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     Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo
    13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 1 of 2
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Bye! Actually, one of the major objections of Germany 12, I should say, was what we call EVA. These 9, 10, and 11 had problems of people going outside and working outside this spacecraft because everybody forgot Newton's three law, third law of motion to
every action. There's an opposite and equal reaction. And when they touched this spacecraft, this spacecraft repelled them. So on 12, we had to learn how to work outside this spacecraft. And we did that by renting a boys pool in a school in Baltimore, putting a crude mockup down in the water, putting buzz in a old spacesuit, which works just as well underwater as in space. And I was sitting on the edge of the pool, talking to him down below. And he worked out the footholds, the toe holes, the way to move to work outside. So when you concerned at all, when buzz was actually going to get outside the spacecraft to do the EVA? Well, we are worried that what we had practiced in the pool, the boys pool, the swimming pool, that it would really work outside. And of course, it did. The main thing was that he took us time and knew how to use zero gravity for him instead of against him. And he didn't heat up. He didn't overexert himself. His heart rate didn't go real high, like the other people in the
other other Germany flights. Now, do you think we could have gotten to the moon by Kennedy's deadline without Germany? I don't think that we could have made a lunar landing by the end of 1969 without the extensive preparation in Germany. Because we did rendezvous, we did some navigation, we did what outside the spacecraft, learning how to operate out there. We had did the long-term duration on Germany's seven. So all this was prelude to actually working with the Apollo spacecraft. And you know we landed on the Apollo spacecraft 11, which was not too far down the line. Now let's talk about seven for a second. I talked to Stafford and Wally about seven six. After the rendezvous, you and Frank, what's it like to spend 14 days in a Germany capsule? I think that one of the greatest trials is to go in a Germany capsule for two weeks. Now, I see a lot of people in the present-day shuttles have spent eight, you know, six
months, eight months in the mirror. But in a spacecraft that you couldn't even stretch out. You could either stretch your legs and head to bend your torso or straighten your torso, but then you had to bend your legs. And so it was really a trial to just spend two weeks there. Without zero gravity, we'd never have made it. What were the medical concerns? What were they worried about in terms of duration? Nobody had done this before, had they? Well, one of the things that people were worried about couldn't, could a man live in space in zero gravity for two weeks, because that was the maximum length of time they would take to go to the moon and back again. And it turned out that, of course, we know now that we can spend a lot of time in space. But the other thing was the confinement in in Germany, which was sort of unusual, even for a space flight. We don't have that today, neither the shuttle or the mirror or new space station coming up. But just to be confined in there like a sardine and a can, that was a real trial. How big is it? How big is this? What would you like in it to? I like it to the front seat of a Volkswagen. That was the Germany spacecraft inside the capsule.
And of course, you're sitting right next to your companion. And for two weeks being with Frank Bourbon, like two weeks being with Frank Bourbon, anyplace was a real challenge. But anyway, it took a lot of fortitude for us to get through. But we did. And of course, we had a lot of problems with Germany's seven. We had fuel cell problems from almost the beginning. The lights kept coming on. And so, you know, we're wondering whether we could last the two weeks or not. What did you guys do for entertainment up there? Well, that's kind of interesting. We both had books. I had a book called The Last of the Mohicans, I think. And I think that Frank had a book called Roughinit, which we were trying to read. We also sang to each other. I mean, for some reason, before the flight, while we were training, we put on an old musical or it was a song. And yeah, it was Nat King Cole. That's right, Nat King Cole. And it's something
that starts out. Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone. Let's pretend that you and I are all alone. And for some reason, it stuck in our heads. And we sang it back and forth for two weeks. And just recently, when I was inducted to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, as I came up to the stairs to receive my award, Frank had the band play, put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone. So, so we still sing it occasionally. How's it go? Can you do a phone? Yeah, it's, put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone. Let's pretend that you and I are all alone. That's all we know. And we can kept repeating that over and over again. Well, it's not going to go to the top 40. I'm sure. Yeah. When you land, there are a lot of concerns about what was going to happen, medical concerns. What, what were they concerned about? How did you feel when you land? Well, the major concern was this idea of orthostatic hypotension. In other words, our legs hadn't been used for two weeks. The muscles have lost their tone. And they would tend to let the blood flow down into the legs because they would not
