it will be successful--

and on the very first take.

So, please, all of you, be extra careful.

Be extra, extra careful.

Won't you?

COLLINS: We spent a lot of time out in North American Rockwell.

Spent a lot of time

at the factory with the people out in Downey, California,

who assembled the actual spacecraft.

There was a we-know-better kind of an arrogant attitude

on the part of some of the managers,

and it was a, a laid-back,

"Well, we'll get it done one way or the other

sometime, somehow," attitude

on the part of some of the workers.

I think there was not the dedication

to the, the extremely strong work ethic.

Things like building a, building a good spacecraft

instead of worrying about whether you were going

to get your camper up into the High Sierras

for the weekend.

REPORTER: You flew on, on Mercury,

you flew on Gemini,

now you're flying on, on Apollo.

Does the law of averages

so far as the possibility of a catastrophic failure

bother you at all, sir?

No, you sort of have to put that out of your mind.

There's always a possibility

that you can have a catastrophic failure, of course.

This can happen on any flight,

it can happen on, on the last one

as well as the first one.

So you just plan as best you can

to take care of all of these eventualities,

and you get a well-trained crew, and you go fly.

This spacecraft you're going to ride on

is, to a certain extent, untried.

(continues): You're taking the shakedown crew.

Do you approach it with any apprehension

as compared to the Gemini, which had been flown before?

WHITE: No, I don't think so.

I think you have to understand the feeling that a pilot has

and that a test pilot has that...

I, I look forward a great deal to the first flight.

There's a great deal of pride involved

in making a first flight.

So I'm looking forward to the flight

with a great deal of anticipation.

REPORTER: Is anything scary about a first space flight,

even though you've flown many hours

in conventional aircraft, jet aircraft?

Oh, I don't like to say anything's scary about it.

There's a lot of unknowns, of course,

and a lot of problems that could develop

or might develop, and they'll have to be solved,

and that's what we're there for.

This is our business,

to find out if this thing will work for us.

Um, um...

But I don't think anybody is...

You know, I don't like to use the word scared.

I definitely think you're apprehensive,

and you're considering what's involved there,

you're thinking about it.

But you know how to handle it

and take care of it and do the job.

GRISSOM (on radio): All right, this is Senior Pilot,

counting one, two, three, four, five.

Five, four, three, two, one, Senior Pilot.

LAUNCH CONTROL (on radio): Pilot, I haven't talked to you yet, how's it feel?

One, two, three, four, five, four, three, two, one.

One, two.

(Launch Control audio cutting in and out)

Three, four, seven.

GRISSOM: Hey, how are we gonna get to the moon

if we can't talk between three buildings?

(no audio on radio)

GRISSOM: I can't hear a thing you're saying.

Jesus Christ.


Said, how are we going to get to the moon if we can't talk

between two or three buildings?

CHAFFEE (on radio): Hey!

Pilot's got a fire in the cockpit!

(audio cutting out)

(static crackling)

There is a bad fire!

(screaming): Help us!

Help us!

(static popping on radio)

(static ends)

LAUNCH CONTROL: Hey, crew, can you egress at this time?


Pad leader, get in there and help them.

Pad leader, zero, three, three.

All right, crew, did we get verification?

Can you egress at this time?

(no audio)

(audio cutting in and out)

Pad, were you able to hear them?

(audio cutting in and out)

Get them out of there.

(radio squawking choppily)

Gus, can you read us?

Pad leader?

Could you get them out of there?

(radio squawking choppily)

ANDERS: I was working in the yard,

and... I got a call from Alan Bean.

And he said, "We've had a fire,

"and the three astronauts were killed,

and would you go over and tell Pat White?"

So I quickly jumped out of my lawn-mowing clothes

and... drove over there.

It took me maybe ten minutes.

VALERIE ANDERS: It was very difficult, because Bill had to tell Pat White,

and Janet was next door-- Janet Armstrong--

so she went over there.

We didn't know how to divide ourselves right away,

because of the three wives having to be told about it.

So it was, it was just a time when...

We were in shock.

BILL ANDERS: I arrived, and...

I walked up to her,

and I, I think she sensed something.

And I told her, and she broke down.

America's first three Apollo astronauts

were trapped and killed by a flash fire

that swept their moon ship early tonight

during a launchpad test at Cape Kennedy in Florida.

They died at T minus ten minutes

into a simulated launch countdown...

(voice breaking): Helplessly trapped inside their spacecraft.

REPORTER: And this is a hard phrase to say,

but I think it's a necessary one.

It would be an instantaneous death, would it not?

I think that's a fair assumption.

Apparently, they died absolutely instantly.

ALEXANDER: I went to the NASA news center,

and Jack King told me

that the print media wanted me to be the pool reporter

to go up and look into the spacecraft.

And when I rode the elevator up to the top of the gantry

to where the, the burned-out spacecraft was,

there were only two or three people up there,

and there was a photographer.

The hatch was open,

and the smell of burned paper and foam-- not flesh--

was very pronounced.

There were some anomalous things.

For example, one side of the spacecraft

just was a pile of ashes,

but over on the other side,

there were manuals and, and other flammable stuff,


ALEXANDER (archival): The bottom of the spacecraft, below the frame,

was littered with clumps of debris,

which were unrecognizable.

There were... I counted at least,

at least 12 fire extinguishers.

Some obviously had been used.

Oh, by the way,

there were several gas masks on the floor, just dropped.

ALEXANDER: When the ground crew was able to open the hatch,

they found the three bodies piled on top of one another.

The hatch opened inward,

so it had to be pulled from inside,

pushed from the outside.

And as the combustion process inside the spacecraft proceeded,

it produced an enormous amount of, of gas.

But the pressure was so high that the three of them--

three very young, vigorous,

well-trained, well-conditioned men,

could not pull that damn hatch back into the capsule

and escape.

MIKE WALLACE: Walter, I'm sure this hits you particularly hard,

because these men were friends of yours.

You knew Gus Grissom from the beginning

down at Cape Kennedy.

CRONKITE: Yes, indeed, Mike.

That's, of course, true, and it does hit me hard.

Uh, I think that...

I think one thing should be said.

