thumbnail of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
Hide -
MR. LEHRER: Good evening. Leading the news this Thursday, Pres. Bush marked the 20th anniversary of the Moonwalk with a proposal to send a man to Mars. Investors look for the cause of yesterday's jetliner crash in Iowa, and Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan said the Fed has been fighting off recession by keeping interest rates down. We'll have the details in our News Summary in a moment. Charlayne Hunter-Gault is in New York tonight. Charlayne.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: After the News Summary, we go first to the airline disaster in Iowa. Correspondent Elizabeth Brackett has a report from the scene. Then we'll hear from Ned Clark, a structural engineer specializing in aircraft accidents and investigations. Next we consider the past, present, and future as we mark the 20th anniversary of man's first walk on the moon. We revisit the very first moments of contact, then we hear from one of those who made that contact, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, followed by writers Maya Angelou, Isaac Asimov, Daniel Boorstin, and James Michener. And we have lunar reflections from essayist Roger Rosenblatt.NEWS SUMMARY
MR. LEHRER: Pres. Bush today offered a new American goal in space. He proposed building a permanent station on the moon and from there sending a manned mission to Mars. The President spoke at ceremonies outside the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. He did so with the Apollo 11 crew, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin in attendance.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm not proposing a 10 year plan like Apollo. I'm proposing a long range continuing commitment, first for the coming decade for the 1990s, space station freedom, our critical next step in all our space endeavors, and next for the new century, back to the moon, back to the future, and this time back to stay. And then a journey into tomorrow, a journey to another planet, a manned mission to Mars.
MR. LEHRER: Congressional reaction to Mr. Bush's proposals centered on the cost of such a huge undertaking and where the money would come from. Most of the criticism came from Democrats.
SEN. ALBERT GORE, [D] Tennessee: We don't get leadership. We don't get a deadline. We don't get any money to pay for it. We don't get a cooperative effort with any other nation. We don't have any realism or leadership.
REP. DENNIS ECKART, [D] Ohio: Today in calling for one great leap for mankind, I just wish he would provide us the dollars for just one small step.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT, House Majority Leader: The real test of presidential leadership is not whether he can marshall the words but the resources to restore America's pre-eminence in space. In sum, Mr. President, there's no such thing as a free lunch.
MR. LEHRER: We will have more on the Bush proposal and the moon trip anniversary after the News Summary. Charlayne.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: The grim task of investigating the crash of the United DC-10 in Iowa got underway today. Teams of investigators and rescue crews conducted an inch by inch search of the corn field where the plane split apart and crashed in flames, killing 76 people. At least 184 people survived the late afternoon crash but 33 people are still unaccounted for. The crash occurred after the plane suffered a loss of hydraulic power. The plane's flight recorder or black box that is expected to contain information about the final minutes before the crash arrived in Washington today, but officials said they expect the investigation to take months. The so-called "black box" is not a single box, nor is it black. The term refers to these two recorders. One contains data on the mechanical performance of the plane; the other a tape conversation of the conversation in the cockpit. In another airline story, Delta announced today that it is taking responsibility for the crash of a Boeing 727 that killed 14 people at the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport last summer. Delta said the flight crew failed to set the aircraft's flaps in the proper take-off position. The crew members were fired earlier this week.
MR. LEHRER: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan talked today about holding off a recession. He said the Fed had been pushing down interest rates in an anti-recession move that he still was not sure would work. His comments were in testimony about his mid-year economic report to a banking subcommittee. He told the committee the Fed had begun to lower interest rates in June after a year of increases. He said they made the turnabout from inflation fighting due to signs of a weakening economy.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: In the Soviet Union there were two developments in the coal miners strike today. Leaders of the strike in Siberia agreed to return to work after the government promised to meet many of their demands, including more worker control over the mines. At the same time, the strikes expanded in other parts of the country, with workers at five more mines walking off the job.
MR. LEHRER: And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to the latest on the United Airlines' DC-10 crash and the 20th anniversary of man's first trip to the moon. FOCUS - FLIGHT 232 - FATAL FLIGHT
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: First tonight the tragic flight of United Flight 232. As we reported at least 184 people on board survived the crash. At least 76 were killed and 33 more are missing. Today the search for survivors and answers continued, Correspondent Elizabeth Bracket reports from Souix City.
MS. BRACKETT: The wreckage from Flight 232 stretched for 4000 feet along runway 22 at the Sioux City Airport. Rescue units had worked throughout the night removing bodies. By mid afternoon that grim task had almost been completed. Bodies had been removed and taken to a temporary morgue at the Airport. What stunned who viewed the crash scene was the high number of survivors. 55 survivors had spent the night at nearby Briarcliff College. At breakfast this morning they were still trying to understand how they had escaped. Mary Kahl was on the flight with her husband and 14 year old son Jimmy.
