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Transcript From Yahoo Chat With Tom Amandes and Harrison Schmitt
Date: May 9, 1998
Subject: Tom Amandes
Source: ari.net
Credit/Thank You's:


Patrizia DiLucchio (PD): I'm Patrizia DiLucchio, this is PEOPLE Online on Yahoo! Chat and we thank you all for joining us this evening.

Tomorrow night HBO will air the final two episodes of "From The Earth To The Moon." Part 12, the second of the two episodes will cover the Apollo 17 mission, which brought the last humans to the Moon.

Tonight, joining us are:

Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, who was the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) on Apollo 17. He also was the only geologist (by degree) to fly to the Moon.

Tom Amandes portrays Jack in tomorrow night's episode. He is also known for his role as Elliot Ness in the television series, "The Untouchables."

Welcome Harrison and Tom! Here's our first question:

SOFTBALL_SOCCER_GIRL asks: What kind of things do you do in space?

Harrison Schmitt (HS): You can do anything you can do on Earth as you can do in space. Aside, of course, from walking (when you're weightless) and study the Earth.

The latter of which can be accomplished by remote sensing and by studying other planets and comparing and contrasting them to Earth.

AlienWorkshop_ asks: Mr. Schmitt, when you discovered the orange soil on the moon, it was an amazing find. Do you think that this is widespread across the surface, but hidden under layers of lunar dust?

HS: The orange soil and some of its similar materials are apparently widespread but still somewhat regional in their distribution. They all appear to have erupted late in a particular mare/basalt eruption period. So far, there is no indication they were prominent early in lunar history. But then again, we have not explored enough to be sure of that.

The most important characteristic of the orange soil category of volcanic materials, is that they appear to come from very deep in the Moon, apparently as deep as 500 km. This indicates that the interior of the Moon is largely unchanged from its composition at the time when the Moon was formed.

This fact makes it very difficult to support the theory that the Moon was formed by the impact of a Mars-sized asteroid on a young, but modified Earth. I suspect that the Moon was captured by the Earth, after forming in roughly the same part of the solar system.

WatchCNN asks: How did you feel when you found the orange soil?

HS: It was exciting for a number of reasons. Not only was it the first colorful material found on the lunar surface, but we had anticipated that we might find something colorful at that particular location. And its always exciting to find something which you thought you might find! It definitely started our adreneline flowing again!

Tom Amandes (TA): It was obvious from the tape! Even the geology back room they were pretty tickled.

JakeTheAnimorph asks: Mr. Amandes, how did HBO, Tom Hanks, and the other workers on "From The Earth To The Moon" simulate weightlessness?

TA: We didn't do what they did in the movie of "Apollo 13." In "Apollo 13" they flew in a large cargo plane that had the set inside and basically dropped from the sky to achieve weightlessness.

For the series, we accomplished weightlessness in a number of ways. Sometimes it was by a particular way you stood that would simulate weightlessness.

When you see the lunar EVAs, that was done with very large helium balloons that were attached to the backpacks (actually the harnesses) that the stuntmen wore. And that would essentially create the 1/6 gravity appearance of the Moon. That's basically how we did it. There were some special effects added in later, but very few.

HS: When we were training, we used the cargo plane, or "Vomit Comet," to simulate the 1/6 gravity as well. By adjusting the flight plan, you can achieve any gravity that you might need.

You obviously didn't need that for "Apollo 13." And it probably would have added considerable costs to this series.

Incidentally, there is another way to simulate 1/6 gravity and that is on an inclined plane. But you can only do that in one direction.

Elquad asks: Dr. Schmitt, what do you think of the discovery of water on the moon?

HS: Well if is indeed water, its very exciting. But there is high probability that it is a high concentration of solar wind implanted hydrogen, that is "cold-trapped" in the permanent shadow of the poles. Or it could be a combination of hydrogen and water. And there are some other way out possibilities which we won't go into right now.

The instrument on the Lunar Prospector spacecraft merely measured the presence of hydrogen. NASA and the experiment team jumped to the conclusion, a bit prematurely, that it was the water they had said they would like to find. When in fact, it might just be hydrogen -- which is exciting anyway. Either one would be very important to the future.

Many don't realize that there is hydrogen everywhere in the lunar soils. And one can make water therefore, anywhere on the Moon, by heating the soils to about 700 degrees centigrade. At which temperatures, some of the hydrogen reacts with the oxygen-bearing minerals and glasses to produce some water.