contract to keep the blood up in our bodies. The blood would flow down. We would lose consciousness. We would faint. And it was true that our muscles felt very, very weak when we first came up. But we, but two weeks was not long enough to really see that go through. It did tell us, though, later on for flights, not so much in the Apollo, but as we went into the Skylab and then, you know, now the shuttle, that you must exercise in space to prepare yourself for coming back home again. Space itself is a very lethargic, a very tranquil environment. Almost anybody could probably live in zero gravity. It's coming home. That's the real problem. When did you get the water? Were the expectations about you going to pass out? What, what were the expectations? Well, we were worried about that. We, of course, we, we floated in a sitting position. So we had the, you know, to, to put our heads down in case we did feel dizzy. But I guess maybe the adrenaline was running or something like that. And we never got to that stage. And of course, we
were picked up by a helicopter by one of those, I don't know what you call them. The, just, it wasn't a basket or anything like that. I was just a belt that went around and, but it worked okay. When you started to walk again across the deck of the carrier, I mean, you said your mother was watching on television. Yeah, I, I actually, for the first couple of hours, I actually had almost command my legs to, to say left, right, left, right. And, and my mother was watching on TV and I later saw it on a, on a film. It looks like I had my pants full because I was walking very, very, you know, very deliberately. Okay, that's cut for a second. I want to go into, tell me about the suits. Gemini Seven, I had some different suits than all the rest of the Gemini flights, mainly because we were not going to go outside this spacecraft. And for a two-week mission, we had to figure out a suit that might be a little bit more comfortable. It was what we call a get me down suit and it was really cut into a sitting position so that when it was inflated, you'd be sort of in a sitting position. We took off, of course, for a
two-week mission. And the first thing we thought about was that these suits were nice, but let's get out of them. At that time, you know, management down below were overly, overly cautious about getting out of space suits and they didn't want us to get out. Well, I, they zippered down the back and so soon after I was airborne, I unzippered the thing and pretty soon I had my butt sticking out the back end and then a little bit later my back was sticking out. Frank kept calling down saying, can we get out of the suits so they wouldn't let poor Frank out of the suit. They finally let me out for a test. I guess they, you know, I was expendable. And so for three days, Frank was sweaty to the suit and finally they let him out. And of course, we flew the rest of the flight in our long John underwear, which my grandkids always say that I spent two weeks in my underwear around the earth. Now, you weren't originally on the Apollo 8 crew, were you? That was a reassignment. What happened? I was a backup on 8. I was on Apollo 11 with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. And Neil or, let me see, who was that the
Mike Collins? Mike, Mike Collins was the command module Apollo 9-8. And he had an old accident that was starting to affect him a little bit and he had to have an operation. So they switched me. I was his backup. I went on 8 and Mike eventually went on Apollo 11. Now, before that, but at that time nobody knew where he was headed. No, we started out being an earth orbital flight. And of course, the two reasons why we changed it. Number one, we had good information that the Russians were going to try to put a man around the moon, circumnavigate him. And the second thing is that the lunar module, which was supposed to be ready for us to take up to completely test out in Earth orbit, was not going to be ready until 1969. And consequently, on a very bold move by NASA personnel, they decided to send Apollo 8 to the moon, which was a wise decision. Yeah, I want to get into that a little bit before we get a fresh man. One of the first
books I read, it made me so interested in spaceflight, was Jules Verne's book from the Earth to the Moon. And there was a lot of similarity between Apollo 8 and that book because we both took off from Florida. He used a large cannon. We had a rocket. We took off about the same time in December. There were three people in Jules Verne's book and there were three, and of course in the spacecraft. We went around the moon, orbit it for a while, we came back and landed in the Pacific Ocean just as Jules Verne had said in his book about 130 years before. So it was a very interesting comparison between the two to flights. The reality and the of course the myth. But wasn't there a big difference in the book that crew was left stranded in orbit? Well, actually there were two books. The first book, the three people in Jules Verne's book were stranded in lunar orbit. So many people complained after they read the book
that he was forced to write a sequel getting them out of lunar orbit and getting them back to the Earth. The crew's first knowledge that our mission was going to be changed from an Earth orbital to a lunar flight. All three of us were out at Downey. We were testing the spacecraft that we thought we were going to use. And Frank got called back to Houston. And then when he came back again, he told of course Bill Anderson myself that the mission had been changed. I was ecstatic. I mean, this was really something. I mean, I had already been around the Earth in two Gemini flights and to be a command module pilot for the third time and not to be in the lunar module to test it out, you know, didn't really thrill me that much. And so to change it to go to the moon and then try to, you know, be the navigator of that flight was something I was really thrilled to be part of. Was there any trepidation? I mean, something I've never
