When We Were Apollo (2019) Movie Script

- I was born in El Paso, Texas,
while my parents were there
under special orders of Congress.
"Operation Paperclip."
They were living in William
Beaumont annex housing
at Fort Bliss with the
Wernher von Braun team.
About half of the team
were taken by bus, daily,
out to White Sands Proving Grounds,
so that they could share
with captains of industry
and professors and various
ones that were interested
in what is this unique thing, this rocket,
that they built back in
Germany during the war.
- There was no answer to the V-2.
It was so fast and very destructive.
I was born in 1936, so I
remember the war pretty well.
Grew up through the Blitz in Portsmouth.
Had my first experience
with injury when a V-1
came down on my street.
It killed all the neighbors and my uncle.
It's kind of strange.
I'm on the receiving end
of the vengeance weapons of Germany,
and 20 years later I'm sitting with
Wernher von Braun in the block house.
Von Braun was primarily the V-2.
If the Germans had had it
a year or more earlier,
it could have made an effect
on the results of the war.
- I, myself,
and everybody you see here,
have decided to go west
and I think our decision
was not one of expediency,
but a moral decision.
We knew that we had created
a new means of warfare,
and the question as to
what victorious nation
we were willing to entrust
this brainchild of ours
was a moral decision
more than anything else.
- I don't
feel they were really happy
working on what they thought was a weapon.
But they saw it that it was
the Americans against the
Russians in the Cold War
that was starting to brew.
And in that way, I feel
they thought that they could
now maybe make amends for
what had occurred before.
- The V-2 was streaks ahead of its time.
That rocket was the foundation
for the Redstone rocket.
The Redstone stepped into the Jupiter.
We then took a Jupiter tank
and eight Redstone rockets
and built a Saturn One.
Then we took that whole concept
and built the Saturn Five.
And Von Braun had his
hand in that from day one.
- Amid the fertile
farmlands of Northern Alabama,
the Army consolidates its
expanding missile activities
late in 1949.
World War II army ammunition
and chemical warfare
instillations are joined
and reactivated as Redstone Arsenal.
Early in 1950, the Army moves
the former German missile experts,
other components of its missile team,
and some military personnel here
to continue rocket development.
- When I graduated from Auburn University,
jobs were hard to find.
I ran a service station for a while
trying to make a little money but
one weekend I went home
and a friend of mine told
me they were hiring people
over in Huntsville.
- I was interviewed by one
of the Germans, Dr. Hensey,
and I was impressed by him.
I was not impressed by
the facility though,
nor the equipment they had.
They were very austere.
Quonset huts and concrete block buildings
that had been part of the munitions.
I deliberated over it,
and finally I decided,
"Well, I believe it's worth a chance."
And that, of course, was
about the best decision
I ever made was to come, and so,
I came in March of '52.
- The
Germans had been exposed
to several vehicles when
they were at White Sands,
so I think they pretty much
had in mind the Redstone.
- What the Russians did we had to counter.
And the Russians, we had heard,
had a 200 mile range guided missile.
- We
assembled and checked out
that Redstone vehicle.
And then they would carry
it over to the test stand
and do the firing.
- Blast!
- I never saw it in any
light except for space.
The army may have but I certainly didn't.
- It became evident quite early
that even though our
mission was to develop
a launch vehicle, Dr. Von
Braun's vision was space travel.
- I remember going home on
weekends talking to guys.
They always asked me the same question,
they thought it was sort of
a "Buck Rogers" type thing.
I pretty much convinced
them it wasn't Buck Rogers,
we were going to do it.
Moscow newspapers were first.
Then headlines around the
world echoed the news.
Russia had blasted a man-made
moon into outer space.
On every continent and
in every land the story
of Sputnik One dominated the front pages.
In its orbit, 560 miles above the earth,
the satellite reached a speed
of 18 thousand miles an hour,
circling the globe once every 96 minutes.
- I was still in graduate
school down at LSU
when the Russians put up Sputnik.
It was just a shock to the entire country.
I've never seen it that way before.
The Americans realized
that here was technology
they could not stop.
It was almost panic in the street.
- We were all peeved off
because we had just launched a Redstone,
which we had to put a
dummy fourth stage in it
to keep it from orbiting.
- Eisenhower didn't want the
Germans to put up a satellite.
So, they lent a whole
new contract to the Navy.
And the Navy built a completely new rocket
to put up a satellite about
the size of a grapefruit.
- The only
rationale I can think of is
that they were trying to
keep civilian space travel
and military separate.
But, they had extreme difficulties.
- What would have been
the difference between
the Navy and the Army,
from a military aspect?
It's bad, a bad thing to
say, but I think it was
more of a jealousy that
had been developed between
Von Braun being a German
and the political people.
- Mr. President, Snook,
from the United Press.
Russia has launched an earth satellite.
I ask you, sir, what are
we going to do about it?
- The Soviets have
proved again, and indeed,
this launching of the
satellite proves that they can
hurl an object but there
are a lot of other things
in the scientific inquiry
that are not yet answered
in which we are pushing ahead to answer.
- Eisenhower thought it was a joke.
But a month later, the
Russians put the dog up.
And it was a several ton spacecraft.
And it shocked everybody.
And that's when the army got the go-ahead.
- Good morning, gentlemen,
be seated please.
I have a very important
announcement for you.
We've been assigned the
mission of launching
a scientific earth satellite.
I promised the secretary of the army
that we would be ready in 90 days or less.
Let's go, Wernher.
