NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 2 of 2
So I'll take you back on that. We're doing great. The photograph. There was a very famous photograph taken on Apollo 8, called Earthrise, showing the moon in the foreground, the lunar surface and the Earth in the background. It was taken with a telephoto lens making the Earth a little bit bigger than it really looked like from the naked eye. People have often asked me, who took that picture? Okay, now 30 years later, I'll finally admit that maybe I did not take that picture. And I will tell you the story. I think that Bill Anders did take the picture because he had the camera with the telephoto lens. Actually, the first picture that was taken was the black and white one. I think that Frank Mormon took it. But the color photograph was probably Bill Anders. But I have to tell you quite honestly, it was my direction showing you how he should hold the camera to get the proper composure of the whole picture was the reason why it became so famous. I had to get it to new spin on it all the time. I just thought that I have a postcard with that picture on if you want.
Genesis, whose idea was Genesis? What was it like to read that thing? At that time, it's 1968. The ship is hitting the fan. Are you guys aware of what's going on down there? Actually, the flight of Apollo 8 was a triumph in maybe just fate. The fact that we were able to go around the moon on the holiday season, on Christmas Eve, and then to read from the first 10 verses of Genesis, the Old Testament, which is the basis of many of the world's religions. People often ask, how did that get started? We were trying to figure out something appropriate to say, but no one could think of anything appropriate. And finally, I think it was Frank that went to a fellow of the name of Cybergine who was in the information agency, the United States Information Agency, to see if he could get some ideas. And Cybergine went to another person. I think he was a newspaper guy, and I forget his name, and said, do you have any good ideas? And the guy spent half the night trying to think of what to write. And finally, his wife reminded him about the Genesis.
And so he wrote it down, and said, that might be appropriate. And then, Eugene sent it to us. We put it in the back of the manual, and we read it. The thing is, the fellow that actually thought of it, never thought it was going to be used, and he was listening to us read it from the moon, and he couldn't believe what he was hearing. How did it feel for you to be reading that at that time with all the stuff that had gone on, and the turmoil down on the ground? Actually, looking back on what we were reading, it brought home more to me than actually, in the case of doing it at the time. We thought it was very appropriate at the time. We were so wrapped up in the Apollo that we missed a lot, or didn't pay much attention to all the riots and the war that was going on, and the assassinations that were happening. Of course, we read them in the papers and everything like that, but we were so intense on what we were trying to do. Years later, when we see how that flight in the context of everything that was going on in 1968
and the United States was a greater impact on me. Let's talk about science for a second. Not where you ended up in terms of geology, because I know you got inspired at a certain point. But in the early days, when seats are seats, and people are fighting for those seats, and who's going to fly, and they're talking about putting a geologist on board, what were your original thought about, bringing geologists into the program, and having them maybe take some of those seats that those test pilots wanted? Well, in the beginning, all the way through that part of the Apollo, we thought that this was really the, so the era of the test pilot, because we were trained to do that, whether it was aircraft or spacecraft. Of course, as time went on, though, the geology became more and more important, because we were trying to find out more about the moon itself. We did prove on Apollo 11 that we could land on the moon and come back home safely. By the time Apollo 13 rolled around, the geologists and all the other scientific people came out of the woodwork and said, look it,
let's get some scientific evidence in scientific exploration out of this thing, and so we started to change the mood of our operations going to the moon by doing more and more geology work, and we did that, of course, by doing a lot of training out in the field. Now, talk to me about how you got turned on. Fred Hayes and you meeting up with Lee Silver, down in Cocoa Beach. Take me back there. Well, we were starting to train for 13, and this all the idea of, hey, let's make this a scientific mission struck me. I met a scientist, a geologist by Emily Silver, down at Cocoa Beach, and he inspired us to say, you know, this put the emphasis on geology. And so from then on, we went with him on several field trips, where he was teaching us how to look for and observe certain geological functions and the strata and what to look for. We weren't going to do any analysis in the field at all. That was not our job. Our job was to observe and bring back,
and that's what we were trained to do. Were you skeptical at first? Did Silver say to you, hey, look, this is not going to be a waste of your time? I'm trying to paint a picture of these astronauts getting acclimated to geology. Well, you have to realize that we were not geologists by training, except for Jack Smith. And so we were looking at the mechanical end of going to the moon and not looking at the observation end of what we were going to find there. It took us a little while to get acclimated to it, but then we suddenly realized that, yeah, well, you know, we've already landed on the moon, so just to repeat that is not the way to go. We've got to do something that would be more constructive to justify going there in the first place. And so we started to reconstruct geology training. Well, how about Silver? How is he as a teacher? Tell me about that trip to the Oracopias. He pointed out something on top of a rock and said, what does that look like to you up there? Well, we had one very famous trip up just east of Palm Springs and the Oracopa Mountains and really dried desert-y.
