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in a word and wears a program delving into the world of books and their authors this week alan shepard talks about moon shots the inside story of america's race to the moon i'm your host for word on words mr jon seaton dollar chairman of the freedom forum's first amendment center at vanderbilt university in oregon so you know once again welcome to word on words now it is to face at the recognize that's alan shepherd space travel world hero and now although with moon shot looking forward it john's great to be here as great a heavy here and and and scary to talk about this book which has exploded like a rocket and shot up on the best seller list you must be a really surprised to know you probably surprises done so well i frankly am surprised that it's been up there in the maritimes was for so long and i continue to be surprised but the real real happiness comes from knowing
that when my friends they slate news along with listeners the co author of the book had a terminal lung cancer problem decided right as we help them out of that i was able to do it and that in the final analysis in addition to being a very popular read it also is a great tribute to him because he was a guy everybody loved nobody really hated doing well it is a great tribute and it's written really as pluto not a chapter at the end is a is a beautiful and an eloquent you again and then people might forget this this was a space race and we started out behind spotlight goes up the annual are and newport as a test pilot and geek is at edwards air force base you have any idea of sputnik was calm and not really not
really i think were generally aware of what the soviets were doing what we were doing with respect to some of the rockets have been developed as a result of the neo will work to technology but they never personally never really they'll do without close to getting a satellite of it was really a tremendous price first of all are looking up in the likes guns in a little light can tell about going out that night that may be a clear night for to actually sing a flash across the sky was it was amazing overwhelming not frightening but it was challenging well i think i think for many of us it was frightening you know what'd it mean we were in as goran and yuri gagarin the enemy was up their own float around in space well i think clearly it wasn't frightening but it was a challenge because obviously we knew that that that militarily speaking and had no immediate significance because it was a small first step but so it was it was that may challenge to us because that was up didn't belong to
obscure well our competitive instincts weren't start immediately and that and we had surprise in them in a band or basket and then announced love love love myrna wrong wrong with his german immigrant engineers and technologists or relocated and he knew men guard wasn't work and you tell us that the that von braun was waiting for the call waiting for the challenge frustrated about it yes it wasn't actually iraq and read ian aegis of been put on hold and i'm not sure in retrospect whether it was the year the feeling that you know even twelve years after the war was over that maybe the germans were still the enemy somalia get a linear and true patriots really sure they were consistent and maybe that third to some degree in some politics and all but it was a sham obviously that they'd been put aside that once they gave him the go ahead obviously that it very quickly and very successfully
i said he again was up because that was not close but without thereby as myself the first big arun craig aaron when for later got week we sort of the week we had a hard time getting up didn't win in juneau goes up there just a few months it's october to jenny were maybe and we're in the race because von braun does have that does have that prompted blood then we stayed from behind for a little while and the country began to feel that they want to get into how did you feel when you win you won't decide and what what was it that the magnet that pulled you into applying to become one astronauts well eisenhower was president the time and one the pressure started mounting for manned flight as well as the elements of what they say well i think we have to give it to the nsa and i'm naked a peaceful open scientific project nasa people said fine we
don't have a test pilot and many young guys put in there so it doesn't really have a bunch of chap subaru flying military says pilots what's a pre select some of them would say do their bounty hunter the recent pre selected from both services air force navy and most of those have been test pilots for six or seven years regarding than flying stranger climbs a lot to a thousand feet which we didn't talk about so was a natural follow on a natural challenge which we've been coping with all of our lives as test pilots thing to look much like an airplane from the outside but we're gonna make it fly like an airplane bomb inside and as a listener to emerge from the competition you and me glen cooper carpenter carpenter armstrong sharon who was in the second drop in greece and gruesome reason i got to get that right i hope we never do an
album where we're lever never will go so you come together and as naturally some competition among them are you surprised to read that the bailout at all know of friendly help the cup and you get a call you know the average man in space and there is a little jealousy that night but this time like kennedy is that is present and now obviously he's a navy man urinating man so some people put them together and say five boston politics it got whatever it was you became our first space hero and all that adulation was poured on you and and you know we think of you all and remember the days we followed you and we forget that there are there are the fully human equation on the other eye but being carried along with the story and you sort of told
