Douglas Brinkley: 2019 National Book Festival

Douglas Brinkley: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Michael Martys: I’d like to
introduce David M Rubenstein the Co-chairman of the
National Book Festival.>>David M Rubenstein:
Thank you. So today, thank you. Today we’re going to have a
very interesting conversation with Doug Brinkley
on American Moonshot, his story of our effort to
get to the moon before the end of the 1960s and to
return men successfully. And, before we get into that,
I’ll introduce Doug, but, I just wanted to see here,
how many people remember where they were when
man landed on the room? Okay. How many of
you were not alive? Okay. How many of think It
was done in a TV studio? One or two. Okay. All right. So let me introduce
Doug Appropriately. Doug Brinkley is one of
America’s best historians. He is a professor at Rice
University and also affiliated with the Baker Institute
at Rice University. He is CNN’s historian
and you’ve seen him, no doubt, many times on CNN. He has now written 15 books on American history
including books relating to many of our presidents. He edited the Reagan
Diaries, among other things, written a book on Jimmy Carter’s
post presidency, written a book on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s
efforts in conservation, a book on Teddy Roosevelt’s
efforts in that area as well, among many other subjects
that he’s written about. And, he’s a native of Ohio,
did his undergraduate work at Ohio State and did his
masters and PhD at Georgetown. He previously worked at the
University of New Orleans where he was under Stephen
Ambrose’ I’d say tutelage, I guess I would say. And, also he was a director
of the Eisenhower Center there and then later the Roosevelt
Center at Tulane University. He’s also taught at
the military academy and at Princeton University
among other places. So let’s go through this
book at the beginning. So where did the moon
actually come from?>>Douglas Brinkley:
That is the beginning. You know, they’re saying,
you know, nobody’s quite sure where the moon comes from. Most scientists think
it was a collision and it’s actually
a hunk of earth. About 99.8% of the moon’s
composition is in earthbound, you know, composition. And, so it’s directly
tied to planet earth. Hence, all of us go by the moon with our lunar calendars,
with the tides. There is no earth
without the moon. And, it is extraordinary that 50
years ago, after the beginning of civilization, people
staring at the moon in 1969, two Americans actually
visited it.>>David M Rubenstein: So the
moon determines our tides. Is that correct?>>Douglas Brinkley: Yes.>>David M Rubenstein: And,
if we didn’t have the moon, could the earth really
survive in many ways?>>Douglas Brinkley: No. And, people are constantly
wanting to explore the moon more. You know, we have icecaps. So you hear about people saying
go back to the moon in four or five years, it would be to
explore the ice, water source, also to go into the
caves underground, tunnels and the like. But, as I write in the book, we’ve never had a
woman on the moon. We’ve had now 12 moon
walkers, all men. And, the next journey to the
moon, surely NASA’s going to have women astronauts. And, then many people see the
moon right now as a springboard to Mars, certainly
Elon Musk with SpaceX and Jeff Bezos are
starting to look at the moon as a potential springboard
for Mars.>>David M Rubenstein: Now, this past July we celebrated
the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. And, there were a lot of
books about that landing. But, your book is a little
different because your book goes through what actually led up to
the effort to get to the moon as opposed to what
actually happened on the Apollo 11 Mission. We’ll talk about the Apollo
11 a little bit later. But, when man and women were
first interested in the moon, what did they want to do? Did they want to go to it? When was the first time
that humans actually wrote about actually going
to the moon?>>Douglas Brinkley:
You know, when, once we had helium balloons
and people could see, get an aerial perspective
of things, Jules Verne, the great novelist, after the
time of the American Civil War, wrote a book about
going to the moon. And, he said it would take eight
days, and that’s what it did. This is writing out, and
they, after the U.S. Civil War in the 19th century,
said eight days. It did take us eight days. He talked about stages
of the rockets. He talked about three
astronauts. He got so much right
including, Jules Verne, the great science
fiction writer predicted that the first moon
mission would leave from Tampa Bay Florida
when it was Cape Canaveral. And, after Verne,
that book influenced so many young people interested
in the stars and the galaxy. But, the game changer is the
Wright Brothers 1903 gives us the age of flight. And, World War 1, in the United
States, particularly not far from DC and Langley Virginia, that is where we started