been done before. Well, you know, you think about is there fear involved and to me, the curiosity, the idea of going to explore a new planet far outweighed the fear of something going wrong. And I guess it's the innate feature of some people that they like to live on the edge. Now, when you were out there on your way out, the first time that they gave the order for trans lunar injection, take me back to that moment. That's something that never been done. Well, that's right. We were, we were, of course, going around the Earth and testing everything out. And, and all of a sudden at the proper time, we got the everything was go to light our third stage for the second time. And we did went through the procedures and then we could watch the, the velocity build up in the computer. We could watch the feet per second go faster, faster, faster, and
faster. And suddenly, you know, when it stopped, we knew that we are on our way to the moon because we had all that, that thrust behind us. And when we looked back, we could actually see the Earth start to shrink. I mean, something new you wouldn't even see in Earth orbit, of course. But the Earth started to get smaller and smaller in just a short period of time. It must have been something trans lunar injection to hear that order for the first time. Yeah. A bird. Was there a lot of, a lot of fatigue on the way out there? I mean, sleeping in space is something that people don't realize. And Borman was ordering you guys to get some sleep. Well, in the beginning, that wasn't bad because we were all fresh when we took off. And although we were excited, and you know, anytime you're in someplace that you're excited and some strange environment, you don't sleep that well. And Frank had a little problem, you know, with getting sick for a little bit. So we, you know, but we were in good shape. The only time we had real problems of sleeping, of course, we
didn't want to sleep around the moon. That was 20 hours after we got there of orbit in the moon. And so we were all really fatigued by the time we left. Now, Borman, what did you guys do to get some sleep? Now, what was that all about? Well, we were all trying to get as much science as possible. And, and so all three of us were doing it. But we're getting close to where we had to do the trans Earth injection. And I know that Frank was very, very worried that we didn't want to screw that up. And that, in his mind, I think he's actually right, was the fact that that was probably more important than just getting some more pictures of the lunar surface, which we had gotten plenty of anyway. So towards the end, as we came around, you know, Bill didn't want to go to sleep. He was taking pictures. And I was doing some navigation, but I, I felt I was tired. And so I actually took an aspirin, I think, that I went, I did go to sleep. And then Frank ordered to go to sleep. So, and, you know, it's kind of hard to get ordered to go to sleep.
I mean, he can't say, okay, I'm a sleeping, you know. Take me down that first descent down to the moon, looking out at the first time. What was that like? I mean, you know, something that people had never seen before, from a distance. Yeah, we were, when we first looked at the moon, and of course, we, we burned into Earth or into lunar orbit. And we didn't see anything at first. Then we rolled the spacecraft around. And then all of a sudden down below us, there was the lunar service to backside, only about 60 miles down. And, you know, I've often said, we were like three school kids looking into a candy store window. Our noses were pressed against the glass. We forgot the flight plan. You know, we're just watching those ancient old creators whistle on by because we were the first three people alive to see alive the backside of the moon. We had some pictures of it from unmanned spacecraft. And so it, it was, you know, part of the high point of my space career was to see the far side of the moon. How did you describe it? Well, we described it in many ways while we were up there. I said it was like plaster of Paris. I think Frank or Bill said it was
like a beach sand. But it's all shades of gray, no color. That's what most impressed me. And again, when you go outside and look at a full moon when it's up in the sky and not along the horizon, you'll see that it's exactly the same color. It's all shades of gray. There's no color to it whatsoever. And it's, you know, it, it, it brings one to mind how old the moon really is. I mean, you see ancient old creators, creator upon creator, where one creator got, you know, wiped out by another creator by another creator. So it was, it's amazing sight. Something that's sort of awe inspiring, but sort of forbidden. You talked about the longest four minutes of your life when you did that descent and burned. I don't understand. What were you talking about there? Well, I think what we're talking about is the burning out of Lunar orbit. We can't describe what happened. Yeah. Well, we came around of course and we get it all prepared. As soon as we gave our famous, you know, the Genesis talk and got all