MARY KAHL, Survivor: We were tumbled on top of each other and Jimmy was able to squirm around and there was a small opening up above which is where our feet should have been and he was able to crawl out of that. Most of the people I could see daylight and I could see corn and I was happy to see corn. Jimmy was able to crawl of out of there and then he reached back in and helped me crawl out of this small opening and by that time most of the people in our area had already existed.
JIM KAHL, Survivor: When I unleashed my belt I didn't know whether I was upside down or not but I fell and I tumbled and I didn't know which was back or foreword or even which side of the aisle to look on but as soon I got out and I stopped and turned around and start seeing my son and wife down there. And I don't know how long it took it seemed like an eternity. All I know is I saw my sons shorts coming through the opening and then my wife right after and then all I could think of was to get out of there.
MS. BRACKETT: After Iowa Governor Terry Branstad toured the wreckage he too expressed surprise at the number of survivors.
GOVERNOR BRANSTAD: It is amazing that this many people survived when you look at that crash sight. Its total devastation. Some areas are badly burned and things are twisted and upside down and you have parts of the plane strewn all over awide area.
MS. BRACKETT: Medical authorities say one reason for the high number of survivors is the 30 minutes of advance warning they had before the crash. As soon as word came of a plane in trouble Doctors boarded a helicopter to survey the situation they would face at the airport and to follow the cripple plane in as it attempted to land.
DR. DAVID GRECO, Marian Health Center: We went airborne and we were viewing the aircraft approaching from the air a couple of miles away to keep a safe distance but close enough that we could immediately land within a minute or two and we saw the approach coming from the East with a rather brisk shallow approach and I looked like they were just going to make it into the confines of the Airport. We were half relieved initially that it looked like it was going to be an extreme rough landing. At that point as we had any ray of hope at all they touched down and we saw an explosion at that point the paramedics were in place, the volunteer ambulance crews from surrounding communities, Air National Guard, we had a lot of help as far as bodies transporting people straight out over a mile.
MS. BRACKETT: Dr. Greco says that high level of readiness did save lives.
DR. GRECO: If they hadn't reached resources within the first hour those 40 critical patients that I initially scanned would have never survived.
MS. BRACKETT: Airport Services Manager Ken Humphrey coordinated yesterdays rescue efforts. He says practice drills of emergency procedures and the early warning made the difference. How important was that warning?
KEN HUMPHREY, Airport Service Manager: I think that it is very important because it allowed us to get out initial response force in place, activate other forces so that they were poised and ready to move if required.
MS. BRACKETT: But just before the crash emergency vehicles had to move.
MR. HUMPHREY: It would appear that they elected at the last minute to land on runway 22. That is all we have of indications right now.
MS. BRACKETT: That is where your emergency vehicles were?
MR. HUMPHREY: Off to the side area yes.
MS. BRACKETT: National Transportation Safety Board Member Jim Bernett describes the scene in the Air that lead to the early warning.
JIM BURNETT, National Transportation Safety Board: Shortly after 3.16 central time the Air Traffic Control Center in Minneapolis was told by this flight that they had lost their number 2 engine. Shortly after 3.17 they were told that they had lost their hydraulic and they started directing them toward Dubeque. At 3.20 or a few seconds later they declared an emergency saying that they had lost all control and then they were directed toward Sioux City. They initially were to attempt to make a landing on runway 31. That proved impossible and with some maneuvering which was complicated by the fact that they could only turn in one direction they attempted to land on runway 22.
MS. BRACKETT: The joy and relief of the survivors was etched in sharp contrast of the pain of those who had lost loved ones. Briar Cliff College's James Horton says at 4 a.m. this morning relatives flown in from Chicago arrived here to here United read the list of survivors.
MR. HORTON: I guess I wish that I could have said that we had a lot of happy reunions. We didn't it didn't happen because all the names on our first list were not related to the people who were in that room. It was very difficult. It was a very difficult time. It was very emotional and everybody could feel it believe me.
MS. BRACKETT: So how many did survive Governor Bradstad reminded those here that is the worst disaster that may here had seen.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: For more on the crash of Flight 232 we turn now to Ned Clark, President of Engineering Consulting Incorporated and an Aircraft Accident Investigation Firm based in Lexington Park, Maryland. Mr. Clark the Pilot radioed as we have been hearing all day complete hydraulic failure and that the tail engine had also failed. Tell us a little bit about the function of the hydraulic system and the sequence as you understand it about what happened.