putting money into World War 1 under Woodrow Wilson to start
perfecting military aviation, wind tunnels, anti-icing. And, so I write in my book about
John F Kennedy born in 1917, his generation was the
first generation of flight. His whole childhood heroes
were like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and CBS Radio. And, the 1920s was
putting a astronomers on. And, the idea was,
if we could fly, well potentially we could
go to the moon some day. And, we started getting a lot
of self-styled rocketeers trying to figure out how to do. And, what I mean
by the first step of doing it is breaking
Earth’s gravity grip. How do you put a rocket or projectile six feet
two miles straight up? And, then you leave
Earth’s gravitational grip. And, in the 20s, 30s, into
the 1940s that was the game for rocketeers, how can we
put an object into innerspace?>>David M Rubenstein: Well, there was an American
named Robert Goddard who was a leader in that. Can you explain who he was
and what he actually did?>>Douglas Brinkley:
Dr. Robert Goddard was a visionary rocketeer. He taught at Clark University in
Massachusetts, not all that far from Brookline Massachusetts
where John F Kennedy was born. And Goddard, in the middle
of the 1920s started, he would get arrested for
like disturbing the peace for shooting these rockets
up out of a cabbage field in Auburn Massachusetts. He thought rockets had to
be liquid fuel rockets. He was right. But everybody, and particularly
the so called establishment of the era, thought
he was a quack. The New York Times wrote a
devastating article making fun of Goddard’s science saying
he shouldn’t be a professor. Well, this hurt him
deeply, this criticism. And he, the never
apologized, the Times, for him being completely
right until 1969, he had been dead decades. They issued an apology
to Goddard. 1929, the stock market
crashed, he had no money. Charles Lindbergh had given
him some, the Guggenheim some, but not enough to keep
operating in Massachusetts, plus he was being harassed. So he moved to Roswell New
Mexico, Eden Valley Ranch. If you wonder about space aliens
and the like, they weren’t nuts, the ranchers and cowhands. Goddard was putting things
up into the blue skies of New Mexico in the 1930s.>>David M Rubenstein: So the
rocketry that he developed and the interest in rocketry,
did it really have any impact on World War 1 or it was
not ready for World War 1?>>Douglas Brinkley: No
rocketry in World War 1. And, FDR, my, one of my favorite
presidents I write about, he had zero interest
in rocketry. He thought it was
too futuristic. And, so during World War 2
we fund the Manhattan Project and atomic weapons. But, we don’t do
missals and rockets. It’s very, very low key stuff
in America in the 1930s and 40s. But, one country got into
rocketry in the 20s and the 30s and the 40s and that’s Germany, first under the Wiemar
Republic then under the Third Reich of Hitler. And, as I write in my book, their Goddard was Dr.
Wernher von Braun who came from an aristocratic
German family. And, instead of fleeing in
the 30s Hitler’s iron grip and extermination of
people and the like, he ended up serving
the Nazi government. He became an SS officer. And Wernher von Braun and rockets became a
big deal for Hitler. They developed, during World
War 1, vengeance weapons, the V1, the V2, the V3. And, it’s von Braun who breaks that 62 mile thing I was
telling you about in World War 2 that we now can put a Nazi
rocketeer put the first projectile into innerspace.>>David M Rubenstein:
But, in World War 2, he was developing rockets
that could be used to, against the allies,
particularly British, and it was his V2 rocket that was being bombarded
on to Britain. Is that correct?>>Douglas Brinkley: Absolutely.>>David M Rubenstein:
And it’s, and what about, and were the concentration
camps involved as well?>>Douglas Brinkley: Yeah. That’s a great question. I mean the, von Braun speeding up the rockets sprayed
off Hitler. And, some of you
probably heard of the V2. Thomas Pynchon where,
at a book festival wrote about it, and other novelists. But, von Braun’s rockets were
weapons of mass destruction. They would be moved
on these carts and put in the Netherlands. They, so just take a leafy
suburb of Den Haag or Rotterdam, the Nazis would put
these rockets there and then fire von
Braun’s V2s with the aim of destroying London
and wiping out the city. Thousands of these were
being mass produced to destroy Great Britain. The problem was, though V2s did
kill thousands of civilians. However, many went willy
nilly, many were duds because they were hurrying
it up due to the war and weren’t really
ready to be fired. But, to build Wernher
von Braun’s rockets, it was Jewish labor at the Dora
camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald. It was one of the most
horrendous Holocaust conditions you can imagine. Much of the work was
