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     Interview with Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at
    Boston University, part 2 of 3
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of the creatures as he flew over them and he would tell you what they are and what, from the knowledge that he made, he could have been a teacher about Lunar Jarash. They read. Well, the back room, the mission live, this is what you've been working for just for a year or two. What was it like? What really happened? Well, it was most important that they would land exactly where we wanted, because Apollo 11 mission landed very far from what we thought and we were the mess for a long while. So, Apollo 12, we wanted them to land in pinpoint landing, so that was really the mean objective. So, they had to learn the approach to the landing sites very well. They know it's superbly and to do as much as we possibly can in during the landing time to land exactly where they want, because it was a walking distance from a spacecraft that landed before them, I said, very spacecraft.
So, that was all of it was very significant. In addition to that, we really, the scientists, we also wanted that pinpoint landing, because from there on, we wanted them to land in more difficult places and therefore the pinpoint landing had to be secure, because from there on, there would be no competition landing. We wanted to compete different sites. So, it was very important that we kind of get the astronaut themselves to figure out the approach to the landing and this and that and they became very interested in the whole thing and they would delight in naming features as on the approach site where they were the snowman and the doublet and this and that and will tell me as these are names that will stick and we did make them stick. So, when they landed and they landed right on the nose, we severately the whole room became a blaze with the light because of the fact that all of these things would be accomplished. The fact that we can land anywhere we wanted, very close to where the landing sites, the fact that they will get us a piece of the surveyor spacecraft that was there on the moon for two years and we see the effect of the solar radiation on it and the fact that they will get the information
that we wanted from that side. The most memorable thing about the Polo 12 mission is the laughter of Pete Conrad with Albeid Albeid is a nice, the nicest, the easiest going man and Pete Conrad is the wildest card in the whole bit and his laughter and his constant talking and but the constant talking was very good because he really explained every single thing that he thought about. He did not let anything go by and discuss and that was very good because we got the clearest, most detailed description of the site because he would verbalize constantly. He didn't shut up for a minute and that was very good for us. Thanks, we think about 11. Where were you on July 20, 1969? We were definitely at the, during the Apollo 11 landing I was down there in Houston at the control center because of the fact that on the Apollo 11 mission we also had a great deal of photographic targets
to deal with for the Apollo 12 mission because it was both of them are equatorial and we knew that the Apollo 11 mission would fly over the Apollo 12 site and therefore we would want it to get more photographs of that. It definitely was, my brain was focused on the photographic orbit but definitely my eye was focused on what was going on the ground was absolutely fascinating. It's very interesting in retrospect to find out, to realize that even though the Apollo 11 mission stayed on the moon for a very short period of time we got a great deal of first aid information from the very cryptic but I correct discussions by Neil Armstrong and the photographs of the, of the creator that we wanted him to seek and all of that added up to a wonderful treasure trove.
165, take two. Planning site for a start with 14 from Oral. How was that chosen? The Apollo 14 site from Oral. It was chosen because of the very interesting lines of ejecta from a very large basin called Imbrian Basin meaning that rock that has been transported at least maybe 500 miles away and in that pile of material that's ejected from a large basin there was a crater which we called cone crater because it really looked like a volcanic cone whereby that cone would have exposed freshly some of that old material and we thought that this would be very ancient crustal rock and indeed we wanted to, the astronauts to get all the way to the rim from the creator to sample the rim itself and look down and take pictures of all of the layers inside the crater and it was, it was very good planning to do so and the best plans may not work out because the astronauts apparently just veered
just tidied a little bit from the straight climb to the top and they kept on walking and walking and still using a great deal of BTUs this is the British thermal unit which we measured the amount of oxygen they consume as they walk on the moon if they're walking on a flat surface they don't consume a great deal and if they're walking up a slope like that they consume a lot of oxygen so it became, it came to a critical point where they were consuming so much oxygen that if they continue they will not be able to have enough oxygen to walk back so we kind of had to terminate and I remember that the geologists all of them wanted them to continue for just a little bit and this and that and they had to go to a rock of a throne and say no we do not continue because I know the limit of the BTUs and that was, it was a good decision to return them back because nothing would have been gained by additional walking it was a little bit of disappointment but it worked out Mitchell Shepherd didn't blame your maps, didn't blame you for that? No Michelin Shepherd did not really blame us for the maps a great deal