me that it was heady stuff but became a moment when you're at a parade in washington and you look down there and the secret service try keep maybe gland and slayton from getting in getting in to liberate a motive an end an uncanny and you say that that sort of made you think looks a big stop with me status yes it became rather quickly fortunately because as you say the spotlight the adulation is all a sudden is hard to handle there was another aspect to john and that was that i was mine fully aware of the hundreds and thousands of people who had designed it builder put together test and retested and launch didn't they are the ones that deserve just as much credit obviously as we did my guess is it is more than i guess since i read about it that that not only with a cappella competition that not only was with at adulation there were also of great tension
and great pressure and the need to release that tension and pressure and some of the wild stories that emerged from that store's about our racing and fort carson i was sure of mongoose or three of them henry's holiday ends talk a little bit about that as a burden and it seems it the practical jokes or in fact form tension release oh absolutely ali center safety valves and as you say are they really got one on me when i had or a blue corvette on ways to have identical car isn't used to race one against the other and unbeknown survey before they delivered my car they had changed the entire act and so it would go on to on a downhill down when they take ten minutes to get there but you zero sixteen forget that
after weeks of restoration of running tell me that that was one of them you know and i wondered it seems to me that those stories and so on were very public didn't penetrate the press press attitude on much i'm not sure that the euro would not have been viewed as a somewhat they're like sure i'll lay yeo and among them for example a needed a bizarre story really is i think you're right i think the press had some respect back in those days and i think it's true and others as well i think given the kennedy administration some things that went on then there was there was a sense of propriety i think among the press may be respectful the office and maybe the press was respectful of all we were trying to do is you're going anyway we actually
made it so it so you're up and around the world in space and down and the president's challenge comes shortly thereafter a challenge to the nation that was really surprising in it ended really start happening that day that i was at the white house after he made the flight about three days later i was back on what we had a schedule which was supposed to follow county change in a couple of different times away with him to mate with a with a nice association broadcasters unscheduled then the parade down deadspin mahmoud perception that at the congress and and he said well come back to the oval office a one again liza kindness or one of the other than the heads of nasa and let's talk about this thing he was orderly totally and for all excited about this sixty minute space flight during the mass of the one said what you push harder after this is a well we had been talking about going on a solo on a briefing he was briefed ten days later and just three weeks after my flight was
when he said we're going to go alone and we're going to do it before the end of the decade this incredible sense of national pride in excitement the associative on that particular day and you know the interesting thing to me is that i remember hearing that my recollection is that he said that the united nations the water was in congress was united but today reminiscing on television that they just saying in a less dangerous and that i thought of my political wheels with jerry i thought well at city is reelected he be out of office and ten years we don't make it you know maybe maybe the heat you're going on somebody else's but i mean it was it was that it was a visionary and it was the bones but it was so it was world shaking an end course the russians were on why there was a sense of competition and i think there was a sense of national pride some historians will say well it was a
political decision i suppose i think every other lawyers could be labeled sure but the following year when glenn flew in grissom had flown the three of us went to west palm beach to make it a fly with him to washington in air force one we sat in his private cabin talk about what the three was a done all i have to washington and he was literally totally immersive excited about it so i think it was not a political reason this time was on rent there are always problems with these flights there are always dangers with a slight respect than just to be some all night and mechanical operation to think that sitting on top of all of our loyalty is some human life as a new life it's really nice and i mean i know there are some people who said we could've done all without men finally anybody who has a real sense thinks that i'm sure