being done in caves, people were getting
sick, dysentery, vermin. And, they were building
these rockets in caves so the British Air Force
couldn’t easily see it as a target. And, so von Braun is
really, in my book, I talk about his complicity
with war crimes in World War 2.>>David Rubenstein: So
when World War 2 is going against the Nazi position, it looks like they’re
probably going to lose, does Wernher von Braun surrender
and say I made a mistake, I’m sorry, and I really
apologize for what I did?>>Douglas Brinkley: von Braun
recognized he does not want to be captured by the British. I mean, as somebody
trying to destroy London, he would’ve been tried for war
crimes and would’ve spent a life in prison in a Nuremberg
trial kind of a way. But, he also doesn’t want to
be taken over by Joe Stalin. He doesn’t want to
live in Russia or work for that thug’s Red Army. And, nobody would want to work in the way Joe Stalin
ran things. So his only calling card
was the United States. And von Braun read the
writing on the wall in late 44, early 45, of 1945. He ends up taking a couple
rail trains and grabs all of the blueprints for the
first rockets, the V2, and war materials, everything,
all of the technology of rocketry filled it on two big
train cars, forged a document and smuggled out or left with
137 Nazi rocket scientists. And, they all go and then bury
all of the booty in the hill of the Bavarian Alps, blow
up the entrance to the cave where they hide it all, leave
that spot, sit up in a mountain that was used for the
Olympics before World War 2 for Alpine events. And, then he sent his baby
brother, Magnus von Braun, on a bicycle to surrender
to the U.S. Army and make a trade no war
crimes, we’ll bring you all of our technology
to the United States and we will build
rockets for you. The Army Intelligence, a guy from Sheboygan
Wisconsin turned a gun on Magnus von Braun, they
went through, checked him out, and eventually they got Wernher
von Braun, the U.S. Army, the number one war prize. Soviets were desperate
to get him, and the Nazi scientists,
but the U.S. Got him. And, under something
called Operation Paperclip under President Harry Truman, we
bring all of the Nazi rocketeers to El Paso Texas, Fort Bliss
and they start training rockets in the late 40s and 50s as
prisoners of peace working in the United States with a kind of quasi sanitized record
for their Nazi past. Because, now they were working for what became Cold
War America.>>David Rubenstein: So
we got Wernher von Braun and some of his top people. But, the Russians got a lot of
good German scientists as well. And, as a result of that,
they put Sputnik up in 1957. Is that right?>>Douglas Brinkley:
That’s right. And, the Soviets, David,
had been able, we misread, in the United States,
beyond the moral conundrum of taking von Braun and
the Nazi scientists. But, we just simply misread
what Stalin was doing with missal technology. In America, we have
to have appropriation for things through Congress. Stalin was just dictatorially
pushing their rocket and missal program through. So we kind of got
our comeuppance. You know, only one
time, in world history, as a country nuclear monopoly,
the United States, 1945 to 49. And, then of course
we have the Korean War where our planes were amazing. Many of our great astronauts,
Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Wally Schirra were combat pilots
for the U.S. in the Korean War. But, we still were
lagging behind on missals. The Soviets shock us with the
Atomic Bomb in 1949, Meo Zedong and Zhou Enlai take over Democratic Chiang
Kai-shek in China. And, then the Soviets put up the first intercontinental
ballistic missal, the R7. And, then in 1957
they put Sputnik up. So in America we start fearing that we’re getting our clock
cleaned on missal technology which is the new coin of
the realm in GO politics and military theater
of the Cold War period. And, Sputnik in October
57, creates a kind of panic that we’ve got to do
something to counter.>>David Rubenstein:
How big was Sputnik?>>Douglas Brinkley:
Sputnik is small. These are the size
of the basketball. It sounds big because
we study it with a big antenna
protruding from it. It went beep, beep,
beep around the world. People would record
seeing it in observatories and even in some backyards. And Sputnik is a, becomes a,
this giant, you know, you know, it’s a relatively small object that people started
recording, hearing, and seeing. And, we start trying to get into
the satellite technology game. Eisenhower, we we were,
but, it was incremental. And it’s a direct connection
Sputnik Soviets 1957, NASA gets created in 1958
by Dwight Eisenhower. And, the people that wanted NASA
created the most were Lyndon Johnson, John F Kennedy, Stuart
Symington, democrats who saw that they could say Eisenhower
was asleep at the wheel, the Soviets are beating us while
Eisenhower’s golfing at Augusta. And, it gave the democrats a