but they did blame for the line on the map and it could have been a little misleading day I think it was a combination between them doing as what they wish to do and as well as the line on the map may have been a little better too so we take a little bit of the blame too Well they wanted to keep going too didn't they? Yeah actually they are the ones that wanted to keep going and we in the finalists suggested that they would not because of this potential danger of getting too much oxygen and then they would have to really go back in a hurry without finishing up what they need to be Was there a sense in the back room that they weren't potential danger? No the back room with the geologist there was no sense but in the, I spoke to the doctors and I spoke to the flight directors and all of these people were in distress over that What is the J-Miches? 15, very important mission, tell us your take on that 15 was the flagship mission
because it was the complete departure from the Apollo the way we knew it it was an addition of a rover so it allows us to drive 11 kilometers away from the landing site if we wanted if they had enough oxygen we had a whole slew of instruments to work from lunar orbit we had a whole side of the command module ship removed and put all of these cameras and sensors to look into the geochemistry and the geophysics and the radioactivity of the moon so this was a real flagship mission for science it was a huge jump from all of the previous missions and in many ways we were afraid of that mission the most because there had been so many changes to the engineering wise to the spacecraft that we thought that maybe something would go wrong so that was the first time that we really became scared that something would go wrong because of these enormous changes that occurred in all aspects of the hardware of the mission
I will never forget the fact that one day I was staring at these guys at the Apollo 15 crew that you guys need a lot of it I'm going to give you a copy of the Quran with the prayer to protect you and they've got to say please do we need all that we could get and I did when you got the data back from 15 was it substantially different? did you learn a lot from 15 from the data and the photographs and the sensors? Apollo 15 actually gave us a great deal of information there was nothing startling different from what we expected but there were all kinds of additions actually the most significant addition by the Apollo 15 mission was an observation by the eyes of the command module pilot the one man that stayed in lunar orbit and that's really fascinating
because he and I had flown over Arizona over single cones for kinetic eruptions that have a lot of gases that form a kind of a very peculiar cone shaped structure and he would ask about these cinder cones and the way they are and what do they tell us and they are the last gasp of volcanism and therefore they would bring in the youngest material because they are the last type of volcanic activity and so on and learn behold from the Apollo 15 orbit he actually saw cinder cones in the place called Littro at the rim of the embryo base and he was fascinated by the fact that he saw these cinder cones and he started describing them and the more he described them the more we became fascinated by the whole thing the more we asked him about it some more so Al Morden would continue to describe and we would ask Al to look for such and such some more
and how many, how far, how do you see something else and he would keep talking about them and that observation resulted in the selection of the Apollo 17 site based on that particular observation so this is really a kind of a proof of what we said all along that a man, a human being, can do a lot more than the machine the interaction between the human eye and the brain is so fast and so beautiful that no machine can replicate and that's what one of the reasons for sending man into space anyway or a human being into space and that was really a proof that no photographic camera nothing had pointed this to us and Al Morden could by his eyes Apollo 16 was a very interesting mission
because it was the one site that was exactly the reverse of what we thought it would be we had all followed a colleague of ours's idea Hal Mazursky said that this place would be made of domes and these domes are acidic in composition and we thought that would be granitic like the granits on earth and my God we talked about it all the way to the Apollo program director and he understood exactly what we mean about the granitic rock and this and that and he spoke to everybody about it and we all thought that my God this is it and then astronauts would land and they begin to talk about what they see and both John Young and Charlie Duke are very smart field geologists after we had our deal with them and nothing they said would come anywhere near what we thought that site would be and it turned out that the Apollo 16 material is no different from the Apollo 14 material it is only just a little less interesting
so it was really an incredibly 118 degrees from what we thought it would be and it was the only site and I think some in some ways was good to have something go wrong so wrong because we became kind of a stoot in our looking at the moon from looking at the pictures and the way we interpret them and so it was really good to shake us up a little bit to say that these interpretations might not really be smart might not be right there are things on the moon that may not look exactly the way things would have looked on the earth so that was important so that I think this from that point of view it was very significant to have that happen from orbit Ken Mattingley was maybe the most well-educated of all astronauts because he is the one that worked very hard on the Apollo 13 mission in the explaining and could not go right before the mission but he was fully trained and then he picked up again for the Apollo 16 mission and the one thing that happened