trudeau but but there are problems there aren't there are times when you i guess and you overshoot it's so that's a layman's way of putting him to talk a little bit about some of those from the table well our two dramatic things which happened during the life of the manned space program the fire paul why we lost three and the challenger we lost seven and as we were writing the book they can i talked about how to handle this these two incidents and follow the challenger really wasn't part of the book chronologically right thing is that you know we were part of the problem grissom was coming to us saying this is a perilous place where all kinds of things are wrong and that was a one hour gusts the war ii will have a fake swear that it a fly just go back there are new jobs so we were part of the problem in retrospect we had done so well on mercury we have done so
well and gemini there was a sense of overconfidence complacency whatever it was it was a very insidious thing that the permian only nasa but the contractors as well and as you point out the russians are having their own problems we know late they lose a man they had they had been unveiled landing runs as well as earlier than what we have yet another was some consolation that but i think as we look back at another two things jealous come i'm kristin always had two incidents of loss of life in the entire man space program hundred and five flights now only two crimes i mean that's so much better than those particular so as overall is limited and secondly with respect augusta and his crew jaffe and white their sacrifice that drama resulted in a tall redesign of the spacecraft and obviously was one of the major factors in allowing us later on to conduct almost totally successful lunar program now a bleak course
heather's heart was grounded was never going to get in you had an ear trouble at drone angry at the world that i mentioned those two things because i know you tell about where you were making a speech and doubts when you got word that your comrades have died in that fire and had been abused that speech that you also tell about deep meeting with the three widowers and that says something about the courage of your wife and an almost was during the time talk a little bit about that because he's made it so that the song we think about the euro's and don't think about about the heroines who were on the ground with their hearts in
the air and answer a point he we talk about it in terms of astronauts' wives but you know it goes beyond that really includes all military when you when you consider the sacrifices that have been made by military people in our country over the years and the sacrifices of their families when they didn't come back it's always sad when something like that happens and of course deep was right there and done a beautiful job with the gals but that still doesn't take away the hurt and the pain associated with it and there are remarkable remarkable buoyancy ladies in these children that what's it varies fly in space even today you know the danger is still there are dangers are there absolute you know and it happened twice it can happen again let me talk you have that alibaba the process of how this book was written because you've brought into
college into associates to people really from on the media side and to work with you on it and that it was not just sitting down taking over from beacon riding riding what he had on his mind it was more complex than that toppled about how their cooperation were well it's it is they actually date had been talking to our mandate those associated press advocate for many years and jay barbary you lose nbc television and over many years a little bit about that was before they came to me and so they are when they asked me to get involved it became obvious that the overriding concern was thinks health sober every quickly away we taped for hours martial arts the first person aspects of the nine first person as banks says pilots because they'd eventually flew in space but also the first person aspects says executives is administrative because together we ran the us in our program and we were grounded bump the boyz transcribe it and we
corrected transferred again the meantime they're giving the third person builds around the first person story was eyad rains and arranger data available to them and they collected over the years and as i was put together that's an interesting combination because you have an incident which is described first person by us yes and then the filling by them the public response of their feelings are what the present written her you know it goes together over really translated into a third person story in which you speak of beacon alan grier as part of this giant the kit would became a giant think the thing that impressed me about it is that they're writing at times of doubt delicate and at times its eloquence we write about weightlessness you can almost feel it when you talk about the loneliness of space utah but that sheer beauty of the horizon of
the astronaut sees what most of the people were leveled an opportunity to study and then it was said that the moment and you've given us that sense of wonder i i i i was impressed with the way they marched the technical writing and that they wrote at one point about the margins the margins of two technologies the digital computer and the liquid fuel rocket that made livers it's possible and i thought they'd put that in terms that was so simple to understand the lay person did you insist on that all they insisting on war was that part of your id and beach it appeared that it had made the technology had to be understood so the layman could get into the story i think it's that resulted from the knowledge that both have it said they as reporters and we as technicians engineers the difficulty in explaining to the public what they're getting for the money they