hawkish Cold War issue to run on for the 1958 midterms
for Congress but also for, John F Kennedy uses it in 1960
when he runs for president against Richard Nixon.>>David Rubenstein: When
he runs for president, he says we have a
missal gap, in effect, or technology gap
with the Russians. Did that turn out to be true?>>Douglas Brinkley: We,
there was a missal gap. But it was the opposite way. We had the, we have the,
we had better missals. Kennedy used a false issue with,
he created the term missal gap, if you look up the
Oxford Dictionary or somewhere you’ll see
missal gap John F Kennedy. He hammers on it,
space lag, missal gap. He even was informed, in 1960,
by CIA Director Allen Dulles, that in fact we had missal
and satellite superiority over the Soviet Union. But, Kennedy wouldn’t drop it
because it was an issue to beat up on Nixon and he was
losing the Cold War. And, in famous moments in
the Nixon Kennedy debates, they’re two, you know,
they’re very civil. I had to watch all
four of the debates. The civility is amazing
back in 1960. But, Kennedy scores some
body blows, two punches. One, Kennedy says to Nixon,
you told Mr. Khrushchev that America’s number one in kitchen appliances
and we have color TV. I’ll take my TV in black
and white, thank you. I want to be number
one in rocket thrust. In another moment he says
to Nixon, if you’re elected, I see a Soviet flag
planted on the moon. I want to see an American
flag planted on the moon. So these helped Kennedy
become the Mr. Space Wind. I write in the book, whatever
you think of Jack Kennedy, handsome, debonair, witty,
humorous, whatever your visuals of him are, he was
a killer politician. He never lost. His father Joe Kennedy,
drilled them. When Jack got number two in a yacht race it would
be who got number one? I don’t like, we
don’t do number two. The Kennedys don’t do two. And, so John F Kennedy
ran for Congress in 1946 and won, 48 and won, you know. I mean, 46, 48, 50, he went
to the Senate in 52 and wins, Senate in 58 and wins,
presidency in 60 wins. When he’s slain in
Dallas in November 1963, he had never lost a
political election.>>David Rubenstein: So when
he gets to be president, the Mercury Program
is then underway. The Mercury is one where we
had, I think, seven astronauts. And, but the Russians
sent somebody into space, a human, before we did. Who was that?>>Douglas Brinkley:
Russians sent Yuri Gagarin. And, that happens under
Jack Kennedy’s watch. Meaning Kennedy does the
inaugural, he’s thinking about what to do with NASA,
we still haven’t put a human in space, and low and behold, I April of 1961 they put Yuri
Gagarin into space, a Cosmonaut, another Russian first
on Kennedy’s watch. And, you know, one of the
advantages being a historian, we, Hugh Sidey of Time Magazine
left notes of being in the room when Kennedy’s yelling at his
advisors I want a leapfrog, somebody tell me how we
leapfrog the Soviets. Anybody, I don’t care if
it’s the janitor over there, tell me, I want to win. And, we then, he
then green lights with NASA thought
prematurely Allen Shepherd from New Hampshire whose
ancestors were on the Mayflower. And, Shepherd goes up for 15
minutes on May 5th 1961 splashes down and John F Kennedy has
a space hero on his hands. And, he’s more committed to making the new
frontier his rubric for his administration
about space. That very month of Allen
Shepherd, on May 25th 1961, in the middle of the
afternoon, Kennedy goes clear to the Capital in front of
a joint session of Congress, makes the pledge, we’re going to
put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and
bring him back alive. And, everybody as NASA said
you’ve got to be kidding me. We have no technology for this. And, Kennedy’s own dad, Joe
Kennedy calls the White House to Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy’s
secretary, looking for Jack and finally the father screens
goddamn it I knew Jack would do something idiotic like this. He’s so reckless. Because it was such
a weird thing, the moon to be putting
your the gravitas of your administration
on so early.>>David Rubenstein: So he
made that speech in 1961. But, somebody must
have told him before that speech you should try this. Was it his idea to do this or
some adviser tell him to do it? Does anybody advise
him to do this?>>Douglas Brinkley: The
memos are the little group, they, Lyndon Johnson. You see, Lyndon Johnson
was especially the space, a space czar. Because, what Kennedy wanted,
it, what if Allen, in fact, there’s a seen in a limo. John F Kennedy, Lyndon
Johnson the Vice President that he doesn’t like,
Allen Shepherd just back from his mission,
and Newton Minow, the head of Federal
Communications, and Minow’s being a
little mischievous and he says something
to the effect, I’m paraphrasing this story,
but he says, Lyndon you know, if Allen here would’ve
died up in space, Jack here would’ve blamed
