People Magazine Chat — From the Earth to the Moon
PEOPLE Online: Welcome to the People Auditorium this evening. We’re on our fifth online discussion about the space program and the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon. Tomorrow night’s episodes cover the flights of Apollo 14 and 15. And we’re very privileged to have our four guests tonight. They are: David Scott, veteran of 3 spaceflights, including commander of Apollo 15. Actor Brett Cullen, who portrays Scott in the series. Dr. Lee Silver, who trained the Apollo 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 crews in field geology. And David Clennon who portrays Dr. Silver in the series. Welcome everyone. Let’s take our first question from the audience.
Brett Cullen: Howdy!
Lee Silver: Thank you.
Kell_99 asks: I’m Kelly and I’m 16 years old and I would like to know how does it feel to be in space?
Brett Cullen: (laughs) Weightless!
David Scott: Absolutely weightless. We’ve had a lot of people in space, and maybe you Kelly, will have the chance.
Lee Silver: I wish I knew.
Nighthawk76567_1998 asks: Do you think we will be living in space soon?
David Scott: We’re living in space now. The shuttle has been up for several weeks at a time.
Brett Cullen: Its a matter of definition.
Lee Silver: First of all, we’ve had a number of extended missions both on the original Skylab and on the Soviet Mir space station and there have been folks living there for over a year. I suppose Nighthawk76567_1998 wants to know when we’re going to make permanent homes in space. I think that will be quite a few years yet.
David Clennon: I haven’t mastered living on Earth yet, so I haven’t given a lot of though to living in space.
Moon1969 asks: For David Scott, what missions have you flown?
David Scott: Gemini 8, Apollo 9, and Apollo 15.
Brett Cullen: I have a question for Dr. Silver: What was the difficulty of training the astronauts? (Was it a difficult chore?)
Lee Silver: No part of it was a chore. A better word is challenge.
David Scott: (laughs)
Brett Cullen: (laughs)
Lee Silver: I got to see the segment 10 last night and was very pleased with it. But it failed to show that after I spent the day with the astronauts I had to cook dinner for them. They were very good with the dishes.
Brett Cullen: Did you really? What kind of cook was he, Dave?
David Scott: He was a really good cook. Someone had to do the chores while Silver had the challenge.
Lee Silver: I worked them so hard that they were always hungry.
David Scott: That’s true.
Lee Silver: That’s basically the way it was. I have to say I had a first rate post-doctorate research fellow who did a lot of the work.
David Scott: Yeah, that’s for sure.
Lee Silver: Tom Anderson was his name.
Orbital_Decay asks: Mr. Cullen and Mr Clennon, how do you feel about the Apollo program now that you have experienced it as both observers and storytellers?
Brett Cullen: Well, I believe it was probably one of the greatest achievements that our country has ever pulled together to accomplish. I feel very honored to be a part and to play my good friend Dave Scott and it was a great part to play.
Besides, he likes to drink beer and run, just like I do!
David Clennon: I actually didn’t follow the Apollo program as it was happening. In 1959, I was 26 and in the early sixties I was very taken with the manned space program. But as that decade went on, I became more concerned with the Vietnam War, Civil Rights and the other turmoil on the ground. So I wasn’t following the program.
In retrospect, I respect the dedication and commitment of everyone who worked on the program, and I would have to say that the achievement of the Apollo program was truly remarkable.
But I guess I still don’t feel the same thrill that others did both when the program was happening and in retrospect, I really don’t share Tom Hanks’ enthusiasm for it.
Brett Cullen: I also believe that most people don’t realize what type of accomplishment it was, not just for the astronauts and flight directors, but also for those who built the machines, as illustrated in last week’s episode Spider.
David Clennon: I like the way they took the emphasis off the more glamorous figures and focused on the people behind the scenes. Their contributions, such as Dr. Silver’s, were very valuable. They found people like Dr. Silver, who were top-notch scientists and great teachers.
Orbital_Decay asks: Mr. Silver, what types of geologic finds did you hope would be discovered or confirmed on the moon?
Lee Silver: That’s a good question. We had, prior to the exploration of the lunar surface in the sixties, only a limited knowledge of the materials that made up the surface of the moon.
There was a great deal of controversy about what the dark plains of the Moon were composed of, in addition to the mountain ranges and the deep-impact craters, which was where we were getting samples.
In the series, Pete Conrad and Al Bean went to Surveyor 3 and demonstrated 3-point landing capability. That Surveyor gave us the first information about the actual chemistry of the lunar surface. There were two other Surveyors which were successfully landed and gave us information.
It wasn’t until the Apollo program brought back samples that could be examined by many scientists which finally gave us lots of information about the surface of the moon. This made us ask questions about the Earth which we hadn’t asked before.