- Medaris knew that we had the capability
with our little Redstone,
and so he authorized us
to build an extra rocket that
would be used specifically
to put up a satellite and we did.
We designed it, built it, and
it was all done in secret.
The Secretary of Defense asked him,
"If you really think you
can put up a satellite,
"how quick can you do it?"
Medaris said, "Well, we
better take three months."
He didn't admit he had it
already in the warehouse.
- This is project command.
At my command mark, the time
will be X minus 75 minutes.
Mark, X minus 75 minutes.
- We had a lot of confidence, you know,
we had thoroughly tested
every part of that vehicle.
Of course, I won't deny
that I wasn't a little bit
on the nervous side.
After all, it was a
little different then just
putting a vehicle in the air.
I was chief of electrical on the ground.
I just knew that that stuff was ready.
I'm sure that's the same
feeling all of them had.
- Five, four,
three, two, one.
Firing command.
- It took time for me to realize
what a significant night that was.
I was...
We were at a golf course.
It was where all the high
schoolers went to make out.
My brother comes roaring
in and just shouts,
"We've put up the first
American satellite."
Most of us don't use the
word "satellite" back then.
"And they're having a
celebration downtown!"
The whole idea was, "Let's
go downtown and party."
- It was on my birthday.
Here's this one little square
with the old courthouse around it.
- All the firecrackers
going off, and I was saying,
"What are they doing there,
they're burning that scarecrow?"
They said, "That's Charles E.Wilson,
"our secretary of defense who
let the Russians beat us."
But, you know, those old country guys,
they were just as excited
as high school kids.
It was just such a,
there was thousands of people down there.
You would think,
"Everyone was really aware
"we were striving to get
into space this much?"
- It was a big boost for morale,
particularly for those of us involved.
We're in the space business now,
not only military rocket business.
So, it became more and
more open that we were
headed for doing some
other things in space too.
- There was a sea change
at that point in time.
People knew that space was
gonna be where it happened.
And so there was a lot of pressure
to do what needed to be done.
- In the beginning,
it was just too hectic
to think about myself.
I had one child right after another.
I didn't have time to
think of what I wanted.
But then, when my daughters
all got in school,
and I had this time to myself,
I thought, "Gosh, I would
really like to be part
"of the space program."
- I got involved in a science fair,
the first ever one, I think,
here at Titusville High School.
And I will tell you that my
father had a hand in this
because he did some things to help.
But I had a display of a rocket engine.
And the Army Ballistic Missile Agency
had people at that science fair.
And when that science fair
got over, I was offered a job
at the Army Ballistic Missile
Agency at Cape Canaveral.
- My husband looked at me and he said,
"What could you do?
"You couldn't make enough
money to buy your own Kotex."
That's all the motivation I needed.
We were divorced shortly after that.
And I was a single mother
raising three daughters,
on my own with very little
monetary assistance.
And I just knew I had to make it.
- It was a launch every
third or fourth day
or a test every day.
I was a civilian employee
and I got to be a technician.
My first impression was it
was kind of like a big family.
I was really taken in, I
was the youngest guy by far,
17 years old.
And I didn't know A from Z.
But they were willing to teach me.
It was special.
They cared about whether
I was going to be successful or not.
- I took a job as a Kelly girl.
And you probably don't know what that is.
It was a temporary position.
And usually it was either a temporary
either typist or secretary.
I got several jobs with
different contractors.
They would last anywhere from
three months to six months.
And finally I got a job with IBM.
I liked the way they treated people.
I liked the company, the atmosphere.
And they offered me a full-time job.
And that turned out to
be a wonderful blessing.
- Ladies and gentlemen,
the President of the Unites States.
- The momentum, thus gained,
accelerates today under
the civilian management
of the new National Aeronautics
and Space Administration.
Marvel as we will at these
technical achievements,
we must not overlook this truth.
All that we have already accomplished,
and all in the future
that we shall achieve,
is the outgrowth, not of a
soulless, barren technology,
nor of a grasping state imperialism.
It is the product of unrestrained
human talent and energy,
restlessly probing for the
betterment of humanity.
In this tribute to a revered friend,
I dedicate this the George C.
Marshall Space Flight Center.
- I'm in my second year now,
I still don't know a lot,
and we all get transferred from
the Army Ballistic Missile Agency
into this new agency called NASA.
And NASA had two major
differences from the ABMA.
Number one, it was aimed
at peaceful uses of space
right from the beginning.
And number two, exploration,
discovery and education.
- I remember my parents
having those discussions,
"Do you go? Do you stay with
army where it's a sure thing?"
The ultimate decision was
that NASA means going into space.
Rather than the army building missiles
and armaments for war.
- We didn't even initially
have any new, specific focus.
We were working on the
capability to put man in orbit.
The big event was President
Kennedy's decision
that we needed to do something to prove
we were technologically
superior to the Russians.
That's really what the genesis
of the whole lunar program is about.
- Well, I was very impressed with him.
I remember when he laid out the goal,
"Let's go to the moon in ten years
"and return safely back to earth."
I mean, that was the kind of
goal and the kind of thing
that you could get yourself attached to.
It was a big deal in the South,
and I guess it gave people hope,
which was the biggest thing.
You know, once there's hope,
you can make a lot of stuff happen.
- It was just such an
incredibly exciting challenge.
That the country was put
on notice to do this,
and to do it within a particular time,
and to commit.
- In May of '61, I think it was.