NED CLARK, President, Engineering Consulting Incorporated: Okay the hydraulic system on the aircraft is roughly analogous to the power steering on your automobile. It assists you in moving the controls. Now in order to put this in perspective how serious it is. It is much more serious then simply losing the power steering in your automobile. Image for example that you are coming down a steep hill, a windy road and a very large heavily loaded truck that requires power steering in order to control and you loose the hydraulics on that vehicle, you lose your power steering then further complicated by having one of the tires go flat so it doesn't want to go straight any longer. It wants to turn as it comes down the Hill and lastly imagine that when you get to the bottom of the hill you have to put this truck through a very narrow tunnel with very little room on either side. This is the type of situation that faced the pilot as he lost his hydraulics which caused him to lose control. The Airplane did not want fly straight which because as they reported it would turn in only one direction and lastly the landing is a very delicate maneuver both in pitch, that is the verticle control and also the roller control and that is analogous to going into this very narrow tunnel. So the pilot had a monumental task in front of him.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: And you heard the NTSB Member say that he first reported that he lost the Number 2 engine then he lost hydraulics. Is that probably the sequence. I mean, tell us how that probably happened?
MR. CLARK: Okay one possible scenario for that would be for the center engine the one that is in the tail to have an uncontained explosion. This is where a number of the internal components are flung outward through the engine case. It is almost like blowing a hand grenade off in that section of the aircraft.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Because there are lots of tiny parts back there?
MR. CLARK: That is correct. These are part of the turbine engine, they are probably turbine blades and as these parts are flung out like shrapnel they will cut through the skin of the aircraft. They will cut through wires, cables and most importantly in this case probably hydraulic tubes. So once these tubes were punctured there was some period of time where there was sufficient fluid in the reservoirs in all likelihood to continue operation of the controls for some short period of time. Eventually that fluid was depleted and this would lead to the second indication where the pilots reported losing hydraulic control of the aircraft.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: There are three hydraulic systems in the plane as I understand it.
MR. CLARK: That is correct.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: How did it happen that they all three went out?
MR. CLARK: Okay if you look at the pictorial and look at the rear of the aircraft where it says engine number two we will find that all of the hydraulic tubes converge in an area right underneath that engine. Now there maybe three independent hydraulic systems but if the lines for those three systems are routed adjacent to one another you only have to have a disturbance some of type of structural failure in that immediate area to wipe the tubes for all those three engines.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: The wires are reporting that this problem lack of an effective back up system had already occur in two other major DC 10 accidents. Is this unique to the DC10 or there are other aircraft structured in the same way.
MR. CLARK: I think that some of the details of it are a little by unique to the DC10. Other aircraft by other manufacturers have different routing for their multiple systems. What we are seeing here in a domestic situation is something that was discover by the armed forces of this country during the period in Viet Nam were we went in there with aircraft that had redundant systems but we routed the lines very close to one another and we were able to lose aircraft in combat with a single lucky round. Now all of our new combat aircraft not only are the systems redundant but they are also widely separated in space. And that is the real problem here with this DC 10 the fact that the redundant systems are not widely separated and spaced throughout the airplane.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Have you learned any information to speculate what may have caused that Initial explosion?
MR. CLARK: No there isn't any information on that at this time but if we view typically our problems with jet engines where they do have catastrophic failures of that sort it is usually one of three things. One is the turbine blades which are like little wings if you will rotating wings inside of the engine. Some of those can come loose. If one of them breaks loose it is analogous to sticking a broom stick in the wheel of a bicycle. It just tears up the rest of the blades. Second possible cause is the disk that these blades are attached to sometimes these will develop cracks and break in which case the same effect you release all the blades into the engine. Third probably less probable cause is a main bearing failure which is sometimes caused by oil starvation.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Now the NTSB man we heard, Mr. Burdett, I believe it was said that the Pilot said that initially he lost control then he regained control and then he lost control again. Do you have any idea of what might have been happening there. Was that a case where you refereed earlier to the lose of hydraulic fluid slowly.
MR. CLARK: I suspect that there may be some form of manual back up on this air craft. Many of the aircraft have a manual back up but it does not give the pilot full authority in the aircraft. It essentially allows it to keep it right side up but it is extremely difficult to preform any type of landing maneuver.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Do have any sense of why one section of the plane burned the way it did and the other part of it didn't?
MR. CLARK: I hate to say it is completely random but in essence the way that aircraft cartwheeled it is fortuitous in that it ripped the wings off the airplane which is where a large portion of the fuel is carried and that got carried away from sections of the fuselage and secondly the fuselage itself broke into a number of different sections and so if those sections were not immediately the vicinity of where there were small pools of fire then some of them were completely spared of any fire damage whatsoever.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: As you heard the Governor say that it was a miracle that anybody walked away from that alive. What is your guess, I mean, you heard Elizabeth Brackets report. Do you have anything to add as to why so many people were able to get out of that plane?