And we all drove out there and we spent several days out there just looking for rocks and everything like that. And we would go along and he would send us out on various trips in the canyons and then we'd go pick up the rocks, come back again, and then he would sit down and we'd analyze what we'd had and why it was so important to pick up this rock rather than that rock. Didn't he, at one point, paid a picture of geology outing with the Indian pot, Silver was turning. Well, he actually told me that today, because I want to hear your version. Well, it's a very interesting story. I want to, by travels through these canyons looking for rocks, we were all by ourselves and I was walking along on a ledge. There was a ceramic pot sitting there all by itself. And I didn't think too much of it. I picked it up and I kept walking along. And when I would pick up the rock specimens, I'd throw them in this pot as I'd go along. And funny, I came back. Now, you have to remember that Lee Silver is not only a geologist,
but he's an archaeologist too. And he knew a lot about the Indian affairs and things like that way back. I came up and I said, hey, take a look at this pot I got. I pulled these rocks out, you know. And he just about had kittens because he said, where did you get that pot? Where did you get that pot? I said, well, I found it on a ledge. And he said, I've never seen one that's so complete. Usually, I find them in shards and pieces. And so he chastised me for throwing rocks at it to begin with. And then he told us about the legend. It was probably from some Indian chief that had died and the tribe had put these pots along the way and he used to go along the trails. And they'd put food in there for his horse and things like that. And it had a hole right in the bottom. And I said, what's the hole for it? And he said, well, because they didn't want anybody else to pick up the pot and use it. I still have that pot, by the way. What was your motto of 13? Where were you headed? What was your excitement for you in terms of that mission geologically?
Well, the thing about 13, because we want to make this a scientific expedition, was to go to a place called Fraumau. In the hills or the highlands of Fraumau, we knew that the material might be different because the reflectivity was different in the hills than it is in the mario of the seas, the flat areas. We knew there was ejecta line on the surface thrown up by volcanism or impacts that they wanted us to pick up, because that could tell us a lot about the interior of the moon. And so that was the basic objective was to go there and land on the hills. Now, it was a little different than landing in the flat areas because we had to get off our present course going to the moon so that when we got to the moon itself, the sun would be in the proper position so we could see the shadows of the rocks and the bullroads on the lunar surface to make us save landing. What was the motto of the mission? Well, we were trying to figure out when we were designing the patch, and usually the patches have the names of the three people in the front. But we decided not to do that. Back at the Naval Academy,
there was a motto called X-Cientia Tritons that really meant from knowledge to sea. And so I remembered that, and I said, instead of tritons, let's put in lunar, and let's change it around a little bit, say X-Lunus Cientia, from the moon knowledge. And that's how we got the patch that's on Apollo 13. How we got the motto? You're pretty excited about the geology by the time you got going with it. You're pretty excited about it. I mean, you guys didn't even find it some of your own field trips and stuff? Well, not quite, but we went out to West Texas. We went to Hawaii. Of course, we went to the Orchopra Mountains, all doing field trip work. And then we did a lot of work at NASA itself. You know, we sit down and analyze the rocks and try to figure out what kind of rock was what. But basically, it was observation. We were trained to be observers and not to do any analysis at all. That could all be done by experts
back at the space center. Okay, so we're on 13. You're on your way out. 14 minutes into the crisis. You begin to realize you're venting something. Take me back there. When you heard the initial bang, were you concerned? Well, the 13 story and the initial bang, of course, is well known, but when it first occurred, and we saw that we had a light on one of our fuel cells that died, there was a wave of disappointment, not so much crisis as disappointment, because we knew that one fuel cell would get us home safely. So we thought that maybe we had a damage to two fuel cells. It wasn't until we saw the oxygen escaping from the rear end of our spacecraft that we knew that we... So that sinking feeling taught me that? It was not until we really saw the oxygen escaping from the rear end of our spacecraft that we realized that we were very, very deep trouble. Then we got that sinking feeling. You know, that serenetization
and your stomach, when you're in deep trouble and don't know how to get out of it. And we knew that we had to act very rapidly, and that meant that we had forced us into the lunar module. It was very fortunate, though, that I was on a Apollo way, because some of the problems we had, that we had to deal with on 13, and on 8, I inadvertently, you know, got the computer all followed up and lost our guidance system. And I had to do it manually, but it was a good test for me, because on 13 we had to do it deliberately to restart the computer and re-get our gyros in a line. So some of that experience I had on 8 really came through on 13. How big a deal was it to move into the lab? I mean, was that a huge decision to make? The movement into the lab was not a huge decision, because we had no choice. The lunar module was only designed to last 45 hours, only designed to support two people. We had three people, and we were at least 90 hours from home. So the question was, how do we stretch a vehicle that was never designed to come back home in the first place