It's... this is a time for great sadness,

national sadness, and certainly the personal sadness

of the people in the space program,

but it's also a time for courage.

And if that sounds trite, I'll change the words to guts.

That this is a test program.

We knew it was a test program,

and these guys who went into it knew it was a test program.

And a test program with equipment of this nature,

as with anything where you're operating

in a hostile environment, which space is--

and this was a hostile environment,

even if they were on the ground--

this program is bound to claim its victims.

ALEXANDER: Initially, NASA tried to hide the gruesome facts

of their deaths.

Did the three astronauts die instantaneously?

Absolutely not.

They lived for at least a minute

before they died of smoke inhalation.

"Dead is dead," the space agency felt.

"Let's respect these men and their families

and let it go with that."

(jets roaring)

OFFICER: Firing squad, fire three volleys.

(guns fire three times)

(drum rolls, bugle plays "Taps")

VALERIE ANDERS: There was one funeral at West Point for Ed White,

and we had another flight going to Arlington,

so some of us went there.

Some people managed to go to all the funerals,

but it was, it was pretty chaotic, the whole thing.

(horns playing softly)

BORMAN: Well, that was the beginning of a...

of a very, very traumatic year for me and my family.

I had a hard time.

You know, I felt very hard for Ed White,

and I felt very hard for Gus and Roger.

We were...

We were close.

Our closest friends were Pat and Ed White.

And his death devastated Pat.

It was just a tough time.

ANDERS: It was really tough for her,

and then eventually, she committed suicide.

(water lapping)

REPORTER: No one knows when the program will be resumed,

but there's a feeling here

that Friday's tragedy will only slow down the program

for a short time.

The big questions remain: how did the fire start?

Why did it start?

Did a spark come from an overloaded circuit?

Was the spacecraft on internal or exterior power

at the time of the flash?

BORMAN: After the fire at the Cape,

some people, they couldn't handle it very well,

and then there were a lot of drinking and staying out

and a lot of pill taking,

and some of us got drunk, some of us went nuts.

My anguish and my concern lasted about three days.

Then, "What's next?

Let's get on with the job."

REPORTER: The service tower on Pad 34 will be rolled back today,

and the painstaking work of removing the Apollo spacecraft

from its Saturn booster

will get underway.

Then the spacecraft itself will be lifted off,

and the remains of it

will be taken apart bit by bit,

to see what went wrong.

BORMAN: That was the most thorough examination,

up to that time, of any accident.

I'd climb in and say, "Okay,

this switch is in the on position,"

and then we, we just went through.

A wrench was found, a discarded wrench was found

in the spacecraft,

and it was just clear

that things had not been going as well as they should have.

The absolute determination of what started the fire

was never discovered.

We believe we knew what happened.

We believe that it was a frayed wire

down around the environmental control system,

but it was impossible to say with certainty,

"Well, this failed, or that failed."

BILL ANDERS: There were so many things wrong

with the initial Apollo 1 spacecraft

that I don't think it would have survived a trip to the moon.

Pressurizing the spacecraft with 100% oxygen,

anything will burn--

an asbestos fire blanket will burn.

So why NASA, in all their otherwise brilliance,

allowed this test to happen, it amazes me.

But they did, and a spark ignited that thing.

KHRUSHCHEV: Before the American disaster,

we have the same fire, like it was in the Apollo,

because both countries tried to build the spacecrafts

as light as possible.

And at first they thought,

"Let's use the pure oxygen in the capsule,"

and one of these testing,

the person who was there, he burned alive.

He died, but Soviets kept it secret.

They don't want to publicize their disasters.

MARGARET CHASE SMITH: Why wasn't the seriousness of the situation

regarding the multi-billion-dollar contracts

at North American

made known to the committee?

Would you not feel

that the chairman and other members of the committee

should have been briefed on the situation?

The facts are, are they not,

that this committee has a responsibility

to pursue the matter to determine, uh, uh...

whether there was negligence on the part of...

BLOOM: Most of those congressmen and the senators

didn't have a clue what they were asking.

They would ask questions and didn't know how to follow up.

HOWARD CANNON: Mr. Webb, I'd like to ask you first,

whether or not that was a change,

and if it was a change,

what was the specific change

and what was the necessity for it?

Referring to flammable materials

and the, and...

Then the recommendation that...

BLOOM: They were senators and congressmen

trying to get publicity for themselves,

so, no, I don't think those hearings

were all that important, except politically speaking,

and I don't think there was ever a thought

that they wouldn't continue on to the moon.

GEORGE MUELLER: One has always to balance

the risks in this... in, in one of these programs.

There is no way of guaranteeing that every risk can be avoided,

and I don't... I don't think

that we, we have eliminated risk from the program.

JAMES WEBB: The difficulties are related

to the, the problems of going to the moon and coming back.

And we right now have a number of extremely serious situations,

but we also believe we know

that we can overcome them and fly.

They are no more difficult

than those we've faced over the last five or six years.

Maybe less difficult.

And the problems of, of this week

are never the problems of next week.

It's a constant series of a large number of problems

with each one being solved, and another one emerges.

And in the end, you get to the point

that you have enough confidence to launch the equipment.

BORMAN: I testified for both the House and the Senate.

When you sit up before this committee,

and you got reporters handing these guys questions to ask you,

because the people there,

they don't know their butt from third base.

Basically, I think I said, "Why don't you stop this witch hunt

and let us get on with the job?"

ANDERS: Frank Borman, he led the review,

and many changes resulted in a lot better spacecraft.

The first hatches were designed

as any sensible hatch guy would do, you know,

so it wouldn't blow out in space.

And it turned out, in retrospect,

that it was just one of a series of mistakes.

The replacement hatch,

I mean, it looked like a hatch engineer's wet dream,

with all these gears and latches and whatnot.

I kept looking at it, thinking, "Jeez, don't touch it."

BORMAN: The subsequent actions

instituted some very, very sweeping changes.

Management changes, technical changes were made,

that gave us a vehicle

that was far superior to the one that they died in.

The lunar module, it was also lagging behind.

It had never flown.

They realized that there were all kinds of problems

in that, too.

REPORTER: It looks like the world's fanciest cocoon.

