And here is a photo of the two DVDs I bought. The left-hand one, Last Man On The Moon, is the film I missed out on buying when Gene Cernan(Apollo 17) was here. I did see it, with the same friend as tonight, but hadn’t bought it. The one on the right, Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo, is the film that was shown tonight. I went with my friend Geoff, whom I know through Star Trek fandom, but who is also a passionate space program fan, who belongs to the Space Association. Geoff gave me the medallion below. It was made to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 16 and contains a bit of metal that went to the moon and back. This will go on my display shelves.
Charlie Duke went on Apollo 16, but before that he was capcom for Apollo 11. That meant he was a part of the crew on the ground, communicating with the ship as it flew to the moon. He was there tonight, along with Gerry Griffin - a flight director who saw it all, the film’s producer, the author of the book on which it was based - and Charlie Duke’s wife, who remembered seeing what a great time he was having, bouncing around up there.
We saw the film first. It was, as the title suggests, about the ground crew who worked brilliantly as a team during the Apollo program. Charlie Duke was one of them, while waiting for his own seat, as part of the backup crew. He says he was chattering away to the Apollo 11 astronauts as they were about to land and Deke Slayton, who was in charge at the time, elbowed I’m in the ribs and said, “Shut up, Charlie, and let them land!”
This film goes from the disastrous Apollo 1 to Apollo 13, the “successful disaster”. It shows, first, the old men who were there in the control room, where they had sat during those years, then interviews them all about their memories. It was a fascinating story - as interesting, in its way, as the Tory of the astronauts. These guys all had special skills and worked together as a team, without which those moon ships would never have gotten off the earth. And yet, the astronauts were the ones who got the ticker tape parades. The Apollo 13 ground crew were extraordinary. They really had to work together to come up with a solution to the problem, if those space travellers were going to survive. Gerry Griffin was there. He remembers being off shift when things started to go wrong, and coming in from a softball game to help work out the solution.
After the film was over, the guests came on stage to share memories and ask questions. Charlie told a story of the capsule flying over Australia and being unable to communicate with Mission Control. They did hear from Australians, who offered to pass on their message to MC, then asked, “Is there anything else we can do for you?”
“Yes,” said John Young,”we’d like a case of Swan Beer.” Charlie said when he got home, a case of Swan Beer was waiting for him!
When the discussion was nearly over, we saw a film clip dedicated to Gene Cernan, who passed away last year(I did get to hear him when he was here).
I love anything about space flight. It’s so very much a part of the “sensawunda” I feel about science fiction! So please forgive me for talking something other than books.
However, I’m now in the mood to get back into Hidden Figures, which is on my iBooks shelves. Good night!