Cymmiegurl asks: What inspired you two to become an astronaut and actor [respectively]? TA: For me, I think it started as -- well I am one of 11 children and my oldest brother was always very good at sports, and my 2nd oldest brother was very good at music, and what came naturally to me was being the class clown, and if I hadn't learned to channel that into acting it probably would have gotten me into more trouble than it did. (laughs)

And when I was a kid, I frequently enjoyed pretending to be an astronaut and other roles, so this was a real dream come true for me.

HS: For my part, I was an accident.

I did not plan to be an astronaut, until NASA and the National Academy of Sciences asked for volunteers for the then new scientist-astronaut program back in 1964. And I thought about it for about 10 seconds and decided to volunteer.

I had become interested in space as a human activity when I was a student in Norway at the time of the (then) Soviet Union launch of Sputnik. I also began to learn a little more about it than the average geologist when I went to work for Eugene Shoemaker in Flagstaff, Arizona in that same year, 1964.

Shoemaker was then putting together a team of scientists to work on space related problems and specifically how the astronauts should explore the Moon when they successfully landed there.

So even though I came upon the opportunity accidentally, it seemed like a very straightforward decision to make.

Elquad asks: Mr. Amandes, all the actors playing astronauts bear at least a slight resemblance to the people they're playing. Did you study Dr. Schmitt, his manner, his speech, before playing him?

TA: I don't know if I bear a great physical resemblance to Jack -- HS: You're a lot taller...

TA: There were a lot of astronauts and astronauts' wives that came up to me at the premier and told me, "I know Jack Schmitt and you're no Jack Schmitt!" (laughs)

I was up for several other roles, some of which I might have portrayed closer, but unfortunately I wasn't available at the time.

But when this part was made available, I wanted to be a part [of the series] and jumped at the opportunity. So there wasn't a lot of opportunity for preparation. But I did have some photographs and resources available.

HS: But character representation wasn't the primary objective of the series, was it?

TA: I don't believe so, but there was a sense of trying to portray each as close as possible.

U3nme asks: Harrison, my daughter has longed to be an astronaut since she was very little. How do I start making contacts for her? She is almost 16 years old.

HS: The most important thing that your daughter, or anyone who desires to be an astronaut, can do is focus on getting the best education that she can obtain. Not only in a specific specialty, but also on as broad of a range of fields as possible.

She should anticipate getting a PhD, a doctorate, in her chosen field, or if she decides to go into the piloting side she should consider one of the military academies or some other way she can become one of the best pilots that it is possible to be.

She should also anticipate that the selection of astronauts will occur on a fairly regular interval. At the present time I believe that interval is about two years. So she would have many opportunities during her professional career to apply. And she should keep applying if she does not make it at first, because it is highly competitive now, much more than when I was selected.

WaMedic1 asks: Seven year old Michael from Washington state asks, "How was it going to the moon?"

HS: It was a wonderful experience for me and all the astronauts. An experience that was unlike anything that we could have imagined. As well as being a great honor to be able to represent the United States in space and in a larger sense, human-kind.

As a result of what the Apollo astronauts were able to do, we now know that we could live indefinitely on the Moon, and almost certainly on Mars. There are thousands, if not millions, of young men and women willing to do that when the opportunity comes.

And the only question that remains, is what will the human species do with this new evolutionary status we have in our solar system. The young man who asked the question may very well live most of his life on the Moon, or possibly, Mars.

Dot2dot2000 asks: Is it hard to sleep while weightless?

HS: Sleeping is a very individual process in space, just like it is on Earth.

Some of the astronauts just slept while floating, unrestrained in the spacecraft. Others felt like they needed to be in some type of sleeping bag -- NASA of course, called it a sleeping restraint.

TA: I hear you slept very well on the Moon, Jack...

HS: I slept very well on the flight. My sleep was intermintent, I would wake up and check if everything was okay, and then go back to sleep.

And I found I needed less sleep than on Earth. That is probably explained by the fact you do less physical work in space.

One interesting side light, is that no matter how hard you work physically, and no matter how tired your muscles might get, after sleeping, there is no soreness in those muscles.

TA: As a result of improved circulation?

HS: Yes, I think that is quite right, Tom. In space your heart works much more efficiently.

Ultimate_ski_bum asks: Harrison, tell me your thoughts about the opportunity for John Glenn to return to space and, if you feel we will ever return to the moon?