Inside is a lunar module, one of the series of spacecraft

designed to land Americans on the moon before 1970.

But the elaborate cocoon hides a troubled butterfly--

an Apollo program substantially over budget

and so drastically behind schedule

that the goal of a manned lunar landing in the 1960s

may already be lost.

BORMAN: The fire shook the confidence,

the public confidence, in NASA.

I think NASA had a really almost golden image,

and then all of a sudden, that was shattered.

The space program, up to now, has been a crash program.

In other words, we've said, "We're going to the moon

no matter what."

Well, I think that we've got to abandon that emphasis.

This doesn't mean we abandon space--

we can't, we're not likely to.

Man has reached this threshold, he's not going to back off.

And so we're going to continue our effort

to probe ever deeper in space,

but it's got to be at... in accordance

with a different order of priorities.

There are some things here on Earth that we should now do,

no matter what.


who worked on the Apollo program will tell you,

is that in 1961, when they got the mission to go to the moon,

they sort of put their heads down to work on this problem.

So the, the desperation of the civil rights crusade,

the desire to have more inclusiveness--

women's rights and so on--

all of the issues that were transformed during that era--

they sort of got left behind,

and these guys sort of missed the '60s.

(explosion roaring)

(gunfire, more explosions echo)

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: If our nation can spend

$35 billion a year

to fight an unjust evil war in Vietnam,

and $20 billion to put a man on the moon,

it can spend billions of dollars

to put God's children on their own two feet,

right here on Earth.

BORMAN: You know, 1968 wasn't a very good year

from the standpoint of Americans,

with the assassinations and, and the war in Vietnam.

(crowd clamoring)

I, I was aware of what was going on...

(gun firing, whistle blowing, crowd clamoring)

(gun fires)

...but I was not part of that scene.

I was totally engrossed

in trying to get to the moon and back.

So it was almost as if

I was living on another planet then.

WERNHER VON BRAUN: There are many other things competing for public interest.

There's an election coming up,

and there's a war going on in Vietnam,

and there are problems in the cities,


Quite a few people seem to believe

that we have taken money away from the public purse.

We prefer to see our space program

in a somewhat different light.

We believe that we are actually producing values

and we are producing values at a faster rate

than we are taking money out of the Treasury.

ANDERS: Early on, we were all trotted around

to Huntsville and other places

where they were building parts of the Saturn V.

The Saturn V is taller than the Statue of Liberty.

It can carry a payload of 280,000 pounds

into a low-Earth orbit,

which is the equivalent of about 35 Gemini spacecraft.

With this vehicle,

the flight to the moon will be accomplished.

ANDERS: It was basically an analog rocket.

We had less intelligence in its guidance system

than I have in a Casio watch.

It probably was the most complicated pile of technology

that anybody had built.

(rockets firing)

BUCKBEE: Von Braun believed in testing.

I cannot emphasize that term enough.

(rockets fire)

Test, test, test.

Test to the point it breaks.

(thrusters roaring)

His idea was, you test the first booster.

Once you're satisfied that the first stage is successful,

then you put the live second stage on,

you test that until you're satisfied

that those two stages are correct,

and finally, you put the third stage on,

and you test it.

We ground-tested all of those stages

before they were ever shipped to the Cape for launch.

(rumbling loudly, hissing)

Well, that was the concept.

When George Mueller became involved--

he was Von Braun's boss-- you know, Mueller says,

"If we're going to beat the Russians,

"and we're going to do it within this decade,

"we've got to jump-start this program.

"So why not go all-up, unmanned,

"with all three stages hot,

and look at everything carefully?"

He came up with the idea of the all-up test.

Von Braun did not believe in all-up.

He was not comfortable with that at all,

because they had never followed that process.

BLOOM: This was the first unmanned test of the Saturn V,

the rocket that was going to take men to the moon.

So everyone was there.

And it was the first launching after the Apollo fire.

If that failed,

then NASA was not going to get to the moon

during the decade.

ALEXANDER: Just this enormous, enormous structure,

and you knew that once it was filled

with kerosene and liquid oxygen,

you were dealing with a very massive,

tremendous amount of energy--

just mind-boggling.

BLOOM: I mean, it was, everybody was...

There's seven-and-a-half million pounds of thrust

in the first stage, and what does that mean, really?

I mean, it sounds impressive,

but what would it really mean when it launched?

(talking in background)

BLOOM: By that time, the networks had all built trailers at the Cape,

and they had large windows that looked out on the launch site,

three-and-a-half miles away.

MAN (on radio): Check the generators for power transfer.

BLOOM: And nobody quite knew what the Saturn V was going to do.

(people talking on radio)

KING (archival): One, two, three, four...

KING (voiceover): On the first Saturn V launch,

you know when I say, "Ignition sequence start"...

KING (archival): ...nine, ignition sequence start.

KING: You've got those five giant engines,

and they ignite.

(engines ignite)

And it takes the remainder of the countdown

for them build up that seven-and-a-half million pounds

of thrust.

KING (archival): Five, four, we have ignition.

All engines are running.

(engines roaring)

KING: And there it was, sitting in a bed of flames.

It seemed like an eternity.

And there were still five giant swing arms

attached to that rocket.

And then all of a sudden, it would slowly lift off.

KING (archival): We have liftoff, we have liftoff at 7:00 a.m.

(rocket roaring)

(rocket roaring)

BLOOM: We were three-and-a-half miles away,

so you can see it,

but the sound and shock wave took several seconds

to get to us.

(sound booms, rocket roaring)

KING: I thought the whole damn roof was going to come down

on top of us.

Walter Cronkite was knocked off his chair

in his trailer over at the press site.

CRONKITE: Oh, it's terrific!

The building's shaking!

This big glass window was shaking

and we're holding it with our hands.

Look at that rocket go!

(people talking on radio)

MAN (on radio): How's it looking?

MAN 2 (on radio): Pretty good.

BUCKBEE: Everyone just looked around and said, you know,

"It really did work, I mean, it's fantastic.

It's working, working!"

(people applauding)

(cheering, whistling)

REPORTER: Dr. von Braun,

whenever there's a space accomplishment,

the question inevitably arises:

"Are we ahead, or are we behind?"