to support three people for 90 hours and with enough propulsion to get its back home again? That was the challenge. Now, I've talked to you about this before, and I've said, was there ever a point when you were nervous, frightened? Well, I think in terms of whether we were frightened or panicked, I think that the case of where the explosion first occurred and we knew the seriousness of our situation was a low point of the flight. After we tried to find solutions to the crisis as they came up one by one, and we solved them, we felt more confident as we went along all the way back four days to get back home again. The biggest moment for you, the biggest hardstopper, the PC plus two burn, described that to me, why that was. The audience doesn't understand what it is. Well, there were several momentous occasions on 13 that was so important. One of the second ones, well, the first one was, of course, getting alignment to make sure that we could align the spacecraft
in the lunar module system because the computer in the command module had died, the guidance system had died, so we had to make sure the lunar module was okay. And we did it by looking at the sun, which is also a star, which was thought up by the people down the control center and it worked out very fine. But as we went around the moon, we had to speed up to get home, and this was called a PC plus two burn. In other words, paracinthian is PC. That's the backside of the moon. And once we passed that point in our orbit, two hours later on, we let the engine for a second time. That was the decent engine of the lunar module. The engine that we normally were going to use to land on the moon. And it worked, where it worked fine. But as soon as it was over with, then we turned everything off. And we had only the radio and an old fan to circulate the atmosphere running because we had a safe power. This was the time that you started to think, are we going too fast? We can be exceeding the escape velocity and if we missed the atmosphere,
we had to go on an orbit about the sun. Or if our angle was different again, we could have burned up when we hit the atmosphere. So this was the scary part. As you were going around preparing for that burn, is that when you noticed your crewmates were over there taking pictures and so on? As we were preparing, we were coming up to the moon and we were preparing for this PC plus two because when we went around the moon, there was communication. And the ground started to send up the instructions to me of how long to make the burn, what attitude, and things like that. And I had my two companions in the lunar module with me because I want to make sure that we got the, all the information right away before we lost communication. When I looked at them, they weren't paying any attention at all. They had cameras in their hands. And I couldn't figure out what they were doing. And they said, well, as you go around the far side, we're going to take some pictures. And that's when I told them that if we didn't get home, they weren't going to get them developed anyway. But they took their pictures.
I got the instructions. And two and a half hours after we passed the far side, we lit the engine. So you lost a lot of weight. You lost a lot of sleep. How did it affect your judgment? Did you get to a point where you said, this is just getting to be too much? I never got to that point whereby I didn't have enough hope to keep on going. This particular crisis was somewhat like playing a game of solitaire. You pick up a card. And if you can put it someplace, the game keeps on going. So if you pick up a card which is a crisis, and you can solve the crisis somehow, the game keeps going. We never got to the point where we picked up a crisis, and there was no solution. And the game was over. So we felt, you know, not completely comfortable. I managed to get little snits of sleep by just closing my eyes and putting my hands together,
just floating in front of the console. And then I'd wake up, maybe a minute or two minutes later, but it was just enough to keep me refreshed enough to keep on going. I felt sorry for Fred Hayes, because Hayes got sick in the last day or so of the flight. And he was in pretty miserable shape. Well, describe the conditions in the capsule by the time they had gotten to about as bad as it could get. Well, things were getting kind of ratty in there, because we were, of course, spending all of our time in the lunar module. The command module was getting so cold, and we had Jack Swecker down there with us. And, you know, we were bringing food packages and stuff like that. We tried to store them away. And, you know, it was getting a little bit crowded. And it was getting also cold there because the temperature kept dropping. And water was starting to form on the metal struts and, you know, the instrument panel. And I was worried about the integrity of the electrical systems. And, you know, and temperatures, we were getting stressed out a little bit. But no one ever lost their cool, which is different from the movie, by the way.
