An Audience With Neil Armstrong
May 23, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

An Audience With Neil Armstrong is an hour long interview with Neil Armstrong about the moon landings from 2011, including a comparative view of footage from the Eagle's landing alongside Google Moon maps.

The talk was given to Certified Practicing Accountants Of Australia, so has occasional bursts of business motivational phrases amid the moon talk.
posted by dng (14 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I gotta go with what Cool Papa Bell said back in 2009.
People forget there was a reason Neil Armstrong commanded Apollo 11, and that's because he's an A-1, bad-ass motherfucker.

X-15? Flew it to the edge of space, bounced off the atmosphere and still landed it. You want to Mach 2 and blow shit up? Neil went Mach 5.

Gemini? Took it into space and docked it with another spacecraft, a first. Then the goddamn thruster stuck open and sent the spacecraft into a spin. He landed it.

Buzz Aldrin punched a conspiracy jackass at age 72.

Neil was such a badass, he was that guy's commander.
posted by eriko at 2:52 PM on May 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

My friend has been sending me photos from the NY Explorers Club where he is sitting next to Neil Armstrong and it blows my mind. He is not a hero of mine, but I remember being 7 years old and watching him - on a black and white TV - climb down on the lunar surface and it just blows my friggin mind.

He is the first human being to walk on the moon and there will never be another Neil Armstrong.

"If they ever tell my story let them say that I walked with giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Hector, tamer of horses. Let them say I lived in the time of Achilles. "

Let them say I lived in the time of Armstrong.
posted by three blind mice at 2:56 PM on May 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

and sent the spacecraft into a spin. He landed it.

I know a funny story about this from a friend who worked on the program. Seems all of the astronauts were fitted with some basic telemetry that measured things like respiration, heart rate, etc.

So Armstrong goes into this bad spin and he's smart enough to know that if he doesn't get this sorted ASAP, he's gonna bounce off the atmosphere like a stone skipping across the pond.

His heart rate never changes.

He switches to manual and by looking out the window slows the spacecraft and gets it under control.

His heart rate never changes.

When they were discussing who should pilot the Eagle down to the surface of the Moon, the vote was unanimous for this Armstrong.

He was cool like Fonzi before Fonzi was born.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 PM on May 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

on the one hand it's amazing that Armstrong has maintained a bit of privacy and dignity. on the other hand, it's a shame he's not more of a public figure, making the case for spending money on the space program. the only one out there now who eloquently makes the case for space is Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, when he explains the value of innovation that was spearheaded by the space program. we're spending $300,000,000 a day in Afghanistan and Iraq, and people whine about spending money exploring the universe, expanding mankind's horizons, and want to cut NASA's budget. short-sighted. I remember watching Armstrong descend the later, also, and being transfixed, transported, and amazed. we need more of that.
posted by TMezz at 3:39 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks to Neil Armstrong and the ferverous surrounding the moon landing on my 13 month birthday, my first word was "astronaut."

Armstrong was Chuck Norris before Chuck Norris was anything. I mean look at his name "Neil Armstrong." How could you not bow down at that epithet? The original eponysterical.

Thanks for the pos!
posted by salishsea at 4:22 PM on May 23, 2012

I just realized that JFK's moon speech has this one really weird part: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things."

It seems like he's reading a first draft written by some lesser, slacker member of the Kennedy clan. "Do the other things" sounds like the last item in Jim Anchower's three-line list of weekend chores.
posted by compartment at 4:24 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Google maps overlay is pretty cool.

People forget there was a reason Neil Armstrong commanded Apollo 11...

People don't know that Armstrong was not specifically selected to command Apollo 11. Gus Grissom the chosen astronaut for the first moon landing. Then he was killed in the Apollo 1 fire. Later, Frank Borman, commander of Apollo 8 was informally offered command of the first moon landing mission. He turned it down. Evidently Frank was willing to push his luck, possibly because he got really sick on Apollo 8. Then the Apollo 9 commander, James McDivitt was offered the command. He turned it down too, felt he was upping the odds of getting himself killed by going on more flights. He instead became head of the Lunar Landing Operations and helped design the missions that landed on the moon and by all accounts did a hell of a job.

So Neil was appointed commander of Apollo 11.

But not because it was offered to him. No, he got the gig because he fell at the perfect spot in the flight crew rotation. Deke Slayton, the head of the astronaut office and the guy who composed the crews, had a general rule. A crew member would be selected to serve on the backup crew of a mission. Then, three flights later, he would be on prime crew.

So as backup commander of Apollo 8, Armstrong (and Buzz Aldrin), rotated to the prime crew of Apollo 11. But Neil wasn't originally on the backup crew of Apollo 8, he was on the Apollo 9 crew!

The Apollo 8 mission was originally supposed to be first flight and test of the Lunar Module in low earth orbit. But the development of it was falling behind, leaving a big gap in the flight schedule. Since the Command Module had been successfully tested on Apollo 7, NASA decided to send it to the moon on Apollo 8, since the Lunar Module wasn't ready. The reasoning was that it would be good test of the hardware and mission control, without the complexity of tracking two space ships at once. In essence, it was a sort of experiment to go the moon and see if it could be done, with committing to landing on it.