How about this? Well, I would say

the Soviet program has definitely more momentum

than ours.

Their relative commitment as a nation

to the space program

is estimated to be about twice as high as ours.

REPORTER: There's a lot of talk again

about what the Russians may be doing or about to do.

Could you please give us your assessment

of the talk about their big booster, about Zond 5,

and when they may try circumlunar flights

or lunar landings?

VON BRAUN: Well, my assessment of Zond 5,

that was the Soviet spacecraft that looped the moon

and re-entered over the Indian Ocean

and was successfully recovered by Soviet ships

in the Indian Ocean,

was a dress rehearsal

for a manned flight.

BORMAN: I was out at Downey, California,

doing a test on the Apollo 8 spacecraft.

I got a call from Deke Slayton,

said, "Get back here right away, I need to talk to you."

So I got in an airplane and went back,

and I walked in the door.

(chuckles): I remember Deke said, "Close the door."

And he said that the C.I.A. had information

that the Russians were going to try to go to the moon,

and that they... he wanted to know

if we could move our mission

from a, a February or March launch

to a December launch and go to the moon,

if we could retrain ourselves-- this was in August.

And I said yes, we could.

ANDERS: We had been told that the Soviets were going to try

to launch the first manned flight

up and around the moon.

It was proven that they, indeed, tried it unmanned,

they had selected a crew to fly a manned flight.

(rocket firing)

Many of the earlier flights were unsuccessful

for various reasons.

(explosion echoes)

So unbeknownst to us, the Russians got cold feet.

But NASA, under the threat

of having the Soviets scoop them yet again,

decided to shuffle the Apollo flights,

take Apollo 8,

whose lunar module was behind schedule anyway,

give us the first Saturn V,

and on that, we would just go around the moon

without a lunar module.

BORMAN: My odds for mission success were 100%.

If I didn't think I was coming back,

I wasn't going to go.

Bill Anders, I think, had figured out,

think he said, 30% for mission success.

But he was more analytical than I am.

ANDERS: Well, it was a big rocket,

full of very explosive stuff.

We went through the drill of escaping,

which was riding a wire and then jumping down to a chute,

and then jumping down there

and landing in a room on springs and padded chairs,

and I thought, "We'll never get that far."

And so the chance of beating the Russians

with this mere threat of the Saturn V blowing up

was not a big factor, at least in my concern.

The last thing we want to do is screw up.

We'd rather die than screw up in public.

Standard fighter pilot view.

POPPY NORTHCUTT: They accelerated the schedule on Apollo 8 so much,

the, the flight controllers had not had time to train

on the return-to-Earth capability,

which was really the big new thing

on that mission.

Well, I was on the return-to-Earth program.

I was a return-to-Earth specialist,

by the time we were flying Apollo 8.

So we went in to help them learn

how to use the return-to-Earth program.

Poppy, what do you actually do

during space flights here in Mission Control?

Well, my job is to get the astronauts safely

back to Earth from the moon.

What does that mean, exactly?

Well, it means determining what their position is,

the present position,

feeding the information into a computer program,

and getting back their maneuver angles

and how much thrust they have to have

to get back to the Earth. So you're computing

their trajectory for the return to Earth?

That's right.

NORTHCUTT: It was a complete peculiarity

to have a woman in an operational role

in Mission Control.

I was the first one.

For quite a while, I was the only woman

in a technical role in Houston.

There were some computer programmers,

a few of those,

but in terms of working on the engineering side,

I was the only one.

So I did interviews with all kinds of people.

REPORTER: But how did a girl

of only 25 get into this job

at such an early age?

Well, I studied mathematics in college,

and I came to work here right out of school.

I've been working on this particular project

ever since I came to work here.

Aren't the men jealous of you?

No, I don't think so.

NORTHCUTT: It was a very sexist society at that time,

which informed my becoming a feminist.

(typewriter keys clacking)

I started off working as a computress.

I don't know why they called them computresses.

We weren't necessarily doing computer work.

It was sort of like "Mad Men."

That was a fairly accurate depiction

of the world for women.

But I was really fascinated.

I wanted to know what I was doing

and why I was doing it.

And I had a math degree,

and I'd taken a celestial mechanics course,

so I just worked my butt off.

The guys that I was working around

could tell that I was working really hard.

I was working as hard as they were.

Or even harder, to be honest.

I mean, it was a boys' club, no doubt about it.

I was sort of the trophy.

I was blonde, I was young, I was thin.

I wore, you know, the latest fashion clothes.

How much attention do men in Mission Control pay

to a pretty girl wearing miniskirts?

Well, I think the first time

a girl in a miniskirt comes into the MOCR,

they pay you quite a lot of attention,

but after a while, they become

a little bit more accustomed to you

and pay more attention to the consoles.

It's been charged that when you walk

into the Mission Operations Control Room,

the mission grinds to a screeching halt.

(chuckling): That's not true.

NORTHCUTT: Well, of course I was being used.

My feeling was, "You can play this both ways."

The mere fact that a lot of women found out

for the first time

that there was a woman in Mission Control

was a very big deal.

I thought it was important that people understand

that women can do these jobs--

going into science, going into technology,

going into...

You know, doing something that's not stereotypical.

(dramatic theme music playing)

ANNOUNCER: Coverage of the Apollo 8 mission,

a presentation of ABC News,

is brought to you by Tang,

the instant breakfast drink.

FRANK REYNOLDS: Apollo 8 is the next necessary step

in realizing the goal outlined by President Kennedy in 1961.

No astronaut will set foot on the surface of the...

BORMAN: NASA wanted me to allow a film crew

to come into the house

while we were up on our way to the moon.

JULES BERGMAN: They are in their command module.

BORMAN: I mentioned this to Susan, and she was opposed to it.


She didn't want it, but I said, "Susan, look,

this is going to be important for the space program."

BERGMAN: And there on Pad 39 we can see liquid oxygen fumes

coming from the first stage...

VALERIE ANDERS: When there was a flight,

all the wives would usually go

to the home of the wife whose husband was up there,

and bring food and take care of children

and do whatever was necessary-- run errands.