you for the whole thing. And, Kennedy said
no that’s not right. And, then he said, you know
what Allen if you’d have died in space, Lyndon was going
to be my next astronaut. It’d be, so Kennedy was
using blaming Johnson. But, once Kennedy saw that
we could do these Mercury astronauts, I mean, we did in
the Kennedy era, six Mercury, in Mercury one astronaut,
Gemini two, and Apollo is three, the mission is the moon. And, once Kennedy
is six for six, we put up six Mercury astronauts
during the Kennedy years, 1961 to 73. And, all of the six Mercury
missions were successful.>>David Rubenstein: Now
the speech that he made in Congress saying we’re going
to go to the moon and back by the end of the decade
was part of another speech. There were a lot of other
things he was talking to Congress about. So I think he didn’t feel there
was enough attention paid to it. So he made another speech at a
place that you know pretty well.>>Douglas Brinkley: Rice
University where I teach which is the origin
of this book. And, he came in September
12th 1962. And that’s when John F
Kennedy gives an amazing speech about public discovery when
he says we choose to go to the moon not because it’s
easy but because it’s hard. And, he compares the
astronauts to Magellan and Christopher Columbus. He’s talking about
our solar system as the new ocean
and the new sea. Remarkable address
because, by September of 62, Kennedy was full of NASA
and space, not only people like Gus Grissom and Scott
Carpenter and the like, but, Mercury Astronauts, but John
Glenn had gone up in early 1962, the Marine, and Glenn went
around the earth five times. And, everybody leaned
forward watching on TV. And, we lost contact with Glenn. His heat shield was loose, we thought he had
burned up in space. And, low and behold, he
comes down and lands. And, Glenn becomes the
Lindbergh of the 60s, this big ticker tape parade. So Kennedy sends Glenn all over
the country as an ambassador of goodwill promoting
American technology. His Friendship Seven Capsule,
people, there were longer lines than Justice Ginsburg. I mean, they were just
to touch the capsule, you know, of John Glenn. And, Kennedy liked Special Ops. He was in one in World War 2,
the PT 109 Group, PT boats. But, also Kennedy
created the U.S. SEALs and he created the Green Beret. And, he had these Astronaut
Corps and he identified with that kind of
machismo or bravery, however you want to look at it. And, he wrapped himself
even more around space at the time of the Rice speech.>>David Rubenstein: So
his, in NASA director, a man named James
Webb, who we appointed. Where did Webb come from and what was his
qualification to run NASA?>>Douglas Brinkley:
Webb’s an amazing person. He’s from North Carolina,
heavy southern draw, Marine in World War
2, went to law school. But he worked for Dean Acheson
at the State Department, was one of Acheson’s
essential budget people at State in the Truman years. But, he was very
bipartisan in spirit. And, Kennedy picked
him to run NASA. And, he does a remarkable job. The reason we all know about
going on the moon and all, NASA’s advertising in
the 60s was stunning. And, it was Webb who
got the public involved. And, you know, whatever
you think of Kennedy, he was a masterful
sales person for space. And, Webb was a technocrat. And, Webb would convince Kennedy
really the money needs to go in the southern zone
meaning pork for space. If FDR did the Grand Coulee Dam
and Tennessee Valley Authority, and WPA Bridges and Eisenhower
did the Interstate Highway System and the Saint Lawrence
Seaway, Kennedy decides to go technology and space
and put money into the south. Because, he barely
won the south in 1960, pre Lyndon Johnson’s
Civil Rights Acts. We forget, Kennedy won Texas in
1960, Kennedy won Georgia in 60. But due to Bobby Kennedy
and the Freedom Rides and the Civil Rights Movement,
Kennedy’s worried he’s going to lose the south because
conservative democratic senators were banning him. So he does a quid pro quo
through the Lyndon Johnson and Webb telling senators
in Florida and Texas and Mississippi, Louisiana,
Alabama, how would you like 150 million mass
money in your district? How would you like the
Saturn Rocket Assembly Plant? And, the rocketeer
that Kennedy is using for all these missions
is Wernher von Braun. Kennedy became friends
with von Braun in 1953. They were Time Magazine’s
judges for Persons of the Year. They hung out in New York. They got along fabulously. And, von Braun got
hired by Walt Disney, the ex-rocket Nazi
was the Disney space and technology guy
in his TV show. Von Braun became a big
celebrity in the United States. And, they picked Konrad Adenauer
of West Germany as Time’s Person of the Year, which tells you
we were dividing the world West Germany versus East Germany. And, West Germany
were the good ones. So von Braun got a
makeover as a good German. And, the Navy built
Vanguard rockets. If any of you seen