that Ken could not figure out of course his observations of the lunar surface were fabulous but the one thing that bothered him greatly were these flashes that he saw on the dark side of the moon we had him look at the moon in the area that is not lit by the sun the area that is in shade but it is actually in earth shine because the sun brings in light to the earth and the earth reflects that light back and it actually that light can brighten up just a little bit of the moon from earth shine from light from the earth so to speak so he started looking at there and instead of being able to see features he started seeing red flashes here and there and we thought that well maybe these are micro meteorites hitting the surface of the moon and due to the shock of impact they would burn and that would be a red flash of light when they were so we asked the seismologists to look at the times and sound to figure out exactly and we asked him to be very careful of the timing
and so that we can check whether the seismometers that check any moonquakes were picking up anything and they wouldn't so it would come back and they would see flashes again but the seismometer would not see a red and to this day it ribbons and it ignits and that's the one thing that bothered him most 17, you knew it was the last mission in the 1819-20 of the council what did you want to do with 17? how did it go? highlights of that with the final 17 mission we knew that the Apollo program was winding down this was it we had to get as far from the landing craft as we possibly can to explore as much as we possibly can we knew it had to be high enough above the lunar equator so we can cover a great deal of the moon surface because Apollo 16 was close to the equator and we didn't really cover much of the moon from orbit and I must say that the Apollo 17 mission brought us a great deal of most interesting things
and from as far as the ground is concerned indeed there were things like the cinder cones that Edward and described they were not like the cinder cones of the earth very young but they were really very old so that was very interesting to see that features like that wood stay in that shape or form or keep their form and then Jack Schmidt gave us the thrill of our lives when he talked about the orange soil and maybe we started talking about few more early activities and things and heat that comes from the lunar interior with gases and vapor water vapor that would actually oxidize material and we started talking to the press about that and that was a really disappointing thing because it's the one geologist that went to the moon and he made that huge interpretation that would turn out to be a mistake and we had to all go back to the board and renounce what we said but it was very interesting from the point of view
of how this orange soil would have formed or the orange glass would have formed and it was very interesting the fact that during the mission as Jack Schmidt started describing the orange soil I talked to Ron Evans to convey to Ron Evans that he should be looking at that can he see that from orbit and he looked and he said yes I see it very clearly he said okay now we want to look around and see whether you can see it in any other place not knowing that it was going to be just orange soil we thought it was a few more early oxidized oxides results and he started looking and we found out that yes indeed even across the whole basin from where the Apollo 17 astronauts landed their companion from orbit found out that they are still that orange soil across the whole basin so we realized right then and then the orbit that that orange soil is not particularly in that place it is something that exists in the rest of the moon
so it was more global in nature and that was an important point to figure out snapshots of Surnin and Schmidt as you trained them I mean Schmidt the geologist how did Surnin do? Schmidt was the geologist of all times and he knew everything and he was with us in the selection of landing sites and he was with us with the training of the astronauts so he was the Mr. Rock or Dr. Rock as they called him anyway and Jean Surnin was a very nice man and delightful person and a fierce competitor he was not going to let that geologist be a little higher than him in geology whatsoever in the training in the talking, in the discussion of the rocks in the discussion of the origin of these features and Surnin certainly came up to the fore and he rose to the occasion and he gave Jack Schmidt by becoming a geologist himself and competing with Jack Schmidt at all kinds of levels
and that was good for the program because we had two very good geologists up there You had said that you enjoyed hearing Surnin's observations so were you surprised when he got there and what achievements sound like when he got to the moon? Surnin made the proper reservations because of this interest and he really wanted to be good he wanted to be clear, he wanted to be right and he wanted to be a good geologist so most of his observations were right on the mark and Jack is a geologist himself anyway and so he made very good remarks and observations and once in a while Jack would say something that would be a little off mark or off color and Surnin would correct him when he says things like that so it was very interesting to see that it was G. Sirna that's correct, Jack Schmidt You were headed for short inquirer you're talking about Surnin and Schmidt Well, one of the objectives of the Apollo 17 mission was to get to short to greater because short to greater would have