Since the prime crew of Apollo 8 had been training specifically for the first Lunar Module flight, they were shifted back a mission and the Apollo 9 prime crew took over the Apollo 8 mission. The backup crews also switched, which is how Neil and Buzz* got to be on Apollo 11. Had the crews not swapped, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean might have been the first men on the moon.

Yet even when Neil was officially assigned to be commander of Apollo 11, on Christmas Eve 1968 (as Apollo 8 circled the moon), NASA still wasn't sure Apollo 11 would be the first lunar landing attempt. Deke figured that might be the first attempt and let Armstrong know, but nothing was concrete. Apollo 9 and 10 would have to fly with no major problems in order for 11 to be that first attempt.

None of this is knock against Neil at all, he was a very skilled and respected pilot among the astronauts. But Deke Slayton's philosophy was that any crew could fly any mission. He noted in his autobiography that the he had full faith in the Apollo 10 and 12 crew if they had the first landing.

His heart rate never changes.

Probably bullshit. Armstrong's heartbeat climbed to 138 on Gemini's launch and 130 on reentry and 120s when he was landing on the moon, situations he had practiced repeatedly. It seems odd that his heartbeat wouldn't change in an unexpected near disaster.

Again, Armstrong was an extraordinary man. But he was a man and

* What about Mike Colins, the third member of Apollo 11? He was originally on the prime crew of Apollo 9, which then became 8, for the historic first trip to the moon. Then he started having physical problems, went to the doctor and discovered he needed spinal surgery. So he was pulled off the crew and James Lovell, his back up crew counterpart, took his place and Fred Haise took Lovell's place on the back up crew. Collins made a full recovery, but it was too late to get back on the crew of the first ship to go to the moon. So he was in limbo for a while.

The Apollo 11 crew was then Armstrong, Aldrin and Fred Haise. Armstong was the commander, Aldrin the Command Module pilot and Haise the Lunar Module pilot. So Armstrong and Haise would have been the first men on the moon. Why not Aldrin? 'Cause the rule at the time was that the Command Module pilot had to have previous spaceflight experience and Aldrin did, while Haise didn't.

Since Collins was fully recovered, Slayton let him bump Haise off the mission, as Collins was being groomed for a later command and he had lost out on the Apollo 8 mission. So why wasn't it Armstrong and Collins as the first men on the moon? Because the Command Module Pilot was considered an extremely important position, responsible for most of the flying and docking and reentry. Both Armstrong and Slayton felt that Collins was the better man for that job, so Aldrin was "bumped" back to Lunar Module pilot. Haise was assigned to walk on the moon on Apollo 13 and you know how that went.

So there it is, Armstrong and Aldrin were to be the first men on the moon. But who would be the first man out? Aldrin thought it should be him and campaigned to make it so. As it became more of a pressing issue, the higher ups decided HELL NO, ALDRIN WILL NOT BE FIRST MAN ON THE MOON for several reasons. One, Armstrong had seniority. Two, Armstrong was a better speaker and modest man, he never expressed an explicit wish to be the first man. He was known for being the type of guy who do the job, do it well and then quietly go home. Third, the hatch on the lunar module made it easier for the Commander to get out first.

Yes, Armstrong was a badass, but not so much for his great skill and level head, but more because he took a historic role, did a great job while in the limelight and then quietly went home. You know what he did for years after leaving NASA? He taught Aerospace Engineering for eight years. He didn't cash out, he shared one of his first loves, with others. He wasn't too impressed about being the first man to walk on the moon. To him, the test pilot, the major accomplishment was landing a space craft on the moon and he's always quick to note that he and Aldrin did that at the same time.

Did Armstrong want to fly in space again? Yes, but it was quietly made clear that he would not get another flight. No one wanted to risk the First Man on another mission. Same thing happened to Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. Spaceflight is risky and no one wanted to explain how a legend got killed.

The greatest compliment I've read about Armstrong was from Harrison Schmitt, a member of the last lunar landing mission, Apollo 17, and the only geologist to walk on the moon. According to him Armstrong's collection of rocks from the moon was the best, but of its variety. In that short amount of time and limited space, Neil managed to find a wide collection of rocks and dirt. Imagine what he would have done with 3 days on the moon, as Schmitt had.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:37 PM on May 23, 2012 [19 favorites]

Number of people who have ever lived: ~100 billion

Number of people who have walked on the moon: 12
posted by gwint at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2012

But not because it was offered to him. No, he got the gig because he fell at the perfect spot in the flight crew rotation.

It goes back even further than that. The original flight crew for Gemini 9 was Elliot See and Charles Basset, but they were killed in an airplane accident in St. Louis -- indeed, they crashed into the McDonnell Aerospace building at Lambert Airport that was at the time building their spacecraft.

