Interview series with the authors of “Into that Silent Sea,” French and Burgess, Part nine

Today in Space History (TISH) has been granted an exclusive opportunity to interview authors Francis French and Colin Burgess based on their book “Into That Silent Sea,” which TISH highly recommends for reading. This is part nine.

Archives for the complete interview series | one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve | Thirteen

What was the general response from the spacefarers you interviewed in terms of their personal opinion or perspective on the fact that when the U.S. goes back to the Moon, hopefully no later than 2020, it will have been almost 50 years since we landed a person on the Moon?

FF: These spacefarers were, in many cases, in a prime position to see which way the political winds were shifting when it came to the space program in the late 1960s. Seeing the production lines shutting down, the budgets being cut and flight opportunities dwindling, many chose to get out of the program and use their contacts to gain prestigious jobs elsewhere, while the astronaut lustre was still fresh. And yet, it seems that few of them thought we would be confined to low Earth orbit for quite this many decades without venturing out again. Some, like Gene Cernan, the last person to leave footprints on the moon, are almost angry about it, and use their position on the public speaking circuit to advocate for a thoughtful return. Others are actively working, on committees and in industry, to make a return happen. Others eloquently told us that it has brought home to them just how unique the first decade of human space exploration was – that, for a short time, technology, political will and funding lined up to make the impossible possible.

CB: Without exception it seems that they are disappointed and disillusioned that such a glorious advantage was allowed to be frittered away by politicians, particularly presidents, who loved to bask in the glories of the Space Race, but were draining funds away from space exploration to feed other activities. Some astronauts are incredulous that the final three Apollo missions were trimmed from the program with so much potential information and so many discoveries lost, and all for the sake of a few measly dollars. One analogy would be going through the entire publication process of a book, and then trimming a hundred copies from the end run in order to save a handful of dollars. Of course they begrudge that this has happened, and their greatest fear is that all the grand promises that have been made about a return to the moon and travelling beyond will also fall victim to penny-pinching politics. It is a sad prospect that none of the twelve men who walked on the moon may even be alive when the next person emulates their feat and stands on the lunar surface.

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~ by tellinghistory on December 18, 2007.

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