MR. CLARK: Yes I think there is a couple of things that have to do with it. First is the high degree of airmanship shown by the pilot able to get the aircraft so close to the ground in a nearly level altitude. That was probably the foremost factor. Secondly the accident occurred in a relatively flat area without any culverts, hills, trees and that sort of thing so when the debree came apart on the ground it didn't have any sudden stops. Next the debree was scattered over a large area which meant that it took quiet a while for the various part do decelerate. So the G forces during deceleration were in a survivable range. So there are a number of factors that made this particularly survivable accident.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: And just very quickly the placement of the people who seemed to survive the doctor said was between maybe the 6th and 19th row. Was that also fortuitous?
MR. CLARK: I think to a certain extent but I believe that you may find that a large percentage of the persons that were injured due to trauma injuries were in areas where the fuselage broke apart. In these areas some of the seats probably were ripped loose from the floor boards and spilled the passengers out, unfortunately, on to the ground.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well Mr. Clark I am sure we'll have many more questions in the weeks to come. Thank you for answering the ones that we've had tonight.
MR. CLARK: It is my pleasure.
MR. LEHRER: Still to come on the Newshour tonight the 20th Anniversary of the first man on the moon. It was 20 years ago today that two American Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. President Bush marked the occasion with a proposal for more space exploration. Building a permanent space station to launch a manned mission to mars. We mark it with the thoughts of Buzz Aldrin, Roger Rosenblatt, Isaac Asamov, James Michiner, Maya Angelou and Daniel Boorstin. FOCUS - LUNAR REFLECTIONS [Moon Landing Segment]
MR. LEHRER: What television viewers did not know at the time that there was a problem. The space crafts computer was overloaded and its screens went blank but Armstrong and Aldrin were told to continue. There were some tense moments because the computer would be crucial for the Astronauts return to their command module. Judy Woodruff spoke to Buzz Aldrin yesterday about that time just before the landing.
EDWIN "BUZZ" ALDRIN, Former Astronaut: Well there is usually a little skip in the heart beat when something unusual happens and you have that increase in apprehension, you look at each other and then you wait for some further instructions and you just calmly continue to do the best that can awaiting instructions on that particular alarm.
MS. WOODRUFF: When was it that you were pretty sure that everything was going to be all right?
MR. ALDRIN: Well right away when we got it from Charlie Duke the Capsule Communicator and they kept coming up every minute or minute and half. It was a different kind of an alarm but it was essentially the same thing. Now at 500 feet which is normally where he took over. He took over and saw that we were being directed toward an unsatisfactory landing area so instead of diving down quickly which is a little unnerving or turning sharply to the left or the right he extended where we were going, slowed down our rate of decent and moved over and flew beyond this boulder field and of course that ate into our fuel supply a little bit more so at a 100 feet the call out came 60 seconds.
MR. ALDRIN: We continued to descend with 60 seconds of fuel left and the low level light on. We got down to a 10 ten feet when 30 seconds was called out and we were on our way down. I felt that we had it made at that point.
MS. WOODRUFF: When did you take a moment to reflect on what had happened that you had landed on the moon?
MR. ALDRIN: I think there was a moment right after the touchdown when the realization that we had really accomplished that task. That was a just few moments after. I remember relaxing and leaning over Neil and just sort of patting him on the back and this exchange of views that said by golly we made it we look out and see the horizon and everything is still.
MS. WOODRUFF: But you describe the appearance of the moon as nothing terribly beautiful, spectacular?
MR. ALDRIN: No when I got out on the surface and we started moving around a little noting the freedom to move in that 1, 6 gravity which gave the impression sort of a slow motion restriction. Everything appeared to be slow because of the reduced gravity but I put together some words there that just automatically came to mind. The magnificence of what we were doing and the desolation of where we had arrived and I called it magnificent desolation.
MS. WOODRUFF: What do you think the significance was of your landing on the moon. I mean Americans sending two human beings there and of course there were others who followed you but what was the significance?
MR. ALDRIN: America was built as a pioneering nation. We were formed. We came over here from Europe and settled in settlements up and down the East Coast and we started moving Westward. We have always been pioneers. We invented the airplane, we flew across the Atlantic, we've investigated the North and South Pole. Everything that is in the American Spirit is one of looking outward, looking for new opportunities and then Sputnik came the World and particularly the Americans were a little bit challenged and I think as space activities unfolded from that point it became clear that the Russians were very intent in using this new regime, this new frontier to demonstrate their technical competence both for their own citizens and for people of the World. And man was going to be in space, very clearly. We had a Mercury Program and when Gegarin went up that was when kennedy felt it was time to make a declaration of what this nation could do to demonstrate its leadership and its preeminence and it was not going to be easy it was going to be hard to do and to do it in a half way measure we might as well not do at all.
MS. WOODRUFF: How do you feel about How the Government has followed up on the ground work that was laid by the Appolo Mission?