And as a consequence, we began to understand both the Earth and the Moon much better. We closed in on preferred models for the origin of the Earth and the Moon.
The impact of the information we received or derived from our Moon visits revolutionized our thinking about the Earth and the planets. And the origin of our solar system.
PEOPLE Online: Now, I’ll present two questions together…
CANTSAYguest_d8d41959 asks: How long did it take to film “From the Earth to the Moon?”
Kristin012 asks: What was your favorite part of filming this movie?
David Scott: To film it, literally, took 8-9 months. To produce it took much longer. This was because first the writers had to prepare the episodes as screenplays. Then it had to be filmed and edited. So the process took approximately 18 months.
And you have to remember there were 12 episodes, so that was like 12 little movies. As for my favorite part, it was working with the actors and the directors.
Brett Cullen: My favorite part was working with all the great actors. But secondly, getting to work with Dave Scott — getting to explore and speak with him in private about his experiences on the Moon, to be able to hang out with an American icon.
David Clennon: As I recall, it took us about 12 working days to shoot this episode, but that doesn’t count the segment where you see Dave Scott and his partner actually walking on the Moon. Those segments were shot with stunt men on a special stage after the actors had been released.
And I think the shots of the astronauts — the recreations of the astronauts’ activities on the surface of the Moon — I believe were done with the stunt men hooked up to helium balloons which made them look lighter and then the strings from the balloons were erased on the computer. Thus the men in those suits looked as it they are operating at 1/6 of Earth’s gravity. I understand that was quite a challenge to film.
And all that work was done after the actors went home.
Brett Cullen: David, most of the work on the Moon was done by stunt men — but several of the actors, including myself, were brought in to shoot some of the closeups in the lunar suits. Which was a month after principal photography.
guest_1bc42900 asks: Where on Earth can I find geology most like the moon?
Lee Silver: The geology of the Earth and Moon differ in may ways. Earth shows the effects of having an atmosphere, oxygen and water. There is no place on the moon that shows those effects. The astronauts reported only gray and black colors.
But there are places on Earth with a partial similarity. Some of the great lava fields are similar. They have volcanic cones and explosion craters which are similar in an approximate way to the craters of the moon. The rocks of the highlands of the Moon have some significant similarity to rocks in the old mountain ranges on Earth. These are the light colored rocks which the Apollo 15 crew was very excited about when they found them on the flank of the Hadley Delta Mountain.
But there are so many fundamental differences about the Moon rocks. They are older than almost any rocks we know on Earth. Therefore, they carry a geological record of a much earlier stage of the evolution of our solar system. They also seem to have been generated in a planet which has no atmosphere and no water.
Nemo_56 asks: Hey Dave, did you get to say, “The clock is running.” when you lifted off?
David Scott: Yes. That’s required. It indicates that the internal system of the spacecraft has started, so the ground knows that everything is running.
Skywaker9 asks: What was the most significant moment in NASA for you?
David Scott: Arriving at the Hadley Appennine. (At the exploration site, just like on a field geology trip on the Earth, the best part is when you first arrive there.)
Snoprncss asks: I’ve always dreamed of being the first woman to set foot on the moon, any suggestions on how to accomplish this goal?
David Clennon: Dave Scott would be the authority on how to be admitted to the program.
David Scott: Well, I should think that to be the first woman on the moon, being a geologist would be a good step. Be a good field geologist…
Brett Cullen: And a pilot…
David Scott: You can do that, but there will always be people flying. You would probably have a better chance being selected for your geology skills.
Corganbill asks: I just finished watching the 8th episode in the miniseries and I was curious as to why the press played such an important role in the episode as opposed to the technical aspects of the Apollo 13 mission?
David Scott: Because the Apollo 13 mission has already been portrayed in a feature length film. This was an opportunity to portray some of the cultural shifts occuring in the late 1960s.
David Clennon: You would have the ask the script writers who chose to emphasize the role of the media over the people who actually experienced the events.
I believe that Tom Hanks felt that the technical aspects of the mission were covered in the feature film “Apollo 13” in which he starred. So he chose to emphasize the drama that was played out back on Earth.
Corganbill asks: Dr. Silver, what kind of challenge was it like to get the later Apollo astronauts to appreciate the importance of studying the moon’s geology knowing that a lot of the astronauts didn’t want to spend most of their EVA’s collecting rocks.
Lee Silver: I don’t accept that last qualifier. I think that one has to appreciate the incredible pressure to demonstrate the engineering and flight capabilities that had to be answered by the first flight, including those thru Apollo 7 to 12.