And so there was a support there

that, that was interconnected,

and the children felt that, too.

You know, it was, "Oh whose dad is going up next?"

BERGMAN: 22 minutes and 38 seconds before liftoff,

all still going well.

Colonel Frank Borman,

the 40-year-old command pilot of Apollo 8,

is a veteran astronaut for these past six years.

How risky is this flight compared to Gemini 7,

your 14-day flight?

BORMAN (archival): It's more risky than Gemini 7,

there's no question about that.

We have the...

BORMAN: The fire shattered my wife's confidence

in, in NASA and in the Apollo program.

She had always thought that the...

somehow that it, it always happens to the other guy.

Well, when it happened to Ed White,

that resonated with Susan, and she began to, to fantasize

that I might be in the same situation.

And the subsequent interaction with Pat White

had left Susan shaken and drinking too much.

REYNOLDS: Well, all seems to be going very well at Cape Kennedy.

We are 12 minutes and 48 seconds away from launch time.

CRONKITE: Man is about to leave his planet for the first time.

Odds are against a major systems failure,

but if one occurred, the men could be lost.

NORTHCUTT: We were fixing errors very close to flight time,

which you're not supposed to be doing.

You're supposed to have, you know, sealed the system,

and we were still fixing errors.

My feeling was they were flying with baling wire

and rubber bands.

Everybody here at Cape Kennedy knows

how much is riding on this one.

And here's how the mission will be flown.

This is the Earth;

the launch takes place

from the Cape here,

goes into orbit, Earth orbit,

makes two loops around the Earth

as the spacecraft systems are being checked out by the pilots.

When they decide they are going to commit to lunar flight,

they will fire off their third-stage engine,

200,000 pounds of it, here,

and that will take them out

into what's called the trans-lunar trajectory.

They will drop that third stage and then be on their own

for the two-and-a-half-day flight to the moon.

KING: T minus 50 seconds and counting,

we have the power transfer,

and we're now on the flight batteries

within the launch vehicle.

45 seconds, final reports coming

from Frank Borman at this time,

final look at the switch list aboard the spacecraft.

35 seconds and counting.

We'll lead up to an, an ignition sequence start

at 8.9 seconds.

This will lead up,

as we build up the thrust to a liftoff,

if all goes well, at zero.

We just passed the 25-second mark in the count.

20 seconds, all aspects, we are still go at this time.

T minus 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, ten, nine--

we have ignition sequence start, the engines are armed.

Four, three, two, one, zero.

We have commit, we have... we have liftoff.

Liftoff at 7:51 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

(rocket roaring)

We have cleared the tower.

(rocket continues roaring)

ANDERS: We trained for almost everything for an Apollo flight.

Emergencies after emergencies in the simulators.

The one thing that we didn't train for

was the dynamics of the Saturn V liftoff.

The first 20 seconds were violent.

We were literally slammed back and forth in the seats.

I felt like a rat in the jaws of a giant terrier.

You couldn't hear yourself think.

BERGMAN: Now from 22,000 feet,

a speed of almost 2,000 miles an hour

at this instant.

(people talking on radio)

There's that majestic plume of flame behind the Saturn V

as she thunders into the sky, gathering speed.

HANEY (on P.A.): the mission,

and Frank Borman has confirmed

each event has been passed through

by Mike Collins at this point.

(people talking on radio)

BERGMAN: There it is, staging and the burnout

of the first-stage engines, right on the money.

HANEY: We can see the first-stage cutoff.

BERGMAN: 6,000 miles an hour.

More than 225,000 feet high, burning beautifully,

Borman, Lovell, and Anders off perfectly.

HANEY: ...has been relieved at the Cape.

Three minutes into the flight, we're 50 miles high.

BERGMAN: There's the escape tower separating.

HANEY: And about ten miles downrange.

"We have SECO," says Frank Borman.

SECO, and I would call it 11 minutes, 30 seconds.

BERGMAN: And they are in orbit,

that's Frank Borman's voice in the background,

saying we have SECO.

In two hours and 33 minutes from now, over Australia,

Borman, Lovell, and Anders will fire up that S-IVB engine again,

or attempt to fire it up again,

to propel themselves to escape velocity,

25,000 miles an hour.

The first men in history

to leave the gravitational field of the Earth

and head out toward another planet, the moon.

ANDERS: We only had an orbit and a half to make sure it was working,

because once you lit that third stage,

there wasn't any coming back.

COLLINS (on radio): Apollo 8, Houston.

BORMAN (on radio): Go ahead, Houston.

COLLINS: Apollo 8, you are a go for TLI, over.

BORMAN: Roger, understand, we're a go for TLI.

BUCKBEE: Mission Control told the astronauts,

"You are go for TLI."

Everybody in the press room, "What is TLI?"

COLLINS: You got a situation

where a guy with a radio transmitter in his hand

is going to tell the first three human beings

they can leave the gravitational field of Earth.

I can remember at the time thinking, "Jesus, you know,

there's got to be a better way of saying this,"

but we had our technical jargon.

And so I said, you know, "Apollo 8, you're go for TLI."

BUCKBEE: Trans-Lunar Insertion.

That's the first time

we'd ever heard that call to the crew.

It means, "You're going to launch out of Earth orbit

on an escape velocity, 25,000 miles an hour."

COLLINS: Apollo 8, coming up on 20 seconds to ignition,

mark it, and you're looking very good.

BORMAN: Roger.

ANDERS: I mean, we'd trained, and "Go for TLI,"

we'd heard it 30 times in the simulator.

And, yeah, it was a little different.

BORMAN: Ignition.

COLLINS: Roger, ignition.

ANDERS: Particularly when that rocket cut in,

and unlike the simulator, you could feel this push

for quite a few minutes.

COLLINS: Apollo 8, Houston,

trajectory and guidance look good, over.

BORMAN: Roger, Apollo 8, good here.

ANDERS: So we knew we were going like scalded dogs there

by the time that engine cut out,

and that's when we set the world speed record.

Seven miles a second, 25,000 miles an hour.

(talking in background, dog barking)

REPORTER: Mrs. Borman,

what did your husband have to say

when you last saw him?