All we'd flown was Shepard,
on a sub-orbital flight, and here we are,
you know, making plans to go to the moon
within nine years, basically.
And, you know, at that
stage of the industry,
I don't know how we're
ever going to do that.
- Von Braun was essentially
dancing in the street.
You know,
he's finally arrived.
He's got a real mission
now to get man in space
in a serious way.
But it was interesting,
the guys down in the ranks
were saying, "What, what,
how are we going to do this?"
- I don't think I was
savvy enough to understand
what the real implications
were at that point in time.
I was savvy enough to know that that meant
there was a real
thread of power
and ambition and challenge
that would become a part of my life.
- Even though I realize
that this is in some measure
an act of faith and vision.
For we do not now know
what benefits await us.
But if I were to say, my fellow citizens,
that we shall send to the moon,
two-hundred and forty thousand miles away,
a giant rocket more than
three hundred feet tall,
made of new metal alloys, some of which
have not yet been invented.
And do all this and do it right,
and do it first before this decade is out,
then we must be bold.
It will be done.
And it will be done before
the end of this decade.
And therefore, as we set sail,
we ask God's blessing
on the most hazardous
and dangerous and greatest adventure
on which man has ever embarked.
- I went to work for the
Army Corps of Engineers.
It was either one of the
generals or a colonel
that came out and said: "JFK
wants to put a man on the moon.
"They're going to build a
space center in Florida.
"Any volunteers?"
My father was in construction.
He ran a transit mix concrete company.
Always said, "Just remember the four 'C's.
"Just be able to communicate, coordinate,
"cooperate and have credibility."
He said, "If you don't have
credibility to start with,
"you'll never succeed.
"You might make money,
"but you're not gonna be a
success as a human being."
It was just boondocks when we got here.
I mean, two lane road into an
awful lot of orange groves.
The Corps of Engineers
had a real estate office,
and they were buying a lot of
property on Merritt Island.
- It's not actually an
island, it's a peninsula.
At the north end of
that peninsula is where
the Merritt Island Launch
Area was established.
Launch Complex 39.
- Launch Complex 39,
a new operational facility for launching
large space vehicles at a more rapid rate.
This new mobile concept calls for assembly
of the moon rocket in the
controlled environment
of a building.
Then, with the rocket
mounted on a mobile launcher,
a huge, tracked vehicle
transfers it to a distant pad,
ready for launch.
- The mobile concept was
different than any concept
they had anywhere else out there.
They calculated the explosive rating of
a fully fueled Saturn Five as being
a circle seven miles in diameter.
They picked the locations
for Pad A and Pad B,
so all the inhabitable
buildings had to be outside
that seven mile circle.
- It was a huge difference,
not just in scale of size,
but in complexity as well.
Hard to put in place.
with lots of growing pains.
- So
it got to where you had
to have a master schedule of
what was happening overall.
- We had
"war rooms" they called it.
- Are there
any changes to the schedule?
- The tank
pressurization test will not start
until thirteen hundred.
- When do you
want to run the leak check?
- First shift, Tuesday.
- You would meet 6:30, quarter to seven.
You tracked every job, whether
you were ahead of schedule,
on schedule, behind schedule.
- Everybody knew what the final goal was.
And nobody wanted to be
the cause for having to move that goal.
- We
started building launchpads,
having to make channels in two
and three hundred feet high
piles of sand to surcharge
over the swamp areas.
- Keep in mind
now, it was a wildland area.
And the water systems had to be diverted.
We cut off north/south flow.
That didn't go over very well
for some of our naturalists.
We put a huge crawler way,
three miles long,
ten feet deep.
And it is the size of a four-lane highway.
- My boss, Mr. Donald Buchanan,
was the design engineer of
the crawler transporter.
It was patterned after some
of these big steam shovels
that they used to use to
dig coal mines and such.
Dimensionally, it was about the size
of a baseball infield.
And the belt on the track,
two of them on each one,
was about the size of a Greyhound bus.
I remember the first
time we ever moved it.
We started having problems
with a little heavier load
than we had designed for.
And the bearings were wearing out.
And that's when this ingenious
young engineer decided,
if we canget some river rock,
and put a layer on the crawler ways.
The river rock would
act like ball-bearings
between the tracks and the ground.
And you could hear those rocks popping.
They were being pulverized.
And we've used that river rock ever since
to save our bearings.
- That was only a part of it,
the Launch Control Center was apart of it,
the launch pads themselves,
50 feet above sea level,
underneath a whole catacomb
of wires and piping.
It's a little city out there.
- And it was all happening
at the same time.
It's not step-by-step.
It's somebody's working on the structural,
while somebody's working
on the mechanical,
while somebody's working
on the electrical.
- Construction people are a
bunch of different people.
I tell ya, some of them are a wild group.
But most of them had a lot
of pride in their work.
Lot of jobs, worked a lot of overtime.
I really am not trying
to be the "rah rah,"
but I think there was a spirit that said,
"We're gonna beat the
Russians to the moon."
It wasn't a case of, "Hell it's a job."
Yeah, there were a few people
like that, but not very many.
- Today, I have stood where
once Jefferson Davis stood,
and took an oath to our people.
In the name of the greatest people
that have ever trod this earth,
I draw the line in the dust
and toss the gauntlet
before the feet of tyranny,
and I say "segregation now,
"segregation tomorrow,
and segregation forever."
- You know, the first time
George Wallace ran for governor,
he was I guess a moderate,
inclusive type guy
and all that stuff, you know?
And then he lost.
And he made a statement that
"I will never lose another
election by supporting blacks."
You know, he used the "N" word.
- We lived on Pulaski Pike.
During that time, all of
Huntsville was segregated.
The way we went to school
was going down the railroad track.
You wouldn't be going through
anybody's neighborhood.
- If you didn't have
at least eight students
taking a class, the state of
Alabama wouldn't pay for it.
So once you got past basic math,
we didn't have enough
students for the state
to pay for our teacher.
But we had this one teacher, Frank Harley,
and I give him a lot of
credit for being here today.
He came back afterschool
to teach us trigonometry,
for free of charge.
- High school I had this teacher,
Mrs. Fields,
and she would tell me,
"You got a good head on your body
"for being a mathematician."
And I guess that stuck.
And that's what I tried to do.
Because of the influx
of highly educated workers,
today Huntsville combines
the charm and relaxed atmosphere
of a quiet, Southern community
with the intellectual
curiosity and activity
of a major university city.
- We are confronted
primarily with a moral issue.
It is as old as the scriptures,
and is as clear as the
American Constitution.
The heart of the question is
whether all Americans are
to be afforded equal rights
and equal opportunities,
whether we are going to
treat our fellow Americans
as we want to be treated.
Now the time has come for this nation
to fulfill its promise.
The events in Birmingham and elsewhere
have so increased the cries for equality,
that no city, or state or legislative body
can prudently choose to ignore them.
A great change is at hand,
and our task, our obligation
is to make that revolution,
that change, peaceful
and constructive for all.
- President John F. Kennedy
issued Executive Order
"Ten, Nine Twenty-Five,"
establishing a new program of
equal employment opportunity
in the federal service.
Its meaning is quite clear.
As federal employees,
you should be mindful
that the executive order,
like the civil service act,
carries with it a strong injunction
against discriminatory acts
in the federal service.
- Marshall got threatened
that if they didn't do
a better job of integrating,
they was gonna move
the space center somewhere else.
They didn't want to lose all
those jobs and all that stuff.
So, money always makes a difference
in getting things changed, you know?
- I think it was a great thing.
A lot of African Americans
never think they would
be able to start working for NASA.
Clyde Foster, Richard Hall
and Norman Fletcher, now those
were some of the first ones
that were able to get out there.
And I think it opened the door for other
African Americans in our communities.
- You know they helped me a lot.
Especially Clyde, you know,
he kind of helped mentor me along.
My first job was a computer operator.
So, I go into this room.
You know, we had lights
flashing and tapes going,
and I was scared to death.
A guy from Auburn started
the same day I did
and his major was math.
And I soon found out that
I knew as much as he did.
- They did set
up this co-op program,
which allowed students from
universities and colleges
to apply for summer work.
- I didn't really see it
as breaking color barriers.
I just saw it as achieving
as much as I could.
When I became Deputy
Center Director at Kennedy,
it wasn't like I wanted to
be Deputy Center Director
because I was black.
I wanted to be Deputy Center Director
because that was the
next job up, you know?
But I always knew that I
carried a certain responsibility
by being a black in certain positions.
I couldn't afford to fail.
So, I always did whatever
it took to be successful.
I never worked eight hour days.
My hours were like ten to twelve
hour days all of my career.
- When I became supervisor,
I had about four African
American students,
most of them are female
at that, working under me
in the computation lab.
Some of the employees, friends now,
would come up and tell me,
"I'm so glad that you
were there to help me.
"If you hadn't been there to
put in a good word for me,
"or tell me what to do,
"I probably wouldn't have made it."
- I was in the laboratory.
Somebody came running in,
and said, "Kennedy has been shot."
I just visualized it as a minor wound.
We could hardly believe it.
- Hard to talk about.
- I bet.
- But...
you know, it just...
It just wasn't right.
And we were all affected by it.
- It made me feel
a degree of insignificance.
If people who are in the limelight,
who are doing great
things, can be so easily
disposed of,
then who am I?
It just kind of put that in perspective.
There's a price for notoriety.
When you get to be known,
there's a vulnerability.
Assassination is one of them.
That's the ultimate vulnerability.
Especially if you're
doing something that's
against the grain of a
certain set of people.
- You know, this was a guy
that we as black people
had hung our hopes on, that
was going to change things
and make life better for us.
And all of the sudden,
he was gone, you know?
- I don't know, maybe I was
so shocked over the event,
I didn't even think a
whole lot about its effect
on the space program.
We certainly lost the one
man who was our biggest fan.
Because we were all working
toward fulfilling his dream.
And his dream had become our dream.
- The greatest leader of our time
has been struck down
by the foulest deed of our time.
No words are sad enough
to express our sense of loss.
No words are strong enough
to express our determination
to continue the forward thrust
of American that he began.
Johnson was not gonna let
the program die.
And I think we have to give him credit
for pushing to keep going.
- The dream of conquering
the vastness of space.
This is our challenge.
Not to hesitate.
Not to pause.
Not to turnabout and linger
over this evil moment.
But to continue on our course,
so that we may fulfill the destiny
that history has set for us.
John Kennedy's death commands
what his life conveyed.
That America must move forward.
To honor his memory and the future
of the works that he started, I have today
determined that the NASA launch
operations center in Florida
shall hereafter be known as
the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
I have also acted today
with the understanding
and the support of my friend,
the governor of Florida,
to change the name of Cape Canaveral.
It shall be known
hereafter as Cape Kennedy.
- I would have paid for the
job, it was so wonderful.