This means that Gemini 9's backup crew, Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan, moved up and took the flight, and a new backup crew was assigned -- Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin. They were originally slated to be the backup crew for Gemini 10, which would have put them as prime crew for Gemini 13, except there wasn't going to be a Gemini 13. See and Basset's crash moved them to backup crew of Gemini 9, which made them the prime crew of Gemini 12, which did fly.

Because of the experience, Buzz was added to the backup crew of Apollo 9, which became Apollo 8 when they switched the flight order because of the delays with the LM, joining Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong. However, Michael Collins, the original prime CMP for Apollo 9 now 8 ended up with a slipped disk that required surgery, so Lovell swapped into the prime crew. Aldrin, at least somewhat familiar with CM #103, moved over a seat and became the backup CMP on Apollo 8 and Fred Haise was added as the backup LMP. By the now familiar "backup, three missions later prime" rule that Slayton had evolved, that set Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin up as two of the prime crew members for Apollo 11. However, that mean that the nascent Apollo 11 crew had one LMP and one LMP who'd sort of trained as a CMP. When Collins returned to flight status, he was move to the prime crew of Apollo 11 as the CMP, rejoining Armstrong, and Fred Haise was moved to a new crew with Jim Lovell's as CDR, Fred as LMP, and Bill Anders assigned as CMP. Lovell's crew was then assigned as the backup to Apollo 11, which implicitly set them up as prime for Apollo 14.

This moved Buzz back to the LMP seat (and set him up to land on the moon) and set the final primary and backup crews -- Armstrong/Aldrin/Collins and Lovell/Anders/Haise. Unusually, that backup crew rotated to a mission two forward, not three, so that put Lovell and Haise on Apollo 13. Anders had taken a job with the NSC in 1969 and resigned as an astronaut effective August, 1969, with NASA's blessing. But just in case, NASA put Ken Mattingly into a parallel CMP role in case they needed the backup crew and the flight was delayed, and when Lovell and Haise rotated to prime on Apollo 13, Ken Mattingly joined them.

Why Ken Mattingly didn't make that flight is a tale for a shorter comment than this one.
posted by eriko at 5:12 PM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

An additional bad-ass story about Amstrong is that he ejected from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle when it became unstable, dodged the fireball and wreckage on the way down, then went back to work at his desk for the rest of the day.
posted by autopilot at 5:40 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

However, that mean that the nascent Apollo 11 crew had one LMP and one LMP who'd sort of trained as a CMP.

Yeah, this is one Aldrin keep the center seat on the Apollo 11 launch. NASA figured he had already trained for that position, so why not leave him there and put Collins in the LMP seat for launch.

The other interesting thing about Aldrin is that he initially did not want be on Apollo 11, due to anxiety and desire to be on a later mission where his more scientific knowledge could be put to better use. But he quickly realized that you don't turn down an active shot at the moon and didn't say anything.

Well, only after Armstrong made a certain decision. See Aldrin was known being difficult and asking a lot of questions, so Slayton offered Armstrong the option of using Jim Lovell as his Lunar Module Pilot. Armstrong decided not to be cause he didn't have a problem with Aldrin's personality and felt that Lovell, who would have been making his fourth flight in space, deserved his own command. So after thinking about it for a day, he settled on Aldrin as LMP.

This is why I'm personally galled by Aldrin's pimping of his position on the flight. It

As to Mike Collins, je was pointedly offered, while training as Apollo 11 CMP, the chance to "get back in the rotation" by Deke Slayton. That would have placed him as backup commander of Apollo 14 and he would walked on the moon on Apollo 17.

But he turned the offer down. Training for spaceflights meant he spent a lot of time away from his family, which was putting a lot of strain on his wife. Plus he was pretty mentally exhausted himself, to the point that he poured so much of himself into Apollo 11 that he literally couldn't imagine what he would do after the mission.

However, he would up becoming the first head of a little musuem called the National Air and Space Museum, overseeing its development and construction. The project came in on time and under budget.

Number of people who have walked on the moon: 12

Number of men (no women have ever been to the moon) who have orbited the moon by themselves : 7 (The Command Module Pilots of Apollo 10, 11, 12, 14-17).

Number of men who have been to the moon twice: 3 (Jim Lovell, John Young and Gene Cernan)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 PM on May 23, 2012

Good luck, Mr. Gorski.
posted by kengraham at 8:19 PM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

It should be noted that the interview in the link is in four parts, covering an hour and it's interesting to watch Armstrong speak and describe events. He really is an amazingly humble, thoughtful and patient guy. He's been telling the same story for almost 40 years and he doesn't show a sign of displeasure or boredom, even as people fawn over him.

You know what'd I like to see, if we're keep bugging Armstrong to get in front of the camera? I'd love to have a tape of him teaching basic aerospace concepts or physics. That could be amazing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:00 AM on May 24, 2012

Buzz Aldrin punched a conspiracy jackass at age 72.

Neil was such a badass, he was that guy's commander.

Neil's great, no question - - but that's no reason to talk trash about Buzz.
posted by fairmettle at 5:45 AM on May 27, 2012

« Older One does not simply slink into Mordor   |   On The Avengers and Creator's Rights Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments