tv Apollo 11 Astronaut Returns to the Launch Pad CSPAN August 27, 2019 12:50pm-1:18pm EDT
>> "apollo 11" astronaut michael collins return to the launch pad at nasa's john f. kennedy space center in florida to talk with the space center director on his experience on the first mission experience to the first men landing on the moon. nasa hosted this event exactly 50 years after apollo 11 launched in 1969. >> i'm out here at the pad 39 a with mike collins. a mike, it was 50 years ago this morning that you and neil and buzz headed out to launch to be the first humans to set foot on the surface of the moon. what thoughts were going through your mind on the way out to the launch pad? >> i came out on the launch pad today and -- >> can you hold the mic up? >> yes. as i came out today and settled into this comfortable chair, it was a wonderful feeling to be back at launch pad 39 a.
i'm here by myself, but at any rate, i know buzz and neil would enjoy joining into this sort of a conversation as much as i'm looking forward to it. >> so did you find it different coming out from apollo 11 compared to the gemini 10 mission? >> i think the flights were quite different in one way. of course, we road up on a rocket, so that part was very similar, but the gemini program got a lot of publicity. some of it worldwide. nonetheless, it was -- it had more of a local character. it was almost like a celebri celebrity -- secelebratory sortf event whereas apollo 11, on the
other hand, was serious business. we, crew, felt the weight of the world on our shoulders. we knew everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe, and we wanted to do the best we possibly could, put our best foot forward, and that required a great deal of work on our part, but not too much time left over for any of the things we might have more enjoyed. >> absolutely. so having the weight of the world on your shoulders, i know you went through an extensive amount of training. can you tell us a little bit about the training? how did it prepare you for the mission? >> i think the simulators were the heart and soul of our training. they were very good machines. they were excellent duplicators of what we would see in flight. their one failing was that they wouldn't duplicate particularly well the view out the window that we saw, but 99% of our work
throwing switches and communicating with houston, 99% of our work, we really didn't need to simulate the view out the window that flight with great fidelity. so the simulators were very powerful instruments. we spent a lot of time in them. i think the command module simulator, i spent over 60 0 hours in it preparing for apollo 11 alone. >> what did you find the most challenging? >> well, i always think of a flight to the moon as being a long and fragile casy chain of events. links in that chain, certain finite points along the route have names for them like going faster than escape velocity, and slowing down into lieu mar orbit
and so part, but the point is no matter how well things are going for you, you can't just relax and pat yourself on the back and say well, isn't this wonderful? you have to say, okay, i got 17 down. what's number 18 coming up here? i'd better get on the ball and worry about it. for me, at least, maybe it might have been different from someone -- for someone else, but for me, at least, the flight was a question of being under tension, worrying about what's coming next, and what do i have to do now to keep this daisy chain intact? >> you guys were down here supporting the vehicle processing and training in simulators. you spent a lot of full-titime . was that a challenge for your family? and how did your family react to you going to the moon? >> the way it was with my family with three young children who
should not be uprooted from their schools, my wife, pat, stayed in houston, and i was by myself here. some crews imported their family from texas to florida, and that worked out well for them, but we used a different system, and it worked out very well for us. >> so we had a chance to visit crew quarters this morning, and we were in the dining room and the rooms where you stayed and the route room and everything. did it bring back any memories? how long were you in quarantine before the flight? >> i don't know how long we were in quarantine before the flight. you know, quash terantine was sf a bureaucratic stamp that had been put on some piece of paper. it didn't really change too much our normal training routine, and i think we were in quarantine maybe two weeks but oh, if there's a historian out there, i'm sure they'll correct that
number. >> did you get a chance to see an apollo sat turn 5 launch prior to yours? >> yes, i did see -- i saw not an apollo sat turn, but i saw the first saturn true launch 501. i'll always remember it. we had pretty good seats for that. we were i'd say between two and three miles away which sounds like forever and a day, but when you're looking at a saturn 5, you sure -- certainly you find out in a big hurry that you're pretty close to it. the thing ignites. it takes off. it's very, very quietly starting to ascend, and you look out across the lagoon and say well, that's not a big deal. i've seen rockets go off before. and then it starts going up and picks up speed going faster.
it looks a little bit more impressive, but still nothing very exceptional. and then they shock wave from the rocket power hits you. it hits you in the viscera, your whole body is shaking. your feet underneath you are shaking in the mud, and you think my god, this is what they mean by power. this gives you an entirely different feeling, a different concept of what power really means. you have to be there and have your belly shake before you can really evaluate a saturn 5. >> so did you get a chance to strap into the vehicle in practice before you actually launched? i mean, the first time you strapped in, that wasn't the first time? >> no, i don't think so. i think we'd been inside the vehicle quite a number of times. going way back, our command module 107, i had nursed it through the assembly process in
california, and so it and i were old friends. then i very gracious rly, i invited neil and buzz to come aboard under certain circumstances, that i was going to be the czar of the trio. i invited them in and we had various exercises that prepared us to do our separate duties after launch. >> i think we're going to get a video here. we're coming up on the exact time of launch. let's take a look at this video that's coming up. >> we've accomplished a successful mission. we land men on the moon and return them safely, i believe that's the primary mission as stated. >> 20 seconds and counted. t-minus 16 seconds. guidance internal. 12, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence start. we have main engine start. four, three, two, one, zero,
liftoff. >> apollo 11 was about exploration, about taking risks for great rewards in science and engineering. about setting an ambitious goal before the world. >> for the first time, man has the flexibility or the option of either walking this planet or some other planet. be it the moon or mars or i don't know where, and i'm barely equipped to find out where that may lead us to. >> we choose to go to the moon.
>> perhaps the highlight for those of us in the land will probably be a successful touchdown. i really look forward to that the most this time. >> so, does that bring back any memories? you touched about what it was like to watch it. what did it feel like to ride it? >> after engine ignition, it's different than what you might imagine. if you watch it from a distance, it makes a stately assent, and you're quite aware of the gigantic power it's producing, 7.5 million pounds of thrust, but inside it's a different situation. inside you're not worried about your power so much as you're
worried about your steering, and you're suspended inside the cockpit, not too far away from that launch umbilical tower that's right off to one side. as you lift off, if there's any imbalance, it's compensated for by the swiveling of our motors below you. you have five engines down there, and as you ascend very slowly, majestically inside, it's a different situation. you feel jiggling left to right. and you're not quite sure whether the jiggles are as big or small as they should be. or how much closer they're going to put you to that launch um lil cal tower which you don't want to hit at that moment. so it's a totally different feeling at liftoff than the nervous novice driving a car down a wide alley.
once you clear the tower and things clear up a little bit, pick it speed, then it becomes more like you might imagine watching it from afar. you're conscious of gigantic amount of power below you. you're more conscious of the acceleration and the speed you're picking up, and then you soon find out that your machine, your saturn breaks apart into pieces when it's finished with piece number one, it gives you a momentary skyrocket inside the cockpit. the cockpit is immediately full of not any fire or flames, but the vision, the idea of the sight of being surrounded by fire. and it's -- when it's -- it gets through that little hiccup from then on, it's a quieter, more
rational silent ride all the way tooth moon. >> what did it feel like when the second stage lit? >> the second stage was a stage that we had worried about somewhat during its birth and genesis. they had some designers and the engineers had some difficulty with the second stage. we were a little bit leery about how ready was this second stage for manned flight. but it was perfect, smooth as glass. much smoother than either the first or the third stage, and so it was our friend that day. >> awesome. so at the end of that video, neil was talking about being down on the surface of the moon. you've been asked this many times before, but i'm going to ask it again. what was it like being all alone in the command module while neil and buzz were down on the surface of the moon? >> you know, i was amazed that
after the flight -- by the way, we were locked up in quarantine after the flight with a huge colony of white mice because they were worried we might have brought back harmful pathogens from the moon, and they wanted to keep everything under observation. i was always asked wasn't i the loneliest person in the whole lonely history of the whole lonely solar system when i was by myself in that lonely orbit. the answer was no. i felt fine. i'd been flying airplanes by myself. that was being aloft in a vehicle was no novelty. i trusted my surroundings. i was very happy to be where i was and to see this complicated mission unfold. but the time that i was by myself, i was perfectly
enjoyable. i had hot coffee. i had music if i wanted it. good old command module colombia had every facility that i needed. it was plenty big, and i really enjoyed my time by myself instead of being terribly lonely. i was not one bit lonely. >> did you ever enjoy -- did you guys feel like every time you had comm with mission control, did you enjoy the breaks from that when you were on the side of the moon where they weren't able to talk to you? >> yeah. i think it's kind of nice. the trip around the moon, at 60 miles above the surface, that was my altitude. that's about a two-hour deal, and of that, because it's almost like you're radio can see around corners. they can't quite, but instead of being half of two hours, it was more like 40-some minutes of peace and quiet. and i enjoyed the peace and quiet.
you know, mission control was our friends, our savior, our mentor, but they could also be a terrible nuisance, yak, yak. they want this that and the other tidbit of mission, minute after minute, hour after hour. to have a peaceful period of solitude was far from being terrifying. it was very pleasant, nice, easy, and i enjoyed it. >> so did you have the opportunity to fly again? did you choose to fly again or not fly again, and would you have liked to have walked on the moon? >> i was flying in a t-38 one time with my boss between houston and the cape here. he said well, mike, i want to plug you in, in jargon, i called it the knit two, purl one. what he was saying fundamentally
was he was offering me as i interpreted it, the -- to be the commander of apollo 17. and i said to him well, listen, if this 11 doesn't work out, if something -- we screw something up or something goes wrong, hey, i'm going to come back. you'll find me knocking on your door, but if everything goes like it's supposed to on apollo 11, i'm out of here. the reason i made that decision to leave was composed of various aspects. primarily involving the long interval. that would be another three years i figured in my life. three years of living in dingy motels and strange places, trying to learn new things once again. and i didn't find that too rosy
of a future. the other thing was i was going to be separated from my family, and with young children and a wife who had been wonderful about supporting me all the way through, including up to and through apollo 11, i would be asking her to go through that whole thing one more time, and that didn't seem fiair somehow. i put all those things together and told him, hey, i'm out. i didn't say i'm out of here, but i forgot what i said exactly. but he understood. he didn't question it. that's the way it was. >> sure. i still think one of the very best books about the apollo era was your book "carrying the fire". is there any epilogue you would add to that original book today? >> i don't know. i have to go back and reread it. i remember rereading it a few
times after it was published. i think it was published in '74, something like that. and i like that interval between '69 and '74. it gave me a a little few years to stop and think about things, and what i wanted to say. and yet, it was close enough that i hadn't quite lost the memory, the detailed memories of the various components of a flight to the moon. but the addition to it, i think today, of course, there would be a number of additions that i would want to add. one would be the business of where do we go from here? and that's a fascinating question to pose. i would address that if i were to do a retake of carrying the fire. >> so where do we go from here? that's a great lead-in. i'm a product of the apollo generation. we have a lot of folks that
weren't even alive then. now we're trying to get the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024. what do you think of the path forward? >> well, i love the ward artimus. it's a wonderful name, and more important, it's a wonderful concept. i think women can do anything men can do in space. perhaps they can do it better. so i think artimus, i like it. i like the roll of the tongue and turn it over and think about it. but i don't want to go back to the moon. i want to go direct to mars. i call it the jfk mars express. john f kennedy gave us the apollo express, and that was a wonderful, a masterpiece of
understatement, of succinct instruction. what kennedy said helped us so much in our preparation for the first lunar landing. i cannot emphasize too much. wherever we went, we would use kennedy's name. you guys got to get busy here. you're lagging behind. you've got to do this and that and the other. kennedy said at the end of the decade. i like to transfer that spirit from where we are to where we might go, and i would propose going direct to mars under what i would call the jfk mars express. having said that, i grant people who want to go back to the moon, i grant it, they have a great deal of merit to their argument, and neil armstrong who i consider to be a lot better engineer than i, thought that there were gaps in our
knowledge, and that it would -- we could fill up for fill the spots by a return to the moon, and that that would assist us mightily in our attempt to go to mars. >> and we believe the faster we get to the moon, the faster we get to mars as we develop the systems to make it happen. you mention neil. i wish buzz with with us today. we've lost one of your crew permanently. do you have any fond memories of neil you'd like to share? what do you think he would say if he was near today? >> the neil i usually talk about when people ask me that question is not neil flying to the moon or back. although, he did a excellent job as a crew commander. no complaints there. i think of neil the spokesperson for three men who were privileged to go around the
world after the flight of apollo 11 and explain to the world what it was all about or what neil thought it was all about, and he was a masterful speaker. he was an introverted person, and in many ways he didn't want to grab the microphone, but if he was found the microshown thrust in front of him, he could use it to wonderful advantage. he had an extremely wide background of knowledge, scientific knowledge, historical knowledge, really, probably more than scientific. but both. the history of -- the history of technology fascinated him. and on our around the world trip, time after time as our spokesman, he would make a speech, i'm so glad to be in your city here.
let me quick check and see which city i'm in right now. and he would have the audience just feeling like they are just almost crawling aboard columbia with us by the time he was through his speech. he was wonderful in that regard. i think he was the perfect man of the group that i knew. i think there were probably 30 of us who might have been candidates to be first man, and of the -- i like the other 29, but of that group, i think neil was the perfect choice, and i'm glad that dick slaten and others had the smarts to so decide also. >> i couldn't agree more. he's one of the finest gentlemen i've ever met. not to be surpassed by you. it's a privilege and honor to be on the pad with you today on the 50th anniversary. thank you so much for everything, and i wish you the very best, sir. >> bob, thank you. and the operation you run here
is so much more complex in many ways than what we had during apollo. i salute you and your ability to bring these myriad of pieces together into one successful future for nasa. >> thank you. here's a look at the prime time schedule on the c-span networks. starting at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span, remarks on presidential impeachment and free speech. c-span2 book tv. and on c-span3, american history tv with programs on the american revolution and george washington's character. >> watch book tv for live coverage of the national book festival saturday starting at so a.m. eastern. our coverage includes interviews with ruth bader ginsburg, david
treuer, sharon robinson, rick atkinson, and thomas malone. >> the national book festival live saturday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span2. >> in the wake of the recent shootings in el paso, texas and dayton, ohio, the house judiciary committee will return early from the summer process to mark up three gun violence prevention bills which include banning high capacity ammunition magazines, restricting firearms from those deemed to be a risk to themselves from a court. and convicted those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing a gun. li if you're on the go, listen to our live coverage using the free
c-span radio app. gene kranz is a retired nasa flight director and manager. he directed the mission control efforts to save the crew of apollo 13. in this entrier he talked about the apollo missions. >> apollo 11. you were what, the lunar landing flight director, weren't you? >> yeah. >> you were in charge of that c but you also took in the whole thing? >> yes. >> let's go back over apollo 11. that's a big project. >> there's many things that stand out. the person says where were you when -- i had sure had an awful lot of great breaks in my life. i mean, whether they be in college. whether they be in flying airplanes. but one of the ones that i