Just the excitement, every
time I'd go through the gates
of Kennedy Space Center and show my badge,
I thought I was the luckiest
person in the world.
I was called a communication specialist.
I wrote all the press releases.
I interviewed engineers and
programmers and top personnel.
It took some education,
but finally I understood that
the IBMers there did
the final system testing
for the IU, the Instrument Unit,
which provided the
navigation and trajectory
for the Saturn Five.
- I was in awe, to tell you the truth.
I was in awe because I had no sense
before getting to Kennedy Space Center
what it would be like.
I was apart of the telemetrics department.
And Doctor Blaine Sweat,
I'll never forget him.
He was my department manager.
He made it very clear.
He says, "I love excellence.
"I want people who are gonna come in here
"and not only help us to
achieve our objective,
"but to bring what wisdom you have
"to help us improve upon that."
- Now I'm biased.
I did my masters and my
doctorate in management, okay?
And I will tell you that the
technical feats were fabulous.
The organization feats
were equally fabulous.
To be able to put together a team,
made up of all these different companies
and organizations, that
would function together.
And that happened during Apollo.
It had to, how would you
grow it at the size and speed
that it needed to without bringing a lot
of different people in?
- You know, I wasn't the
swinging single of course.
But back when my wife and
I first got here in '65
for the Apollo program,
we really wanted to live in Cocoa Beach.
- It was a little rowdy.
We had entertainment at
a lot of these motels.
We had the astronauts here obviously.
- Did the astronauts
have kind of a free reign?
- You betcha.
It was commonplace for those
guys to get in that sports car
and run these roads around here.
A lot of them, us workers
included, we'd work hard
during the daytime.
But at night, when we wanted
to relax, we'd play hard.
- Our
adventure was the Mouse Trap.
- The Mouse Trap.
- The Mouse Trap.
- The Rat House.
- The Mouse Trap.
- The Mouse Trap.
- Mouse Trap, yeah.
- I wasn't in that crowd.
But I was aware of what was happening.
- It was like a who's
who in the space program.
- On Fridays, anyone that came
in with their ties still on,
got it cut off.
There would be a lot of
hooping and hollering.
- We talked about things
and we laughed about things.
It never occurred to
me that an environment
could be so caught up in this commitment
because I hadn't seen it like that before.
The dynamics of Kennedy
Space Center was unity.
Everybody said, "You're a team member.
"You play a role in helping
us to be successful."
North American Aviation
won two contracts on Apollo.
They had the second stage, the S-II.
And they had the Command
and Service Module.
So, you know, they had a tremendous part
of the whole Apollo vehicle.
- You know, one of the things
about the Command Module
is its limited space.
It's extremely crowded.
I mean, you had three guys.
So we did an awful lot of simulation work.
And the problem was knowing
the latest configuration
with regards to the
interior of the capsule.
Because one minute an
instrument would be over here.
And study would show that that was not
the proper place for it, it
should have been over here.
And they would move it.
- We were a month away from launch.
We were still doing
modifications to the vehicle.
We had been trampling in
and out of that vehicle
for six months.
And that does generate mistakes,
it generates foolish decisions.
It's almost like you're running too fast
and you're starting to lose your balance.
I think that's what we felt
a little bit back in 1967.
That night, I was on station.
And I just finished running
a simulated static fire
with Gus Grissom and Skip
Showvan, the test conductor.
And the communications were really bad.
Gus was getting ticked.
He'd been in the cockpit
all afternoon and evening.
- Hey, how are
we going to get to the moon
if we can't talk between three buildings?
- They can't
hear a thing you're saying.
- Jesus Christ.
- And Skip said, "Let's take a break here
and see if we can't square
this comm system away
"before we go into the terminal count."
- Somehow or other, a spark started
in one of the lower areas
underneath one of the couches.
And unfortunately, we had
saturated the atmosphere
inside that capsule with
one hundred percent oxygen.
- That was based on the heritage
of both Mercury and Gemini.
Even though Mercury and
Gemini were very small volume
compared to the Apollo capsule.
And when you're at one
hundred percent oxygen
and something ignites,
it's almost like an explosion.
- We had discussed the
procedure for getting out
of the capsule in an emergency,
and the NASA wanted a redundant system;
they wanted a hatch on the outside
that opened to the outside.
And they wanted a hatch on the inside
that opened to the inside.
When the fire started, however,
the pressure was so great
that it just made it
seal that much tighter.
Ed White was a strong man.
There was no way in the world
that he could possibly get that hatch off.
- The pressure vessel actually ruptured.
And the fire blew out of all of the ports
on the outside of the Command Module.
Burned technicians outside.
Set papers on fire.
- It
didn't last very long.
But they knew, they knew
they were in trouble.
- After the pad fire
that killed the three
astronauts, NASA says,
"If we have another disaster
of like nature that kills crew,
"Congress will cutoff our funding,
"that will be the end of the Program."
And that was true.
Everybody had that attitude.
They knew that it was that
close to the end of the program.
- It didn't take long before
our orders came through.
This isn't going to happen again.
We're going to take
another look at everything.
And "everything," I mean everything.
We spent almost an entire
year looking back over
all of the things we had drawn and built,
all of the management
decisions that were made.
- I was requested by NASA to join a group
called the Sneak Circuit Analysis Program.
To learn how to identify
hidden catastrophes
and find them before they occur.
If you've never seen engineering drawings,
you've been blessed.
Because they don't show
what any group needs,
they show a composite all mashed together.