But we managed to all live and keep on working hard. In fact, Jack had a big job to do, because he had to restart up the lunar module. And, or the command module, I should say. And he had to have this whole list of instructions to get the command module back working again. We had a transfer electrical power from the lunar module to the command module, which was never done before. Then we had some last minute maneuvers. The mid-course maneuver, the last maneuver, which we did with the seat of our pants, because we had no computer now to operate with. And we had to use the earth as a target. And the earth terminator, along with the little gun sight, or cross-hero that I had in the lunar module window. All these things had to be done. And we had to do them right the first time. And so, even though we were getting tired, I guess we had enough adrenaline running to keep us sharp. And I didn't want to take any pills that would keep us more sharp, because I was afraid once they wore off,
that I'd really be in deep trouble. So I tried to just do it naturally. Wasn't there one where you were afraid, one of the moves you were afraid you might skip off the earth's surface and what would happen then? Well, that was the, that was the problem on the way home. When the ground was tracking us, they found out that we were not inside the free-return course. And the free-return course is a two-degree pie-shaped waves that you have to come down into with respect to the earth's atmosphere. And it's a very shallow two-degree pie-shaped wedge, because it's less than, no less than five and a half degrees, or no greater than seven and a half degrees. We have to come inside it. When the ground was tracking us, they found out that we were beneath it, which we could have missed the atmosphere or skipped out, like skipping a stone on water, and we'd be gone. So we had to make another maneuver, but our computer was down, our guidance system wasn't working, our autopilot was off, and we had to do it literally by the seat of our pants. We had to use the earth as a target. It's terminator, and we had to line up with a little gun site that we had in the window of the lunar module,
and then we had to light the engine manually to make sure it worked, and we had all three people working. Jack had the clock. The clock was stopped. He had the watch. Fred handled the one controller, went horizontal, and I had the other controller that kept the earth from going to vertically, and that's how we did it. If you had skipped out the earth atmosphere, what would have happened to it? Probably if we were seeing he escaped velocity, we would have gone into, eventually into an orbit about the sun. So that didn't sound too good either. Okay, great. Last couple of things. Dave Scott asked you to head up the back room for Apollo 15. It paid a picture of that back room when what was going on back there. Do you have a lot of people arguing, bickering, you know, geologists saying, what was that back room like? The back room that I was heading up was the one where all the scientists were located. Now you have to remember that each scientist has his own experiment that we're going to do on the lunar surface.
The lunar module lands, and the crew gets out, and they start doing the work. And everyone wanted to have the crew just do one thing, either bore holes, you know, lay out the equipment, shoot off a little mortars or something like that. And my job was to control 12 scientists and make sure that each one got enough time by the crew. And of course the crew is working like mad, trying to accomplish everything. And we had problems on Dave Scott's flight of drilling the holes because they were getting stuck down there. And the fellow that was in charge of that, one of the scientists said, let them keep on going. Let them keep on going, and the other scientists said, no, forget that, and get them over doing something else. And so it was a real challenge. So, of all your flights, which one do you think is the most? The one that means the most to you, the most memorable. The one you think you contributed most? I made four flights in NASA in the space program, two around the Earth, in Gemini 7 and Gemini 12,
and two to the Moon. I think the high point of my space career was a polluate. I say that because we are the first three people to leave the Earth, to go to the Moon, to see the Moon, the far side, but also the first people to see the Earth as it really is. It's just a small ball and it's black, you know, velvet sky. Palo 13 was the most challenging, of course. But eight was probably the high point of my space career. Great. It's an escaping from the rear end of our spacecraft that we knew that we were in trouble. And then it was one of, you know, where the lead weight goes down to the bottom of your stomach and you get that serious sensation in your stomach, you know that you're in serious trouble, but you don't know how to get out of it. That was... We just stop. We just don't know how to get out of it. That's Syrian feeling growing out of home. I couldn't even know if it's a story. That's similar, probably. You
- To the Moon
- Raw Footage
- Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 2 of 2
- Producing Organization
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Contributing Organization
- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
- AAPB ID
- 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 Apollo 8. Lovell admits that he did not take the "Earthrise" photo, and comments on the decision to read from Genesis during the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast. Later Apollo missions emphasized geology, and Lovell describes training with geologist Lee Silver in Cocoa Beach and the Orocopia Mountains, as well as his discovery of an old Native American pot during one of these training exercises. Lovell later discusses Apollo 13 and his disappointment at not reaching the moon and his hope of returning home safely. The tape ends with Lovell's evaluation of his four flights in space: Apollo 8 was the most fulfilling, but Apollo 13 was the most challenging. Final minute of the interview is audio-only.
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- Raw Footage
- American History; Gemini; apollo; moon; Space; astronaut
- Media type
- Moving Image
Interviewee: Lovell, James, 1928-
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 52260 (barcode)
Format: Digital Betacam
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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 2 of 2 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 9, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-kd1qf8ks40.
- MLA: “NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 2 of 2 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 9, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-kd1qf8ks40>.
- APA: NOVA; To the Moon; Interview with James "Jim" Lovell, astronaut, commander of Apollo 13, and command module pilot of Apollo 8, part 2 of 2 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-kd1qf8ks40