rockets collapsing in black and white footage
at Cape Canaveral, those were the Navy Vanguards. Von Braun’s Jupiter rockets for
defense and his Saturn rockets for space, did not collapse. And, so they had the
right rocket builder to get us the Saturn 5 rocket
that brings Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon
was built by Wernher von Braun.>>David Rubenstein:
So there is a tape that we now have available to us
that you point out in your book with James Webb talking
to Kennedy about the difficulty getting
to the moon and the budget. And, does Kennedy say well
I think it’s important for scientific missions
and purposes to get there?>>Douglas Brinkley: Okay. No. Wait, what Kennedy,
David, is most concerned about is winning in 1964, beating what would’ve
been Barry Goldwater, if he wasn’t killed,
keeping the south. But also, he would argue hey
is my, I said we were going to the moon by the
end of the decade, we’ve got to keep funding it. I’m not backing off because
I’ve put on of this on that. And, in the, Kennedy, back in
the 60s, you all paid, you know, 4, the American public, 4.4% of the annual budget going
to NASA, 4.4% a year. Today it’s 1/3rd of 1%. And, they used to say in NASA,
no bucks, no Buck Rogers. Space is very expensive. And, Kennedy, it’s
extraordinary, he keeps fighting to get bipartisan support. You can understand why
democrats don’t want to abandon Jack Kennedy on
going to the moon, many of them, because he’s their
president, their party. But, republicans get on
board, all Kennedy has to say to a republican,
oh you don’t want to beat the Soviets to the moon. Oh you want to come
in second to Russia. No I didn’t say that,
I want to be in a. So he had an automatic
way of selling this that he was quite good at. But, after the Cuban Missal
Crisis, Kennedy did toy with joint missions to
the moon with Russia. And, they really
thought about seriously. He gave a speech at the UN, Kennedy maybe we do it
together but, of course, it fizzles into nothing. But, the best sources,
Nikita Khrushchev’s son, Sergei Khrushchev who asked his
father during Kennedy years, you know, Dad why don’t we? Why can’t we go to the
moon with he United States? Why can’t we share
and do it jointly? And, Khrushchev told his
son because if we do that, the Americans will know
what we don’t have. Meaning, they were
hyping their technology that they didn’t really have.>>David Rubenstein: So as
a digression for a moment, to get to the moon there
were many different plans on how you do it. You just take a missal
and launch it and it goes to the moon. But, somebody had an
idea in NASSA about how to actually get there,
which we actually used. It was laughed at, at the time. Could you describe the
actual multistage effort to get to the moon?>>Douglas Brinkley: Well,
you know, von Braun built that giant rocket three stage. But, the crucial part,
we had figured out how to put a rocket on the moon. The answer is how do you
get the astronauts back? In the U.S. that was prime, that’s how I know
we’re not going to Mars if we don’t bring
the astronauts back. That’s everything
in NASA’s thinking, you must bring the pilots back. But, we created the LM as it
was called or the Lunar Module, that just simply LM which was
that amazingly devised idea from Langley, not Houston Space,
Manned Space, but out of Langley that we would have that,
what becomes the Eagle which is detached from
the mother ship Columbia, as it turned out. And, then that would
land on the moon. And, then after a lot of
amount of time there you’d have to randevu with Micheal
Collins would go around, and then you’d have a
perfect randevu and come back. Very difficult engineering feat. There are, people will tell you
it’s the greatest engineering feat of the 20th maybe
21st century is the docking in space and how that worked. But, that spidery, you
know, lunar module, Armstrong almost went into
a crater, Neil Armstrong, a great test pilot Purdue
University engineer, perfect man to be
first on the moon. He had to steer it so it
didn’t go into a crater. At another point,
they had to jam a pen to save the lunar module meaning
you did need humans in space. Both of those maneuvers
would not have been done by computers or robots
back then. But, do keep in mind, the
reason we could go to the moon in the 60s is Texas Instruments and other companies
perfected microchip computers in the late 50s. Without that computer
technology, we couldn’t have done it. So much of my book’s about the
technology, also that got us to the moon, but also NASA
had spin off technology. Things like MRI and for
medicine and, you know, heart defibrillators, kidney
dialyses machines, you know. You could just go
on and on and on of the spin off technology
we got. It cost us $25 billion
to go to the moon, that’d be abut $180
billion today.>>David Rubenstein:
But, is it true that, let’s say in this cell
phone, smart phone, there is more computing power