And nobody can visualize the
total effect of what that does.
So I was allowed to try
something different.
I thought, "If I'm an electron
traveling on that wire,
"that wire can be a hundred
miles long and I don't care,
"I can see the end of
it from the beginning.
"If I can just depict that
the way the electron sees it,
"a simples ketch of a circuit
that has power at the top,
"ground at the bottom,
"I'll know everywhere current can flow,
"and under what circumstance."
All together, I don't know
how many true sneak circuits
we found on all the Apollos.
It was in the neighborhood of a thousand.
- I guess the change I
saw was that people became
even more dedicated to doing
what needed to be done correctly.
If there were any doubt,
you would want to go back and look again.
These three guys gave their lives.
We owe them our very best efforts.
- On the
spacecraft side of the house,
we did a real good assessment.
"What did we need to change
to make a safer vehicle?"
And we did.
- It took quite a while to accomplish it,
but we went to a single hatch.
A device which we call an over-center lock
makes it possible to actually
have the internal pressure
seal the hatch that much tighter.
- And we had to start looking
at all of our components
that we used in the breathing systems.
Some things that we had no
idea that would be flammable
or explosive when they were
in a pure o2 environment,
would burn.
We got a wealth of
knowledge from that accident
that we have used to
redesign every oxygen system
in the world since then.
- In retrospect, you look
back now and you realize
that maybe if we hadn't
had that fire that night
and lost those three guys,
we wouldn't have got to the moon.
What I'm afraid of is
that somewhere downstream,
we may have had another fire.
Or another situation where
we lost the crew in orbit,
or on the way to the moon.
And I think the program would
have stopped right there.
- Mind-boggling.
I have always seen it piecemeal.
The first day, when they
drove me out to the pad
as part of my introduction,
and I went up on the 180 foot
level, and I looked down,
and I looked up,
I thought, "You know, there
ain't no way in the world
"this thing is going
to get off the ground.
"Seven million pounds.
"How could it ever get off the ground?"
- I took one look from the top of the pad.
And this is the pad where Apollo 11
was going to lift off someday.
It was just such a magnificent sight
and I'm sure only a
few women have seen it.
- Early in the Saturn Five program,
the decision was made to
go to an "all up" testing.
- This was kind of pushed on us
by Dr. Mueller from headquarters.
He said, "Hell, you
Germans, you're too slow.
"You just do one stage at a time.
"Fly it all."
- So rather than: "S" one "C" only.
"S" one "C", "S" two.
"S" one "C", "S" two, "S" four "B".
Right from the very
beginning, "fire them all."
- It was a nerve-wracking situation,
you might say to some extent.
To think that your particular
hardware, your area,
might cause a catastrophic failure.
I just have to say, yes
it was a constant dread.
You know, this was an
extremely complex vehicle.
- When we started the countdown
for the actual launch,
I walked into this HOSC building.
And I never came out for
three days and three nights.
Von Braun did a tour.
Here's all these engineers
asleep on the console.
Von Braun said, "Let 'zem sleep.
"I want them to be ready
when the time comes."
- I was at a control console with my boss.
And we got down to about
T-minus 30 seconds,
and I thought, "Excuse
me, I'll be right back."
I went down the stairs and out in front
of the Launch Control Center,
and stood there watching the launch.
- 12, 11,
Ignition sequence, start.
we have ignition.
All engines are go.
- The reverberation was
just pounding my chest.
- Imagine 350 horse-power
cars, bumper-to-bumper,
from the Atlantic coast
to the Pacific coast,
pressing that pedal to the metal.
That's seven and a half
million pounds of thrust.
That's a lot of juice.
- And
when it did finally go,
it was so frustratingly slow.
It's not like a shuttle
that leaps off that's doing
a hundred miles an hour
by the time it gets past the tower.
You begin to wonder if it's even moving.
It's just barely climbing.
- You
watch it through staging.
You think of all the
hours that went into that,
all the work, all the contemplation,
the arguments, the changes.
And it worked.
- I looked at the records.
Looked just like I had
done them on my simulator.
Nothing was wrong.
First time it had ever flown.
- A lot of people don't realize
that that was the same year as the fire.
That we went from the
absolute lowest point
in terms of program morale and spirit,
to launching that giant rocket.
And we put an unmanned spacecraft on it.
Literally the Phoenix
rising out of the fire.
- Once that was completed,
I think an awful lot of
people said, "We can do this."
And I think it set the stage
for all the ones that followed.
- That, for me, was the
most exciting launch because
essentially we had arrived.
Everything was progressing
like it should be,
and the future looked brighter than ever.
- Do they know about Martin Luther King?
Could you lower those signs please?
I have some very sad news for all of you,
and I think sad news for
all of our fellow citizens
and people who love
peace all over the world.
And that is that Martin Luther King
was shot and was killed
tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
- It was an awful year.
We had the assassinations.
Vietnam was stoking up.
We had the riots.
And yet, I won't say we were
captured by the program.
But that's all we were worried about was,
"Okay, we can't take care
of all these issues outside,
"but at least we can see if
we can get man on the moon."
And that was our focus.
- You did whatever needed to be done.
And you didn't watch the clock.
There were times when I spent
more than a 24 hour shift
at the Kennedy Space Center.
So, I missed some of my kids' up bringing.
- People weren't being forced
to work these long hours.
But they did so by choice.
And I think they were so engrossed
with what they were doing,
and the need to accomplish the work,
when eight hours ended,
they didn't want to quit.