MR. ALDRIN: I don't think that it has followed up very well. The people are impressed with things that are of the immediate moment. American people react quickly to some major change like Pearl Harbour or Sputnik but I don't think in any pools you can expect the American people to very sound vote for 10 or 15 years in the future. You may have several visionaries reflecting that but for the most part there is so abundance in our lives, so many thing going on, so many problems here and there that everybody wants their problems fixed and those are all short term. We elect people, our representatives in Congress and our President to do that visionary thinking and leading for us, to represent the generations to come and instead of following the polls to assure their reelection they should be leading the people into the next century.
MS. WOODRUFF: And you are saying they have not done that?
MR. ALDRIN: Not as far as the space program is concerned they haven't. We went 6 years between our Apollo 7 and Apollo joint mission with the Soviets and not one American went into space and that is hardly a consistent respect for the great team work and achievements of Apollo and I am afraid if we get assessed with dealing with our immediate problems here. The greatness that is ours will fade away. "LUNACY"
MR. LEHRER: Now Essayist Roger Rosenblatt, Editor of U.S. News & World Report, recalls the moon landing and the other events of that summer of 1969.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: To appreciate the meaning of America's first walk on the moon, it helps to recall everything else that was going on when the event took place, the summer of 1969, halfway through a year in which universities were popping off like Chinese firecrackers. Kent State had not yet had its shooting tragedy, but Berkeley and Columbia had already experienced their days of off the pigs and bull horns. Harvard had just survived its sit-in and police busts, terms that almost have to be explained today. At the Woodstock music and arts festival, 400,000 genuine or would-be hippies created a convention against the conventional. A young woman drowned at Chappaquidick in an event that continues to affect American politics. Later that summer, a mad man named Manson directed a killing spree in California. Everyone seemed to rage ceaselessly at everyone else, conservatives at radicals, children at parents, males at females, long hair at short. All were enacting analogies to a conflict on the other side of the world where real enemies killed one in the unrelieved madness of a war. Then suddenly on July 20, 1969, another act of madness, a different type entirely, associated literally with lunacy and lunatics. There, look at him -- he must be a lunatic surely, that Pillsbury dough boy in the chunky white get-up, ceremoniously descending the ladder from a spaceship. We had to be dreaming. One looked up from all the terrestrial shouting and shooting and there was a man about to step on the moon. What's that he's saying?
ASTRONAUT: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
MR. ROSENBLATT: Given the political climate, he should have said "personkind", but except for that slip, he seemed to represent perfectly the universal love dimension of the period -- if only he had planted a daisy on the moon's surface instead of an American flag, flower power in space. What's the landing spot called, the sea of tranquility, groovy. The moon was a fitting thing to step on in those days because the moon has always been symbolic of sublime madness. The purely crazy half of the designation is recognized in our folklore. Coyotes bay at the moon; cows jump over it. A respectable werewolf doesn't really feel like himself until the magic circle in the sky brings out the beast in him. When more ordinary people get into the act, the moon retains its mad qualities, but adds sublimity too. The harvest moon shines on you and your gal, as does the moon over Miami and the moonlight in Vermont, the gorgeous craziness of being Moonstruck enveloped Cher in that wonderful movie in which even Brooklyn was not safe from the hypnotic mischief brought by this what -- [Scene from "Moonstruck"] The earth's companion, satellite, sycophant, pest, partner in a universe so deeply dark that one grows mad with delight for a globe of light. America stepped on the moon at exactly the time that it needed to see that madness was not only destructive but that it had a lovely face to it as well, promising after all the turmoil a happy landing. The landing of astronauts Neil Armstrong of "Buzz" Aldrin was certainly a happy occasion. They clumped about the grainy surface like kids in the snow. Out the window went the green cheese theory but the magic was still retained, a miracle that it was. The moon, one remembers, was for centuries of earthlings the place that people could not reach, could not never reach. It served as the eternal point of aspiration and derived its qualities of both madness and sublimity from that fact, a wonder that had lost none of its wonder when we finally got up there and touched it. But that is why the moonwalk was so excellently timed. Nothing could shake America's insistent sense of unreality in 1969. Anything could happen in a year like that, a real war that had to be won, but no one wanted to fight, a generational war that no one wanted to win but everyone wanted to fight, and above it all, one summer night, the unbelievable fact of a man on the moon, embodying all the madness and beauty of an age. That night the beauty prevailed. In 1969, we did not know where we were, or where we were going, or if the world could survive it's self-created tremors, so we strolled out into the universe one night as into an affectionate mystery, recalling the miracles we still could do within the miracle that had been done for us.
MR. LEHRER: And that brings us to a conversation among four American writers. They are Isaac Asimov, who has written more than 300 books, many of them science fiction, Maya Angelou, poet, author, professor of American studies at Wake Forest University, she joins us from Winston Salem, North Carolina, James Michener, whose many novels include space, a fictional portrait of the space program, he's with us from Hialeah, Florida, and Daniel Boorstin, historian, librarian of Congress emeritus whose book, "The Discoverers", is a history of man's attempts to explore the world. Mr. Asimov, to you first, was it, in fact, a giant leap for mankind looking at it 20 years later?