You mean when we said goodbye?

Yes, ma'am.

Now, that's very personal, you know that.


But he... all through the week...

VALERIE ANDERS: It was daunting to go outside,

because the reporters never left.

I didn't go out there myself,

because it was, it was too overwhelming.

MAN: Come on, say it for the picture.

SUSAN BORMAN: Really, I'd love...

I'd love nothing better

than to make a beautiful, profound statement for you

that would be earth-shaking for everyone,

but I'm, I'm just speechless.

I... this hasn't sunk in yet.

REPORTER 2: Which stage was most...

did you feel the most... intense about?

SUSAN BORMAN: Well, I think both the launch,

and, uh... then the burn into...

What do they call it?

The... MAN: TLI?

TLI, thank you very much.

I think both of those would pretty much go hand-in-hand


ANNOUNCER: This is a typical meal served to astronauts

aboard Apollo space flights.

Oatmeal, sausage, toast, applesauce,

and in a special zero-gravity pouch, Tang--

the energy breakfast drink.

Tang, with rich...

BILL ANDERS: Before flight, they wanted us

to basically try the personal items, like the food.

They wanted to make sure we weren't allergic.

One of the things was the Fecal Containment Device.

Sounds pretty high-faluting, Fecal Containment Device.

The Fecal Containment Device looked

like a, a plastic top hat,

with a sticky rim, stick it to your bottom,

and it had a built-in glove.

So I tested this thing and resolved

that I would see if I could avoid using it.

I went the whole flight without taking a crap.

COLLINS: Apollo 8, this is Houston, over.

BORMAN: Go ahead, Houston, how do you read?

COLLINS: Roger, we're reading you loud and clear.

We're on a private loop now, and we'd like to get

some amplifying details on your medical problem.

Could you go back to the beginning

and give us a brief recap, please?

ANDERS: Poor Frank got sick.

Frank had thrown up, and not only threw up,

but he was what us engineers call a balanced couple--

both ends, you know?

It was a mess.

Just imagine a bunch of diarrhea and vomit

floating around right in front of you.

I grabbed a, an oxygen mask

that was only supposed to be worn during fire.

I put the mask on, because it didn't smell good at all.

We didn't announce that to the Earth,

and because we had a special channel

that I knew about, being a communications guy,

where we could put it on tape,

that didn't go through NASA Public Affairs.

BORMAN (on radio): Mike, this is Frank, I'm feeling a lot better now.

I think I got a case of the 24-hour flu, intestinal flu.

COLLINS: Roger, understand.

And when did you first notice it?

Or could you go back to P00 and start us out

with the beginning of your problem?

ANDERS: Wasn't much they could do about it anyway.

We certainly weren't coming back.

We finally got the place cleaned up,

but it, it's amazing

how you can learn to live in a filthy environment.

After a while, you kind of get used to it.


If all those great big antennas

and that little four-and-a-half- pound camera works

as everybody expects it to,

we're due for some very exciting pictures--

possibly even more exciting

than the ones that were sent back

by the crew of Apollo 7.

BORMAN (on radio): Do you have a picture now?

KEN MATTINGLY: That's a negative.

EECOM, are you the television expert?

Or F.A.O., who knows the most about that camera?

Got any suggestions?

BORMAN (on radio): Do you have anything, Houston?

We have it on the Earth.

MAN: I don't have anything.

MATTINGLY: Okay, we're having no joy.

BORMAN: What I wanted to do more than anything else

was to go to the moon and come back,

and I didn't want anything that might deter that mission.

And somehow I figured that the television might do that.

MATTINGLY (on radio): Apollo 8, we have a picture now.

ANDERS (on radio): He's on "Candid Camera."

ANDERS: Frank was strictly mission-oriented.

He didn't want to have anything

that would detract from the success of the mission.

So he balked at the TV camera.

We didn't need it.

We were there to show that we could go around the moon,

and we'd beat the Russians in going around the moon,

and so who needed a TV camera?

Well, I thought we ought to have it,

just to be able to show the people on Earth,

you know, what we were doing.

BORMAN: I was overruled, rightfully so,

because after all,

the American people deserved to see

what they were getting for their money.

BORMAN (on radio): We're rolling around to a good view of the Earth,

and as soon as we get to the good view of the Earth,

we'll stop and let you look out the window

at the scene we see.

CRONKITE: I assume that shortly we'll get some explanation

of the picture we're seeing.

Doesn't make a great deal of sense to me,

here at the moment.

HANEY: We're theorizing here,

that bright spot in the top left center of your picture

is the Earth.

That's the best centering we've had, Apollo 8,

if you could just hold that, that's perfect.

BORMAN: Well, I hope that everyone enjoys the picture

that we're taking of themselves.

How far away from Earth, now, Jim, about?

COLLINS: We have you about 180,000.

BORMAN: Thank you, well, you're all looking at yourselves

as seen from 180,000 miles.

(car horn honks)

ANDERS: You know, Jules Verne would portray astronaut, cosmonauts

as peering out the window,

watching the moon get bigger and bigger.

As a matter of fact, we never saw the moon

until we got there.

One of the reasons why is that NASA, rightly, was worried

that since we went during a very new moon,

that meant that the sun was almost behind the moon.

So anybody looking at it

would be looking right at an unfiltered sun,

and they worried that it would hurt our eyes.

JERRY CARR (on radio): Apollo 8, Houston, one minute to L.O.S.,

all systems go.

BORMAN (on radio): Roger,

going to begin reset, tape recorder forward,

low bit rate.

CARR: Roger, safe journey, guys.

ANDERS: Thanks a lot, troops.

LOVELL: We'll see you on the other side.

ANDERS: It wasn't until we actually were getting ready

to go into lunar orbit,

when we turned the spacecraft backwards

and were preparing to reignite the service propulsion engine

to slow us down.

And we went into the shadow of the moon.

There was this huge black void, and that was the moon.

And I must say that the hair went up

on the back of my neck

when I saw that.

CARR (on radio): Apollo 8, Houston, over.

NORTHCUTT: When they went behind the moon the first time,

we had what you call loss of signal.

So no radio contact.

And then you have a predicted time for acquisition of signal

as they come back around.