- I loved my job.
It came first and foremost.
Especially those of us that
had families, it was hard.
And I regret not being
able to be there more.
- Well, probably the most dramatic change
was in my personal life.
It was almost like I
was married to Apollo.
Eventually, it resulted in a divorce.
My former wife and my two
daughters went back to England.
I sometimes wonder how
my children grew up.
I just don't remember a lot
of events in their lives.
- I too suffered from having
to go through a divorce.
I hate to think it was the space program,
and again, we each have our reasons
to having to go through that event.
There were a lot of divorces here.
- At almost
midday eastern time,
NBC news projected Richard Nixon
the 37th president of the United States
when it became evident
he had carried Illinois.
- Having lost a close one eight years ago,
and having won a close one this year,
I can say this, winning is a lot more fun.
- We had four kids in five years.
So a lot fell on my wife.
When she was pregnant
with our fourth child,
I was in the countdown for Apollo 8.
This would have been
December the 20th, 1968
and we launched on December
the 21st, the morning of.
I go home at the built-in hold
while we're fueling the vehicle.
She delivers our fourth
child in about 45 minutes.
I congratulate her and me, and
I go back to the firing room,
and we launch Apollo 8.
I called it the best scheduling
I have ever heard of.
- Well, I'll start with what I was doing.
When Apollo 8 was getting ready to launch,
I was doing testing off of the VAB.
And, I got the news that my father died.
- We'd flown the Saturn 5 twice.
And now, we're going to
put men on top of it.
And we weren't just going
to go into low-earth orbit,
we were going to go around the moon.
We'd never sent men out of earth orbit,
and we're going to do all this
on this first manned flight.
- When they went around and
came out on the other side
and renewed communication,
we knew we'd made it.
And then they gave us
an image of the earth,
the first time it had ever
been seen by human eyes
from outer space you might say.
I mean, even in earth orbit
you don't get the full concept.
- Just to see the earth rise.
It just builds you up.
You know,
what I'm doing is worthwhile.
- We are
now approaching lunar sunrise.
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--"
- That
was on Christmas Eve, 1968.
- The whole country seemed to
be coming apart at the seams.
Apollo was about the only bright spot.
It was a bright spot in all of our lives.
- Maybe nothing compares to
the actual man on the moon.
But, I'd say that
instant stands out as one
that I'll never forget.
- Apollo 11 was special because we knew
we were going to land on the moon.
But it wasn't really very different
from a launch vehicle standpoint.
- I was on the backup crew,
which meant I was done
just as things were
beginning to get exciting.
I left to see what kind
of crowds were there.
All along the roadway,
from the edge of the gate,
on into town, I could hardly get through.
There were people everywhere.
- I was in the control room.
It was just another launch.
I don't recall anything
standing out about it.
- Liftoff on Apollo 11.
- Obviously, we still
had some trepidation,
"Will it all go right?"
But it was surprisingly
similar to the prior ones.
Each time we did it,
we felt more confident
that we could do it again.
- Apollo
11, this is Houston.
You are go for TLI, over.
We confirm ignition and the thrust is go.
- Roger,
things look real close.
- I was at work,
and I knew it was gonna happen that day.
So I told my manager I was going home.
He didn't argue with me.
I went home and I was watching on TV,
all through the sequence.
- Roger, throttle down.
Better than in the simulator.
- The main thing I remember is,
"Why in heaven's name
did they choose to do it
"sometime after midnight?"
Which was very much a
personal sort of thing.
- 40 feet
down, two and a half.
Picking up some dust.
Contact light.
Okay, engine stop.
APA at a descent.
Both auto descent command override off.
- I don't recall the exact hour,
but it was like three
o' clock in the morning.
The daughters were, you
know, already in bed.
And were saying, "No,
they can't miss this."
So we dragged them out,
put them in front of the TV
and said, "You've got to watch this.
"This is history in the making."
- Okay, Neil,
we can see you coming down the ladder now.
- I think they're thankful.
But at the time, all they
wanted to do was sleep.
- I'm at
the foot of the ladder.
The LEM footpads are only
depressed in the surface
about one or two inches.
Although the surface appears to be
very, very fine grained,
as you get close to it.
It's almost like a powder.
I'm going to step off the LEM now.
That's one small step for man.
One giant leap for mankind.
- I was actually at the space center.
We were on the top floor of
the central instrumentation facility.
And I tell you what,
it was like an eruption of joy.
- Man.
Great admiration for the
people who were willing
to go do that.
The whole purpose was to
put two men on the moon
and get them back safely,
and we couldn't have done
that if they hadn't gotten
in that spacecraft and said, "Let's go."
I really admire our astronauts.
- But you
helped get them there.
- Yeah, I did but
it wouldn't have mattered
if they hadn't gone.
- Tell me if
you get a picture, Houston.
- We got
a beautiful picture, Neil.
It was the climax, yeah.
Like winning the championship.
- I pat myself on the back.
- And then go
back to work the next day?
- That's right.
- The fact that we landed successfully
was one of the highlights of my life,
as far as having the feeling that
I had a little something to do with it.
I was proud.
And I cried in the happiness
of it all, you know?
In the accomplishments of
what these men had done.
And then I started worrying
about the return trip.
- Apollo 11,
Apollo 11, this is Hornet,
Hornet, over.
- This is Apollo 11
reading you loud and clear.
Our position: one, three, three, zero.
Six, five, one, five.
- I didn't really take
a deep breath until that.