put in the space program you know it's basic research and you can always tell a congressman you can always tell and an individual exactly what's going to happen down the road for one is going to happen but you know something good is going to occur from the money which is being spent they automatically a pickup couple of things that they knew the public would understand nearly as as big benefits which we now enjoy as a result of the money put into space research earlier you know be on the human aspects of the store i think are our own our obvious than in the tragedies that occur in the loss of life in the loss of our astronauts russian cosmonaut but you know the the other side of the story is that you indeed both were boiling with emotions because of all the new revenue
because we're problem men and because of the aging of the heart a heart problem and i guess you know i thought you give back roughly often write you never gave up the well lasso was very kind of both of us so and it was granted first they said that if you like to stick around we'll were like you're helpless and so many administrative blow functions the same thing in my case when i was granted they said well we are would like they stick around if you'd like to do and maybe we can get this thing fixed obviously both of those shows to stay with the program but and i think certainly we fell as though we're contributing acting in an executive capacity over same minister and so on but still a sense of wanting to know was still are and you point out the frustrations pacheco in my case was still work at the hands of it was just one us and
we wanted to do more unfortunately in both cases we're able to make another flight well i think the whole world and will forever member of our songs were just one small step one giant leap that part of the department now in the last place that was a part of american media and for american literature now and the euro not visit later as in did you ensure that every golf hole in the history of the wall with a six iron shot it was the club was actually at a makeshift six nine being an avid golfer i realized that for the same club head speed on the servers of the moon the ball will go six times as far the time a flight will be six times law and i was intrigued by that and i thought
primarily that children would be intrigued with the physics of it however it's turned out that all golfers around the world country by labor the us and of course they were and i you know when i discovered we had a handle that we use up on the lunar surface of expendable handle for scooping up the samples and it was difficult to bend over that was the same length as a chef to remember six and so i get is that the head of the six i have modified a snap on in this sample and you gulp balls which i shared the boss that i've paid for that was inexpensive us at and evaluating love it so we win the race to them in our room and then we join with her and geeks life is really an effort to join with the soviets and i can't think of a more dramatic example in the direction world peace and symbol of
our three in there to joining isolation with layers there was not a commodity it was created went far beyond that little news you place in space you ever have any doubts about wanting to join up with the enemy are not really just at that time the court tensions were listening we can afford the bail magnanimous because we knew that our systems then were better than as we were the active partner in the rendezvous they were just up there working around before labeled that magnanimous force like none may need he'd worked almost serve and there were massive so but it's interesting
it's a forerunner of what we started to see more of today's as bret you know the space station will surely be an international space station including launches by the soviet union as you correctly pointed out there's a surveil lessening of tension between countries when their corporate amounts of basis in the tremendous political advantages i think are obvious i think we saw that in our congress the sheer for them the bow on the space station budget on capitol hill that he was much more friendly than it was last year that may have been one of the factors that we looked for what i think with a great deal of pleasure in and working with the soviets the europeans canadians and the japanese and truly in animation and when alan shepherd co author of moon shot the inside story of america's race to the moon as though our guest on the word on words your host as ben johnson taller chairman of the freedom forum's first amendment center at vanderbilt university this program was produced in the studios of
wbez in nashville you know
A Word on Words
Alan Shepard
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Nashville Public Television
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Nashville Public Television (Nashville, Tennessee)
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Moon Shot -- The Inside Story Of America's Apollo Moon Landings
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Producing Organization: Nashville Public Television
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Nashville Public Television
Identifier: A0419 (Nashville Public Television)
Duration: 27:49
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Chicago: “A Word on Words; Alan Shepard; 2308,” 1994-09-21, Nashville Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2023,
MLA: “A Word on Words; Alan Shepard; 2308.” 1994-09-21. Nashville Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2023. <>.
APA: A Word on Words; Alan Shepard; 2308. Boston, MA: Nashville Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from