Everyone of those flights had to demonstrate an accomplished technical capability. And I think that the astronauts who flew as well as the flight controllers and engineers, first and foremost had to demonstrate that they had the capabilities to get to the Moon, do it under control, and that they were then ready to go into the science exploration phase.
That had been anticipated in the planning for the J missions, where they had an upgrade in capabilities. They had transport, a better landing module, and better communications, so they were in a position to work with confidence on pursuing scientific objectives.
I think they moved in a wonderfully rapid pace and were ready to move into science in a timely way by the time Apollo 15 flew.
Dave Scott could comment on this.
David Scott: Yes, because the mission was layed out such that it advanced incrementally. Each mission built off the last mission. So as each challenge was proven and demonstrated, it enabled the last three missions, which 15 was the first, to handle the science.
PEOPLE Online: Right now, we have a comment and a question…
C_Murder13 comments: We watch the show in Science class all the time at my school. I just wanted to say that my science teacher thinks you guys do a great job.
PeeP2001 asks: When you decided to do these movies did you think they would be used in the classroom like they are for me?
David Scott: I sure hoped so.
Brett Cullen: Well I think they have a very smart science teacher to use these shows to illustrate what happened during that time period. The teacher should be applauded.
Lee Silver: I’m sure Tom Hanks had that in mind.
David Clennon: And I’m sure that HBO was thinking about that, too.
guest_1bc42900 asks: What were the most important accomplishments of the Apollo 14 and 15 missions?
Lee Silver: Each one had some very special accomplishments.
Apollo 14 brought us a very special set of samples collected by the astronauts that taught us more about the chemical evolution of the Moon than anything we had before. I compare that with the continents on the Earth. The materials sampled at the site called Fra Mauro come closer to resembling the material we see on the continents on the Earth than anything else we have sampled on the Moon. The Earth continents are the product of a long history of chemical evolution of our planet. And at Fra Mauro we saw that the Moon had started to evolve in that direction but the planet was chilled and stopped thermally before it got into the complete cycle of continent formation. What we did learn from 14 was extremely important in that regard.
Apollo 15 visited many of the features which characterize the surface of the Moon. It visited the great lava fields, it visited the highest mountains on the Moon, it collected samples which represented the most extended exposure of the Moon’s surface to the radiation from the Sun and the cosmic rays. It sampled materials which represented the oldest crust, it sampled materials which came from the deepest part of the Moon we’ve been able to sample, estimated at 200-250 km (150 miles). This material was blown up by volcanic activity. It had sat on the lunar surface until these guys got there.
This wasn’t covered in the film, but they sampled something called “green glass” which is one of the more critical samples from the Moon because it represents volcanic activity originating deep within the Moon.
But one must recognize that Apollo 14 did not have the capabilities for extra-vehicular activity and mobility that 15 did.
Both missions made extremely important contributions, but Apollo 15 was prepared to do science and it had intelligent people who understood the targets and they did their job.
MSEDavid Scott_CD asks: Would the actors actually fly in space given the chance?
David Clennon: I guess I would. I would like to have that experience. But I wouldn’t want to go through all that training. Just strap me in and send me up.
Brett Cullen: I would fly in space in a heartbeat. All I need is an invitation.
guest_1bc42900 asks: If you could get the answer to any question in science, what would it be?
Lee Silver: What is the fundamental scientific principles are that govern the behavior of the universe?
The parallel: Why are humans human? And I don’t think I could handle that question either.
David Clennon: How can we keep from destroying this planet before we take off for other worlds?
PEOPLE Online: I’m afraid those are all the questions we have time for tonight, but before we go I’d just like to ask for any closing thoughts from our guests.
David Scott: Well, I would give the thought that all the viewers tonight get to watch the films more than once, and enjoy and learn from them.
Brett Cullen: Well I would hope that the younger generation that didn’t experience the Apollo missions to the Moon, would hopefully, by viewing these shows would inspire to continue the exploration of space — manned and unmanned. And that by doing so, would continue the search to learn all we can about our universe.
Lee Silver: To the extent that I’ve seen 10 of the 12 segments, I think the entire series is a tremendous contribution. Of course I’m terribly biased, and very influenced by it. I’m just pleased to see that this is recorded for students everywhere.
David Clennon: The professor put it very well. Not having participated in the making of the series, he’s better qualified to comment on the quality of it.
PEOPLE Online: Well, we’re going to have to wrap it up. I’d like to thank our guests for joining us. It’s been great talking with you online. And thanks to everyone in our audience for your attention and your great questions. Don’t forget to watch “From the Earth to the Moon” tomorrow night on HBO at 8pm ET/PT. And join us next Saturday night online for another chat. Next week’s guests: Astronaut Harrison Schmitt and actor Tom Amandes (who plays Schmitt). Thanks for coming tonight!