But they do their maneuver

on the back side of the moon.

That maneuver behind the moon is very critical,

because if they come out too early, it's not good.

If they come out too late, it's not good.

They really need to be coming out

when you think they're going to come out,

or they may be running into the moon.

CARR (on radio): Apollo 8, Houston, over.

Apollo Control, Houston, we've heard nothing yet,

but we're standing by.

NORTHCUTT: Well, they didn't come out on time.

CARR: Apollo 8, Houston, over.

NORTHCUTT: During the mission itself,

I sat in the staff support room,

not the room that you, you would see on TV at that time.

In the room where I was,

I don't think anybody was breathing the whole time.

I mean, you were just watching that clock,

and you were hearing the CapCom calling out,

and nobody was answering.

CARR: Apollo 8, Houston, over.

And I've never had such a small amount of time

seem so long.

CARR (on radio): Apollo 8, Apollo 8,

this is Houston, Houston, over.

BORMAN (on radio): Roger, Houston, we read you loud and clear.

How do you read us?

CARR: Apollo 8, this is Houston,

reading you loud and clear now.

We've got it, we've got it.

Apollo 8 now in, in lunar orbit,

there's a cheer in this room.

This is Apollo Control Houston,

switching now to the voice of Jim Lovell.

VALERIE ANDERS: The three wives had a squawk box in the house,

to see what was going on on the flight.

LOVELL (on radio): 169.1 by 60.5.

CARR: Apollo 8, this is Houston, roger, 169.1 by 60.5.

Good to hear your voice.

VALERIE ANDERS: When they came out from behind the moon,

Marilyn and, and Susan and I got together,

at, at Susan Borman's house,

and we all just rejoiced.

It was one of those things where

there were so many untried, unknown parts of that flight,

that each step, you'd think,

"Well, can we, can this be successful again?"

CARR (on radio): Roger.

LOVELL: We don't know whether you can see it from the TV screen,

but the moon is nothing but a milky white,

completely void.

We're changing the cameras to the other window now.

CRONKITE: They've got two windows

from which they can get good, clear pictures

uh, from the spacecraft.

BORMAN (on radio): We're switching so that we can show you the moon

that we've been flying over at 60 miles altitude

for the last 16 hours.

Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and myself

have spent the, the day before Christmas up here,

doing experiments, taking pictures,

and firing our spacecraft engines

to maneuver around.

What we'll do now is follow the trail

that we've been following all day

and take you on to, to a lunar sunset.

ANDERS: Backside of the moon,

for reasons that still are in debate,

is much rougher, no mare, a lot of craters--

uh... looked like a battlefield.

All torn up.

BORMAN (on radio): I know my own impression is that

it's a, a vast, lonely, forbidding-type existence,

or expanse of nothing.

It looks really like clouds and clouds of pumice stone,

and it certainly would not appear to be

a very inviting place to, to live or work.

Jim, what have you thought?

ANDERS: We were busy, you know, looking at the surface,

and curious,

but I must say, it got boring fast.

I mean, you look at a crater, and they all look alike.

BORMAN (on radio): There is a fresh, bright, impact crater...

ANDERS: And Lovell had the same reaction

through the navigation telescope.

It all looked the same.

The closer you looked, the more holes there were.

BORMAN (on radio): I hope that all of you back on Earth

can see what we mean when we say

it's a rather foreboding horizon,

a very, rather, sort of dark and unappetizing.

Is this our landing site a little bit over there?

LOVELL: Yeah, this is our landing site, right down here.

BORMAN: We're now going over...

LOVELL: Approaching a landing site.

BORMAN: Approaching one of our future landing sites,

selected in this smooth region to...

LOVELL: The Sea of Tranquility.

BORMAN: It's called the Sea of Tranquility,

smooth in order to make it easy

for the initial landing attempt,

in order to preclude having to dodge mountains.

ANDERS: So by the time we got around the third revolution,

by this time, we'd sort of saturated on the moon.

ANDERS (on radio): Oh, my God, look at that picture over there.

That is the Earth coming up.

Wow, isn't that pretty?

BORMAN: Hey, don't take that, it's not scheduled.


ANDERS: You got a color film, Jim?

Hand me a roll of color quick, would you?

Oh, man, that's great-- where is it?

ANDERS: Quick!

ANDERS: And so here was something that was different.

Absolutely not briefed on.

Nobody had told us on the ground

that the Earth was going to come up.

We had no photographic instructions,

no light meter.

LOVELL: Down here?

ANDERS: Just grab me a color, a color exterior.

LOVELL: Exterior?

ANDERS: Anything, quick.

Here. Okay.

(inaudible) Here, give it to me.

Just let me get the right setting.

Calm down, Lovell.

Oh, I got it, right.

Oh, that's a beautiful shot.

You're sure we got it now?

Yeah, it'll come up again, I think.

ANDERS: And suddenly, here was this beautiful shot,

only color in the universe.

(shutter clicks)

It would become the top-ten photograph

of the 20th century.

But, of course, I'm the guy that took it.

What else would I say?

BORMAN (on radio): Well, let's talk about that, that's what I want to...

Why don't we do this?

Why don't you hold it out the window like you did,

and I'll say a couple of words,

and then we'll say something about

how this kind of reminds you about how it might have started.

Hey, wait, we got to do it up right,

because there'll be more people listening to this

than ever listened to any other single person in history.

BORMAN: We'd been told before the flight,

"When you're televising from the moon on Christmas Eve,

"you'll have the largest audience

that's ever listened to a human voice."

I said, "Well, that's nice-- what do you want us to do?"

"Do something appropriate."

We thought, "What's appropriate?"

ANDERS: Frank Borman went and asked a friend of his,

who asked his wife.

And she said,

"Well, why don't you tell them just to read

from the first book of Genesis?"

Which, you know, the creation myth,

or the creation story, is pretty fundamental.

BORMAN: And then we looked at it,

and we, like, all of us, "This is perfect."

ANDERS (on radio): And for all the people back on Earth,

the crew of Apollo 8 has 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."

ANDERS: I can't speak for the other guys,

but to me, it was not a religious thing.