ISAAC ASIMOV, Author: Well, it had the capacity to be a giant leap; the first time that human beings had stood on a world other than the earth, to make a true giant leap, we had to carry on, we had to go further, we had to do more. And we didn't, I'm afraid, so that the giant leap was sort of stemmed in midstream, to mix my metaphors.
MR. LEHRER: All right. Mr. Michener, what metaphors would you use to answer that question, whether or not Neil Armstrong called it right or not.
JAMES A. MICHENER, Author: I think it was a magnificent step forward. It leads the way to later steps for the two centuries, three centuries to come. When the space telescope gets up there in a few years, it's going to blow our minds with the wonders of what we're going to see as a result of that trip to the moon. I'm very optimistic about the future.
MR. LEHRER: Maya Angelou, how does it look to you 20 years later?
MAYA ANGELOU, Poet: Well, I'm amazed at what, I think it's called national amnesia. I think we forget why it was an important step, a great leap and all that, and over hurdles and all, but still we have forgotten the immediacy of our needs, and I'm a little alarmed if not a lot alarmed that we're spending so much energy telling the young people of today that it was gorgeous 20 years ago and not remembering them to ask them to look next door at the people who are homeless who probably won't make it to Mr. Bush's Mars. I'm very concerned.
MR. LEHRER: All right. We'll get back to that point in a moment. Dr. Boorstin, where will Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, the moon crew, where will they fit in the world of discoverers through history?
DANIEL J. BOORSTIN, Author: Well, you know, Jim, I see this, the landing, the moon landing, as both a symptom and a cause of a great transformation of consciousness. Always in the past there's been a distinction between knowledge and experience. Knowledge came to us indirectly through reading and through hearing people tell us about it through lectures and so on. Experience was something immediate. Now the moon landing was the first worldwide increase in knowledge that was shared experience. This is a great new opportunity, a great new vividness to our life, but it also has a peril with it, because it confuses us, makes us wonder what is experience. It creates possibly the illusion of experience and that's dangerous. Now there is another aspect of it too and that is the way in which the moon landing was a convergence of discovery and invention. In the past, discovery has always been the work of outdoor people like Columbus and the winds and the currents. Inventors have been people working in the shop as Gutenberg did as a goldsmith or lens grinder, but now we see these coming together and I think the great danger is that we may allow the inventor psychology, the view toward expectations, the fulfilling of expectations to replace the zest for the quest, which is the motive of the great discoverer.
MR. LEHRER: Isaac Asimov, what about Dr. Boorstin's point about this was a worldwide event, did you fiction, science fiction writers, when you wrote about the first men and women going to the moon, did you foresee the fact that 600 million people would watch it and have this great experience?
MR. ASIMOV: No, we didn't. That was the one thing that we missed. When Neil Armstrong got down on the moon, I could see him in his spacesuit. It looked just like an illustration in the science fiction stories of the 1930s, but I don't recall a single story which actually described the whole world watching someone landed on the moon. We had moon voyagers, we had television in science fiction, but we never put them together. That was the big surprise for me.
MR. LEHRER: What about, what do you think of Dr. Boorstin's point, the significance of that, the convergence, I won't repeat what he said, you heard what he said, do you agree with him there?
MR. ASIMOV: In a way I do, but how far can we go that way? Also, the death of the seven astronauts in the Challenger was something we all experienced. We watched it over and over on television and it grew to something of almost mythic importance too, the kind of inverse from the landing on the moon, and just as the landing on the moon exhilarated us all the more because we watched it, the Challenger disaster depressed us all the more because we watched it. And we mustn't allow ourselves to get too exhilarated or too depressed. These are not things to get immediately emotional over. We're heading for the long haul and there will be accidents and there will be triumphs.
MR. LEHRER: Now, Maya Angelou, that is actually your point, that we shouldn't have gotten emotional about it 20 years ago and we still shouldn't be, is that right?
MS. ANGELOU: No, I think we should be emotional about it. That's not my -- I just don't think we should be emotional only about that. While I admire the trio of brilliant brilliancies you have there --
MR. LEHRER: We have four.
MS. ANGELOU: I was thinking of Mr. Boorstin's statement that the inventors, the dreamers, the discoverers, were outdoors people. I would question that and I would ask that if in truth, aren't the poets, however they may be called, rabbis, preachers, priests, whatever, aren't they also discoverers, and shouldn't we be concerned today, 20 years later, with increasing the discovery idea in our young people, internal discovery, I'm wondering.
MR. LEHRER: Dr. Boorstin.