than they had when they went to the moon in the lunar module?>>Douglas Brinkley:
That’s what they say. That’s how primitive the
computers were back then, that we’re holding, you know,
GPS comes out of the Moonshot. And, so that was
one of the benefits when a historian
looks, is it worth it? Because, we could’ve
put a lot of that money, 25 billion, why not
into schools? That’s what William
Fulbright wanted. Why not into antipoverty
programs like Walter Mondale wanted? Berry Goldwater on the right
thought the money should go to the Air Force to
militarize space in a way. So there were dissenters
through this. But, Kennedy had
sold it to a degree that all Americans
took on the challenge. There’s a direct lineage from
NASA to the Silicon Valley and technology of today
like your smart phones. There’s also though, I
learned from writing this book, the Apollo project for going to
the moon was a hangover effect from World War 2 when we,
we’re all in it together, it was a hurry up economy,
big companies, in this case for the moon, Boeing
and North Atlantic and McDonnell Douglas
working with government, working with the universities
like Cal Tech and Stanford, Rice, MIT, Harvard,
many, many others. It all pulled together as
if a World War 2 project. And, everybody took risks. People died trying
to go to the moon. And, I write about
some of the mishaps of the space program
in the 50s and 60s.>>David Rubenstein:
Now, on his last weekend, John Kennedy went to Texas. Did he have an astronaut
with him and did he want to have an astronaut with him? And, did he want to visit
the Space Center there?>>Douglas Brinkley: Yes. They built the Man
Space Center in Houston. You know why? Part of it’s Lyndon Johnson. But, the head of the Senate
Congressional Space Subcommittee was Albert Thomas the
congressman from Houston. He controlled the money. And, so monies plays a big role
in getting the money down there. So Kennedy wanted to, is
determined to win Texas in 64, so November in 63
did a whirlwind tour. And, in San Antonio he goes
and gives this amazing speech at Brooks Air Force Base on space medicine,
spin off technology. And, then he goes to Houston
and he’s with Albert Thomas and talking about how much
money went into turn the City of Houston into the Astro City
instead of the Bayou City. Everything, I looked at a
telephone book of Yellow Pages in 1960, you don’t see
anything about space, by 63 it’s Astro babysitters
and, you know, Moonwalk Cafes, and it changed it there. Then he goes to Dallas
and Fort Worth. And he was supposed
to have Gordon Cooper, one of the Mercury astronauts,
with him in an open convertible, space hero Gordon Cooper waving
with Jack and Jackie Kennedy. And, what happened is, the
last minute he got pulled off of going with Kennedy for a test that they wanted him
to suddenly take. And, he got taken away
from going with Kennedy when Kennedy was shot. And, on his way, when he was
killed, he was on his way to the Trade Mart in Dallas to
give a speech about satellites, telecommunication
satellites, weather ones, how his administration, the
New Frontier was now ahead of the Soviets and we were doing
all these amazing space feats under his guidance.>>David Rubenstein:
So obviously.>>Douglas Brinkley: Never
gave that speech, yeah.>>David Rubenstein: Obviously, he’s assassinated
November 22nd 1963. The Space Program continues. When it is actually time for
Apollo 11 to go to the moon, there’s an idea that maybe it
should be named in his honor. Did President Nixon think
that was a good idea?>>Douglas Brinkley:
It’s a great question because the big push by
Bill Moyers, you know, Johnson’s speech writer, PBS, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan
started lobbying that we need to name the rocket
the John F Kennedy. And yet there are memos by, some of you remember
HR Haldeman of Nixon? Haldeman writes these memos
do not name the rocket after Kennedy it’s an NBC News
ploy to Kennedyize the space. And, in another memo all
the men saying there’s no placating liberals. If you name the rocket the
John F Kennedy, they’re going to say you didn’t do enough, you
have to name the moon Kennedy. So Nixon assiduously
avoided ever mentioning Jack Kennedy’s name. But, one place they did not
assiduously avoid it was at NASA. In fact, when Neil Armstrong and
Buzz Aldrin finally come splash down and they’re safe on the
Hornet in the South Pacific, at NASA Headquarters,
and you could see it on the giant screen, they
put up Kennedy’s pledge of we’ll put a man on the
moon by the end of the decade and bring them back alive. And, then under that it says
task accomplished July 1969. And, at that very
moment, somebody here in the DC area put a bouquet of
flowers on John Kennedy’s grave at Arlington with a note,
a bouquet with a note that said Mr. President,
the Eagle has landed.>>David Rubenstein: So today,
if you really want to know more about what happened, I would