ejected some material from the base of material from the mountain range so that there would be a very interesting succession of rocks so they go ahead to this place and they begin talking about it and all of a sudden Surnin would look up and he would see the earth and he would marvel at it and he would really talk about the earth because he was just taken by the view and if he turns around and he would look at Jack Jack is busy doing whatever he's supposed to house weird, house wife kind of work and he would say, Jack, look at that look at that, look at that, look at that look at the earth and Surnin and Jack would say, well, well, when you see one earth you see them all so this Jack had no interest actually going back to the look you get the sky I figured out where he was and this and that and G. The pilot Paroxylon was the man that had a little more human nature in him and he had the sense of being there and he had the feeling of the greatness of the occasion
and the magnificence of the place and Jack was the methodological geologist who looked down on the earth he did his job but looking down not knowing where he was or what he's supposed to do how did it feel for you as a scientist to finally have a scientist on the moon and in 17 to have fulfilled many of gene shoemakers and others objectives finally we had campaigned for sending a geologist to the moon very hard with the Apollo program director with the scientific community and the scientific community at large and we would call them up and say, right, the letters and this and that because we knew that we may be missing something we really didn't know what it is that we might be missing but we may be missing something if we do not send a trained observer a geologist to the moon in all honesty the push was so hard that NASA could not do otherwise and finally happened and in many ways
in retrospect we would say why is it really such a great thing to have Jack Schmidt the geologist I still say yes because even just that knowledge of what the geologists could do and how his observations would be different and how he would affect the mental attitude of the crew I think his effect was enormous shoemaker Jean Shoemaker is the one at the very beginning when he joined NASA headquarters as a consultant thought that he would be the geologist to go to the moon and when he realized that he really can't it was for him Jack Schmidt is the one to go to the moon Jack Schmidt was his student anyway
To the Moon
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Interview with Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, part 2 of 3
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Program Description
This remarkably crafted program covers the full range of participants in the Apollo project, from the scientists and engineers who promoted bold ideas about the nature of the Moon and how to get there, to the young geologists who chose the landing sites and helped train the crews, to the astronauts who actually went - not once or twice, but six times, each to a more demanding and interesting location on the Moon's surface. "To The Moon" includes unprecedented footage, rare interviews, and presents a magnificent overview of the history of man and the Moon. To the Moon aired as NOVA episode 2610 in 1999.
Raw Footage Description
Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, and space scientist who worked on the Apollo program, is interviewed about the Apollo program. He explains the necessity of having Apollo 12 land exactly where they planned, which required additional training. El-Baz calls Pete Conrad a "wild card" and credits his constant chatter with providing a great play-by-play of events on the moon. He also describes the photographs from the Apollo 11 mission as a "treasure trove", and explains the Apollo 14 mission's difficulties in finding their landing site, and its negative impact on the mission. On Apollo 15, the first J-mission, El-Baz explains the site selection, as well as the site selection for Apollo 17, and talks about the need for manned lunar missions, instead of relying on robots. El-Baz calls Apollo 16 the most interesting mission because its site was not as expected. As the Apollo program wound down, the scientists were more insistent on getting good information, and El-Baz says that Apollo 17 was the most scientifically interesting mission because of its discovery of orange soil, which led to later issues and discoveries. El-Baz talks about working with Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, and talks about the significance of having a scientist on the moon as a realization of early Apollo program goals. Final shots include B-roll of El-Baz talking.
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American History; Gemini; apollo; moon; Space; astronaut
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Interviewee: El-Baz, Farouk, 1938-
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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Identifier: 52081 (barcode)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Original
Duration: 0:22:41
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Chicago: “NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, part 2 of 3 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, part 2 of 3 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, part 2 of 3 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from