DR. BOORSTIN: I agree with Maya Angelou that we certainly should stir people to be discoverers, but I would like to think of them as creators imitating the great creator by being creators ourselves. But I still think that it's important not to be misled into thinking that knowledge is the same as experience. I wonder what would have happened if we had allowed the Lewis and Clarke expedition to bring us the knowledge and let it go at that. I never would have been able to be raised in Oklahoma for one thing and a lot of other consequences might have followed more important than that, but I think that the manned exploration of space which I'm glad to hear the President describe and encourage us to, speaking then not just of the space voyage but of the space enterprise, just as Columbus spoke of the enterprise of the Indies, it's the space enterprise which is always continuing. We must try to keep it alive. That ought to be our concern now I believe.
MR. LEHRER: James Michener, you agree with that, right?
MR. MICHENER: Yes. It's very clear to me that we must have in the United States right now not three men who went to the moon but a thousand men in all walks of life who would be willing to go there tomorrow. I am not pessimistic about this. I think we go forward in all areas and one of them ought to be the exploring of our universe, and believe me, when we get unmanned vehicles up there, probing out to the edge of our galaxy, we are going to have a whole new world in our laps and in our minds. This doesn't stop, it doesn't stop with the terrible disaster of the Challenger. We had a terrible disaster right at the beginning of the space program, lost Grissom and his three fine men. That didn't halt us at that time because our whole motion was forward. The problem was to get the forward motion going again. I was a member of a committee a little while ago talking about the space program, and a very bright man listened and he was more knowledgeable about space than I and at the end he said, wonderful, it's a wonderful plan the United States has planned for the future. It's exactly appropriate for the Duchy of Luxembourg.
MR. LEHRER: Maya Angelou, do you understand the point, or do you agree with the point that we should go on and on and on into space travel and space exploration?
MS. ANGELOU: I feel terrible being the only conservative in this group, but I do wonder if we shouldn't stop for a minute and think of the difference between movement and progress. It is very important. We need to be somebody other than just greedy for exchange. You see, I think a lot of people say they want change, but the truth is they want exchange. They want to exchange this particular tired old planet and without really examining what it could be and exchange the space we occupy now, instead of really understanding how we can control and preserve this layer of ozone and make this our own little green ball, something wonderful and not paradisiacal or edenic, but just livable for all the human beings. Now I don't, I want to see the space program. I am afraid of the small and the voiceless people who will be worse, and of course you've noticed I'm black and so I am concerned about black, but I am concerned about poor white, and Asian and native American, I'm concerned about the people who really don't believe that we have gone to the moon. You must know that there are millions upon millions of people who believe that all of the television coverage was a farce. I have been told time and time again, Ms. Angelou, or been asked, do you really believe, don't believe that stuff, nobody's gone anywhere, that's just like the film "Them".
MR. MICHENER: Now wait a minute.
MS. ANGELOU: I promise you, there are people who say that.
MR. MICHENER: Oh, my. The world is pushed ahead by dreamers, it's pushed by people who experiment, who explore. Our whole view of the universe is going to change before the end of this century and with it will come many of the things that Ms. Angelou wants because it can come only from people who are dreamers and doers and who are thrusting forward the experiments of humankind.
MR. LEHRER: Isaac Asimov.
MR. ASIMOV: I don't believe we should assume that there are two separate things, we either go into space or we do something with earth, as though they're mutually exclusive. One of the reasons for going out into space is to increase our knowledge of earth, itself, to increase our capacities to help the earth. We perhaps won't be able to solve our problems right here on earth if we don't go out into space in search of the additional knowledge. Let me give you an example from the past. In the 1680s, Anton Van Levenhope discovered bacteria. He had these tiny little microscopes, he found these tiny bits of life, and you could easily say, who cares about these tiny little bits of life, they're not important, go out and help people instead, but 200 years later, those tiny little bits of life made it possible to understand the germ theory of disease which wiped out a great many epidemics on earth which doubled our life expectancy, which did a great deal to help us. Did Van Levenhope know that? No, he was merely searching for knowledge. It is impossible not to help humanity if we find additional knowledge. The space program is to tell us more, to let us know more, and we will help human beings in that way.
MR. LEHRER: Dr. Boorstin.
DR. BOORSTIN: I think we should end on the note that we are not free not to know.
MR. LEHRER: Not free not to know?
DR. BOORSTIN: No, we are not free. To be human is to know. And ever since Eve persuaded the first man to eat the apple we've been stuck with the pursuit of knowledge. That's our destiny and the space exploration is part of it. We can't allow ourselves to be imprisoned on this earth or to make this planet the final destination. The great mistake, I think, is to view this as a problem of cost effectiveness. The greatest achievements in the world, the greatest fulfillments are not cost effective. Children, love, knowledge, art, none of them is cost effective, and if people had tried to guide their experience in that way, the great discoveries, the peopling of America would never have been achieved.
MR. LEHRER: Maya Angelou.