highly recommend this book, American Moonshot. The phrase Moonshot, where did,
is that now part of our lexicon and is that where it came from?>>Douglas Brinkley: All of
you use the term moonshot. And, it originated, in
my deep research on this, I found that it become,
it grew out of baseball. It was a man named Wally Moon
for the Los Angeles Dodgers who would hit these towering
home runs in September and October in the late 50s. And, Vince Skully, a radio
announcer, would then say, you know, there it goes way back over the right field
it’s a moonshot over the, you know, the fence. And, the term caught on
in major league baseball about the moonshots. And, NASA with their
keen publicity of that era adopted it. Originally, what’s today the
Johnson Manned Space Center in Houston was called the
Moonshot Command Post. They got rid of that,
the name moonshot, but it’s now part
of our culture. It stands for American candoism. How can we do something great
uniting our country short of war? You know, and everybody
has a different view of what the new moonshot
should be. I’ve talked to Michael
Collins and Buzz Aldrin, they say the new
moonshot’s a Mars shot. Joe Biden has talked
about the new moonshot of being cancer moonshot. Many people say it should be
on climate, that it’s not time for a moonshot, it should be an
Earth shot to save Planet Earth. The point is, the
term moonshot’s become about Americans doing
exceptional things when we pull together and
avoid the partisan divide.>>David Rubenstein: So two
final questions about this. And, of course there’s
more in this book, if you want to read it. And, I hope you will and
I hope you’ll buy it. It’s a very, very good read. Why was Neil Armstrong picked
to be first on the moon? And, when did he decide
what he was going to say when he got onto the moon?>>Douglas Brinkley:
Neil Armstrong, well, one of my impetuses for
writing this book, to be honest, is I grew up in Ohio,
Perrysburg Ohio down the road from Wapakoneta. And, I don’t have
time to tell you, but I once sent Neil
Armstrong a couple of my books. I had his PO box on
a farm by Cincinnati. And, I asked him if I
could interview him. And, I got a little
note from his assistant that said Mr. Armstrong
will read one of the two books you sent him. And, though he’s not
doing interviews, cut for many years later, I
got asked, when he turned 70, he allowed me to do his oral
history interview for NASA. So I got to spend hours
talking with Neil Armstrong which was a big thrill for me. And, Armstrong was
just an amazing person because his pulse didn’t go up. He was just all about mission. And, you know, great, as I
said, Purdue University produced so many of our astronauts
because they had an airport on their flat campus
that you could, as an undergrad get a degree
and get your pilots license. But, Armstrong only test
marketed that’s one small step for man, one giant leap
for mankind on his brother around a kitchen table. And, his brother said bingo. And, you know, and
so he uttered it. Some A is in it or not.>>David Rubenstein: And he
was picked, was there a fight over who was going to be first? Did Buzz Aldrin want
to be first?>>Douglas Brinkley: Big fight. And, I mean, Buzz
never has really gotten over Neil Armstrong
getting to be first. Armstrong and Collins were very
close personally or Buzz Aldrin. He got his doctorate
from MIT in engineering. Buzz Aldrin’s a brilliant guy. But, one of the things, when
they had the moon there, not only did they say that. But, when they left, there’s
a moment when Armstrong says to Aldrin, did you
leave the packet? And, in the packet Armstrong
leaves on the moon are medals for three Apollo
astronauts, commemorative for their deaths of Apollo One. Guss Grissom, Ed White, Rodger
Chaffee who had incinerated in 1967 in a test
at Cape Canaveral. And, we left medals for the
Soviet cosmonauts who died in their space program
including Yuri Gagarin who died in an aviation accident
in the mid 60s. And, if we go back to
the moon at that site, it would look exactly
like it was when Armstrong and Aldrin were there. Except, because no
wind, nothing’s blown, the footprints would be the
same, only thing’s changed since the American flag,
the red and blue has faded from it due to ultraviolet rays. So it’s much more beige white.>>David Rubenstein: All the
moon rock we brought back, is it, do we still have it all? Has any escaped? Anybody steal it?>>Douglas Brinkley:
Oh it’s all over. Every, it’s almost like
a holy grail to be able to touch a piece of
moon rock or lunar dust. And, it’s a, it’s a rare thing
to get to see it and touch it. You’ll see the price
for a piece of it up on auctions once in a while. But, it’s, you know,
most of it’s in museums or public facilities.>>David Rubenstein: Doug thank
you very much for a great story.>>Douglas Brinkley:
Thank you all [ Applause ]

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