So much of it was a kind of a hard hit

to the psychological solar plexus

that would help mark to humankind

the gravity, so to speak,

of man's first departure from his home planet.

BORMAN (on radio): "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 close with good night, good luck,

a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you,

all of you on the good Earth.

(static hisses)

(rain falling, wind gusting)

Merry Christmas.

REPORTER: How's your day been?

The day's been hectic.

We tried to sleep in, because we'd been up so late.

Christmas got a little bit late this morning.

So I think we're late to church.

Thank you.

(people talking in background)


Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Thanks for being so patient.

How was this morning?

It's been... actually a very lonesome Christmas this morning.

I miss Jim, but...

It's one of the happiest Christmases

I think I'll ever have.

ANDERS: All religions are based on the fact

that the Earth is the focus of the universe,

and God sits up there with His supercomputer

and keeps track of all the rights and wrongs.

Orbiting Earth and then going to the moon,

it's given me a different outlook.

The Earth is really nowhere near as special

as we'd like to think it is.

Though it is our home planet, for humans,

and it's the only one we got right now,

and there's none in, you know, in easy sight to get to,

so therefore we ought to take care of it.

But we shouldn't think

that this is the designated center of everything.

(device beeps)

LOVELL (on radio): Well, did you guys ever think that one Christmas Eve,

you'd be orbiting the moon?

ANDERS: Let's hope we're not doing it on New Year's.

LOVELL: Hey, hey, don't talk like that, Bill.

Think positive.

MISSION CONTROL: We show a loss of signal with the spacecraft.

We are now about 28 minutes prior

to our Trans-Earth Injection maneuver.

(device beeps)

NORTHCUTT: You're going to fire your engine basically one time,

and that's got to take you all the way home.

A small miss, at the beginning, when you fire the engine,

can represent a heck of a large miss at the end,

like missing the whole planet.

LOVELL (on radio): Houston, Apollo 8, over.

MATTINGLY: Hello, Apollo 8.

Loud and clear.

LOVELL: Roger, please be informed, there is a Santa Claus.

MATTINGLY: Apollo 8, can you confirm your burn time, please?

LOVELL: Roger, we have three minutes, 23 seconds.

Thank you.

ANDERS: We were much faster on the way home.

And we came in at night.

(helicopter rotors droning)

We were in pitch darkness,

and the parachutes, all we could feel was the jerk.

(water splashes)

When the sun finally came up,

I remember getting out of the carrier

and walking across the deck,

thinking, "If I don't get to a toilet,

I'm going to be embarrassed right in front of everybody."

That's my unrecorded world record,

three quarters of a million miles

without taking a crap.

(people talking in background)

REPORTER: Come right up here.


I'm still speechless.

Just tremendous relief.

I... just truly the happiest day.

I, I just can't explain.

I couldn't believe it was going so perfectly,

and I couldn't believe that they actually sighted that thing

from the ship in the dark.

And I am so proud for our country

that we could accomplish,

our husbands could accomplish this mission.

JOHNSON (on phone): There's just no other comparison that we can make

that's equal to what you've done or to what we feel.

Because you've seen

what man has really never seen before.

You've taken us, taken all of us.

all over the world, into a new era.

And my thoughts this morning went back

to more than ten years ago, in the Pedernales Valley,

when we saw Sputnik racing through the skies,

and we realized that America had a big job ahead of it.

It gave me so much pleasure to know

that you men have done a large part of that job.

So we rejoice that you're well,

and we send you congratulations

from all of your fellow countrymen,

and from all peace-loving people in the world.

Well done.

(marching band playing)

CRONKITE: Today, a great new chapter has been added

to the story of creation and of growth.

Man literally has wrenched himself away

from the Earth that bound him down through the millennia.

A year of trouble and turbulence,

anger and assassination, is now coming to an end

in incandescent triumph.

(cheers and applause)

VALERIE ANDERS: I don't know that I was prepared for that.

My mother kept saying, "Do you only have one dress?"

(chuckling): But, you know,

we didn't have any money, so I only did have one dress.

So we went to New York,

and New York was the ticker-tape parade.

And then we went to Houston,

and, and all, all of the children were with us

in the Houston parade.

It was...

It was an interesting time.

NORTHCUTT: Afterwards, I got letters from all around the world.

I got tons of letters from African countries,

all over the world, addressed to "Poppy, Space Program, U.S.A."

I got marriage proposals.

I got letters from little girls all around the world, too.

You know, I got tons of recognition

that women could do a job that they never had thought before.

So was it sexist?


But you got to start somewhere.

(crowd cheering and applauding)

BORMAN: We had thousands of letters and telegrams and so on,

after we got back from Apollo 8.

But the one that really caught my attention

was a lady that said, "Thank you, you saved 1968."

(jet engines roaring overhead)

ALEXANDER: Well, now that you're back on Earth,

and you had a sample of these receptions and parades,

I guess you're aware of the fact

that your lives will, will never be free again

of the moon's influence.

Were you prepared to, to deal with this before the flight,

and how do you feel about it now?

I feel that,

right now, that we are merely

symbols of a program

of which I think all Americans should be proud.

But shortly, we are going to have more flights,

and shortly, we're going to have people who actually land

and walk and explore on the lunar surface.

And I think these new symbols will far overshadow,

perhaps, what we've done.

Colonel Borman, that old master of rocketry,

Wernher von Braun, has said that a circumlunar--

a flight around the moon-- gives you 80% of the credit

with only 20% of the risk.

Does that mean that 80% of the risk of landing on the moon

is still ahead of you all?

I haven't tried to assess it in percentage points,

but I would say definitely

that the extremely risky part of the flight

will be the actual touchdown on the lunar surface.

ANNOUNCER: Next time...

REPORTER: They have 70 seconds

in which to redesignate the landing site.

THEO KAMECKE: That's the first time I understood

what it meant to smell fear.

Capcom, we're go for landing.

CHARLIE DUKE: Okay, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.

MICHAEL COLLINS: By golly, we, mankind, did this thing,

and we're all brothers together.

ANNOUNCER: The conclusion of "Chasing the Moon,"

next time, on "American Experience."

Made possible in part by Liberty Mutual Insurance.


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