MS. ANGELOU: Yes. I'm sorry, I wish to believe that there is no either or condition here but I've just been listening to your program this evening earlier before we came on and I did hear the various representatives ask where will the money come from, and I do have to ask will the money come from the social services, will it come from the aged and the handicapped and the sick, where will the money come from? Unfortunately we will be taking money from services which we desperately need, as we have already taken money from schools and -- I wish it wasn't so, but it is so.
DR. BOORSTIN: Pursuing that, I would remind you every dollar that we spend on professors and on research and on books is taken away from food and from some more obvious way of improving the environment. We do not calculate the benefits of knowledge as an alternative to the dollar sign. It's impossible. The bottom line is no way of measuring man's possibilities.
MR. ASIMOV: Now, wait. We've got the B-2 bomber coming up, 600 million dollars for one Stealth aircraft, and we're going to plan on building a lot of them. Nobody asks where that money is coming from. Well, let's not build the Stealth aircraft. We'll have lots of money for other things. Why is it either space or social programs, and no one mentions the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on instruments of destruction that we never dare use? There's where the money is.
MS. ANGELOU: Thank you very much, Isaac Asimov.
DR. BOORSTIN: I might also add, if I can intervene for just one moment, Jim, and that is the instruments of destruction are all by- products of knowledge and we're not free not to know about the atom. If we'd decided not to learn about the atom as someone might have decreed in a totalitarian society, we would not have the instruments of destruction that threaten us, but we also wouldn't advance as human beings into the world of greater knowledge.
MR. LEHRER: James Michener, what's your view of that, Dr. Boorstin's point that we're not free not to know, we've got to do all of this stuff?
MR. MICHENER: If we don't, obviously, some others are going to. You must remember the perilous position we were in when we went to the moon because Russia had led the way in the exploration of space in almost every area. They were the first men in space, the first women in space, the first ones to see the far side of the moon, the first ones to land and bring back samples. We were not in a very good posture at that point, and it was part of my job in the middle years of my life to work on that program and to see that we caught up and exceeded and established our own credentials in the world. Now if we don't do it, somebody else is going to do it and they're going to reap the benefits of it. I can only say that I can hardly wait to see the new adventures in space. I hope some of them will be unmanned, some of them manned, but the frontier is there and you cannot reject it. It's exactly like the United States early pilgrims landing in the Atlantic Sea Coast. They were not free not to go to the Mississippi. They were not free not to go to the Pacific; they were not free to go off into Asia; they were not free to go into space.
MR. LEHRER: Maya Angelou.
MS. ANGELOU: Yes. Nor were the Indians, the native Americans, free to stay there in Massachusetts and in North Carolina, they were not free either, nor were the slaves free. So I mean this highly vaulted freedom of one against all the others does not impress me greatly somehow.
MR. LEHRER: Do the words like Mr. Michener just used like adventure and all of that --
MS. ANGELOU: Yes, it's exciting. I'm a human being too and my heart pounds when I just heard Michener say, I can't wait. I too can't wait, but at some point I impose another desire and I desire balance. I really would like to encourage a kind of poetic vision of where our money and our hearts are going and if we are really going to look after ourselves as a species entirely, then we have to focus.
MR. LEHRER: I hear you and I have to say good night to all four of you wonderful people. I've enjoyed it. I wish we could go on. Thank you all four for being with us tonight. RECAP
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Once again Thursday's other main stories, investigators continue to look for causes into yesterday's crash of a United jetliner in Iowa; 184 of the 293 people aboard survived. And in Washington, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the central bank stood ready to lower interest rates further to prevent a recession. Good night, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Good night, Charlayne. We'll see you tomorrow night. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
Producing Organization
NewsHour Productions
Contributing Organization
NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/507-qv3bz62235).
Episode Description
This episode's headline: Flight 232 - Fatal Flight; Lunar Reflections; Lunacy. The guests include NED CLARK, President, Engineering Consulting Inc.; EDWIN ""BUZZ"" ALDRIN, Former Astronaut; JAMES A. MICHENER, Author; MAYA ANGELOU, Poet; DANIEL J. BOORSTIN, Author; ISAAC ASIMOV, Author; CORRESPONDENT: ELIZABETH BRACKETT; ESSAYIST: ROGER ROSENBLATT. Byline: In Washington: JAMES LEHRER; In New York: CHARLAYNE HUNTER- GAULT
Asset type
Politics and Government
Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
AAPB Contributor Holdings
NewsHour Productions
Identifier: NH-1518 (NH Show Code)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Duration: 01:00:00;00
NewsHour Productions
Identifier: NH-3519 (NH Show Code)
Format: U-matic
Generation: Preservation
Duration: 01:00:00;00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1989-07-20, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 30, 2023,
MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1989-07-20. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 30, 2023. <>.
APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from