I think everybody felt that,
"Get 'em back on ground, and
let 'em have their parade."
- I was
standing on the courthouse square.
- A
couple of the city elders
picked Von Braun up and
carried him on their shoulders.
- That
vision sticks with me.
Great excitement.
Knowing that Saturn,
the propulsion system,
the community had been such
an integral part of that.
- It demonstrated that with
the will of the people,
and the backing of the
politicians and the money,
the nation can accomplish
wonderful things.
That's the way most of us
look back on it and say,
"Indeed, we made it happen.
"We were part of that
and we're proud of it."
- Oh,
we're going some places.
- You've got a go orbit,
you're looking good.
- I tell you one thing,
this is a first class ride, Houston.
- In '69,
when we landed on the moon,
things started to close down.
And I saw a lot of friends and
contractors lose their jobs,
and have to move away.
- You wanna know how I feel?
I'm pissed.
Pure and simple.
We were working on this
second stage in the VAB.
We had a page "to report to your office."
And there was one of our personnel people
with a list of pink papers.
And it said, "Pack up
your personal effects,
"and be ready to surrender
your badge in 30 days.
"You're outta here."
We've had a problem here.
- Say again, please.
- Houston,
we've had a problem.
- Like all things,
there's a beginning and there's an end.
When I was given the word that my services
were no longer needed,
I left with a heavy heart.
And yet, with a sense of accomplishment
that we had done what we set out to do.
- And on the surface.
Not bad for an old man.
- In my left hand
I have a feather.
In my right hand, a hammer.
And hopefully they'll hit
the ground at the same time.
How about that?
Man, we've come a long way.
Look at the size of that rock.
- There was already
the waning public sentiment.
My father took my sister and
me down to Apollo 15 launch.
The excitement you could
tell had already died off
from what it had been before.
- I think you have to
put it all in context.
The Russians were beaten.
We had fulfilled Kennedy's audacious goal,
and we did it in style.
We were using about
four and a half percent
of the nation's overall budget.
We didn't have a good
vision of what to do next.
- I remember going back
into my boss's office.
He said, "Apollo is
eventually coming to an end."
I said, "No, no.
"We're gonna build bigger
rockets and go to Mars."
He said, "Well, I want
you to start thinking
"about something other than Apollo."
I said, "Okay, boss."
Apollo did come to an end.
I'd always worked in
the Huntsville Operations Support Center.
I'd never seen a Saturn fly.
So, I took annual leave,
and I took my son to see
the last shot to the moon.
Miles away, sitting out
on all this wasteland,
here was this tall, slim Saturn.
Pure white, so white you
could hardly look at it.
- The countdown continuing
to move along smoothly.
T-minus 90--
- There
were tens of thousands
of people out there.
No matter how late it was,
or if there was a delay,
nobody cared.
- Eight, seven,
ignition sequence started.
All engines are started.
- When the countdown went down to zero,
you could see all the fire and the smoke.
Fire as bright as a welding torch.
And smoke just blowing for miles.
People were silent.
They were just stunned.
And then, unexpectedly,
a wall of sound hits us.
People were staggering, trying to stand up
like they were on a ship,
rocking in the waves.
You could see their lips moving.
But even from that
distance, it was so loud
that you could hear
nothing but that sound.
And then it starts tilting downrange.
- 30
seconds, we're going up.
And away.
30 seconds and 17 is go.
- 17, you're go.
- And then it was over.
We didn't know it was all
over, but it was all over then.
Stand by for the report.
- Okay.
- We all realize that
the first lunar landing
will be a hard act to follow.
There's only one moon,
and I'm afraid we can't
offer many more spectaculars
like that in the years to come.
The interest and the
attention of the space program
will now be turned to put all
that new capability to use,
for earth-related applications,
for the benefit of man, for
the benefit of the taxpayer
and his less favorite brother,
an underdeveloped and hungry country.
- When it ended, this brilliant team,
this one-of-a-lifetime team,
was split up.
And we had brilliant engineers
who started selling typewriters.
- When you lose the team,
you start from zero.
We lost the team.
People with the correct
educational backgrounds.
People with the right characteristics
in terms of their dedication.
People with a lot of hope
in their hearts to want to succeed.
- And the young people.
You know, Apollo was done by
people 30 and under primarily.
So you had all these folks
that's willing to work
12, 18 hours a day to make this happen.
And I just don't see another
project out there like that.
- You know, I wasn't
an integral part of it.
I had my job, which was to
write about these brilliant people.
And I do, I felt like I was the witness.
I was the voice.
I think it's the greatest
technological team
that's ever been formed.
- I have no hesitation in saying
the Apollo Program was
good for the nation.
- It created new management philosophies,
new management approaches,
a lot of technical breakthroughs.
- And camaraderie.
The nation came together.
There were half a million people involved.
- That's what we need.
We need national goals, not
unlike the Apollo Program.
Apply it to health.
Apply it to education.
Bring everybody in on the act.
They can have a sense of
pride, a sense of belonging,
a sense of ownership and
a sense of responsibility.
- I think the potential is there.
I don't know how to make
the case for enough people.
Because we have, currently I guess,
a real focus on individuals.
That attitude is not gonna cut it
if we're trying to reach beyond ourselves.
And so you go back to Apollo and say,
"What made it special?
"Why did it happen?
"What can we do today that puts us back
"on a track like we had?"
And maybe one of us will
come up with an answer.
It may not be the answer
but it's one of them.
Let's go down that road
and see what we find.