squared away. And right after that, of course, as soon as the thing was cut off, we talked to the ground. I said, did you get all that? They said, yeah, did it come in fine? Yes. Okay. Now give us the instructions for getting home or something like that. So we came around and I was being an navigator was working the computer and we put in all the parameters to light the engine. The engine, of course, was always controlled. In fact, most things were controlled really by the computer. And we got down to the five seconds before the engine was supposed to light. And there was a warning little numbers that would come up and say, are you really ready for this? I mean, do you really want to make this maneuver? It was sort of the last chance, you know, you can abort this like. And so there was a little button said proceed if you wanted to do it. And I hasn't hit it for a little bit. And Frank said, push the button, push the button, you know. And so we did the engine let. And of course, we started to speed up. Now we had to keep going. I mean, we had to have enough thrust to get us out of lunar orbit again. Because if it stops
somewhat short, we'd either go into some sort of wild orbit around the moon or we could have hit the moon or done something strange. And so this was this was the time that we really had to wait watching that countdown, hoping that the engine would keep on going for the full time. And it stopped right on time. You know, computers stopped it. And of course, we had our velocity to head back to the earth. No, it's terrific. What's here? The concern, but I'm going to get into science and geology in general. Did you feel on on 8th that they had crammed it a little too much science that they were trying to get you to do a little too much? Well, on 8 really, when you look at it, our basic missions were two full. One was does the command service module have all the ability, the navigation, the communication, the ability for all the electrical electronics to last to go to a trip around the moon. In other words, it's the delivery device. It's the transportation vehicle. That was the first really objective. And the second one was, okay, we want to make sure that that the first
people who land on the moon had the greatest chances of viable. Because in reality, in that time period, it was not a scientific expedition. It was a technical challenge to the people of the United States and the world that we could land a person on the moon and bring it back home again. So we were looking for the best spots. The flat, marri areas, the seas. And that's why we landed in the city of Tranquility on 11 and then Ocean of Storms on 12. But that was the extent of it. That and the navigation was the basic thing. The scientific work aside from making sure that the navigation system worked with the computer was fine, which it turned out to be more than anybody really expected. And looking at the lunar craters, all we could do from a scientific point of view was to observe. You know, we're not down there picking up rocks or anything like that. And I think we spent a lot of time looking out the window. So we did all we could. A couple more things on eight before we move on. The lunar module,
it wasn't ready. That thing back there got on the table. It wasn't ready. What would have been the situation if what had happened to you on 13 had happened on eight? I often thought that what transpired on Apollo 13, which was an explosion of an oxygen tank, in the command module, if that had happened on eight, and it had the ability to do that because the problem that it caused the explosion, the thermostat, which was the wrong thermostat, was in all the spacecraft and all the oxygen tanks up through Apollo 13. But if it happened on eight, we would have been stuck in, well, if it happened at the same time in a long, oblong orbit around the earth going out 240,000 miles and coming back to 40,000 probably. And probably keeping that up, outlasting the very species that put us up there. So the problem was just in a simple statement. You had no,
you had no light boat in it. No, and there is no, there is no rescue in, in the Apollo days. I mean, even if we had an explosion and someone, no one could go up there and rescue us like they can perhaps in Earth orbit. And now also the other thing you talked about photographs and so forth, that famous photograph. Who now who took that photograph? Well, the photograph was Earthrise, which became very famous because shows the Earth in the background and the lunar mod, of the lunar service in the foreground. It was taken with the telephoto lens because the Earth is...
To the Moon
Raw Footage
Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 1 of 2
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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
Jim Lovell, former NASA astronaut, retired Navy Captain, is interviewed about his experience during the Gemini 12 EVA mission with Buzz Aldrin, as well as his time on Apollo 8 with Frank Borman and Bill Anders. Lovell describes the entertainment available during Apollo 8, mainly the team's singing of the song "Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone". Lovell also describes the medical concerns about landing and having to exercise his muscles. The video ends with a discussion of the beginning of Apollo 8 and the decision to fly around the moon, as well as Lovell's description of their first glimpse of the moon.
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American History; Gemini; apollo; moon; Space; astronaut
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Interviewee: Lovell, James, 1928-
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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Format: Digital Betacam
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Duration: 0:23:21
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Chicago: “NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 1 of 2 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 1 of 2 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 1 of 2 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from