HS: As for the first part of the question, I think that it is a great opportunity for John, however, and I see nothing wrong with him going -- as I supported the political flights of Senator Garn and Congressman Nelson, as I support any effort to fly as many people in space -- however, I believe there will be better opportunities for us to learn about the effects of weightlessness on older individuals.

I have encouraged NASA to use Glenn's flight to open the door to the reflight of the nine Skylab astronauts about which we know a great deal about medically than we know of Senator Glenn. So far, NASA has ignored my suggestions.

Maybe Tom can share his thoughts.

TA: Well I think, if for no other reason than to sort of bridge the generations of Americans and people worldwide who have had an excitement about the space program since the beginning, that John Glenn brings an excitement and that's good.

This has been a good time lately, with the Mars explorer, and I hope that in the future it does not take a cold war to push the boundaries of space exploration.

HS: As for the second part of the question, the return to the Moon, I'm afraid, will be more the responsibility of the private business and financial sectors than is it going to be the job of governments.

As the governments, including the United States', move into the next century, the demands for their resources, which is really tax-payer resources, will be much greater than they are today because of issues of retirement and health security.

On the other hand, there is one particular material in the lunar soils that could very well stimulate private sector activity that would take us back to the Moon. That material is another product of the solar wind, about which we spoke earlier, called Helium 3. He3 is a light isotope of helium, like Tom used in the balloon to simulate 1/6 gravity on the Moon.

It is of great commercial interest, because it is nearly an ideal fuel for fusion power plants when they become available technology here on Earth.

Lunar Helium 3 offers one, in my opinion, of the most exciting and promising alternatives to fossil fuels to the generation for providing electricity.

Colleagues of mine, and myself, at the University of Wisconsin are activitely exploring these possibilities.

Kyraa88 asks: What is happening with taking the rats into space? We haven't heard much about it here in New Zealand.

HS: I have very little information, probably less than in New Zealand. (laughs)

I have not seen any press releases on the results of the experiments and I think we are just going to have to wait a bit longer until reports are available in the magazine Science or journals like that.

As on Earth, animal experiments are extremely important in advancing our understanding of biological systems in the treatment of human beings, when those human beings are affected by disease or other physcial problems.

Framauro asks: Harrison, when the crew selections were being made, did the astronauts ever get jealous or resentful of those people who had been selected ahead of themselves?

HS: Oh I think it would be contrary to human nature, particulary the nature of the highly motivated individuals like the Apollo astronauts, to not believe that you should have been selected much earlier than you were.

I can recall of being momentarily resentful of Buzz Aldrin for being selected for the Apollo 11 mission, over me, the geologist -- even though I was totally unprepared to go.

On the other hand, the astronauts worked extremely well together once the selections were made and because for the most part were true professionals, and realized what was necessary to not only accomplish John Kennedy's and the United States challenge to put men on the Moon and return them safely to Earth, but also to continue the missions so science could gain a first hand understanding of the evolution of the Moon.

That history relates directly to the early history of the Earth so it's not a purely academic interest.

I might say that like all human exploration, the most important consequences of that exploration usually is invariably recognized much later than the actual exploration. This was certainly true of Jefferson's purchase and exploration of the Louisiana territory and increasingly we are finding it is true of our exploration of the Moon.

For example it was fifteen years after the first analysis of the presence of Helium 3 in the lunar soils before others, not associated with spaceflight, recognized its importance as a potential for a source of energy for Earth. It is clearly not a reason we went to the Moon, but it clearly one of the most important consequences of doing so.

Yukon97 asks: Tom, what was it like to remake a great event in history?

TA: It was just a wonderful experience on many, many fronts as an actor and, as a father.

As I had said, this was sort of a surprise role for me, so we had a family vacation all planned out and then this came up, so I was accompanied by my wife and daughters. And as a father, to see they had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Scott, who was an astronaut and consultant to the series, and ask questions like "What was it like to drive the lunar rover?" it was magic to watch them experience that.

I also have to amend my answer from before --- in terms of preparation -- I have to thank Jack for his availability, at any time. I could call him up at any time and ask even the smallest questions. Being able to go right to Jack to get that help with the role made for me the experience very tangeable, and made me feel like I was part of that experience.

At one moment, when we were shooting on the lunar scape, I was on camera examining a lunar specimen, and to my right the actor portraying Gene Cernan (actually his stunt double), went bouncing by and for that short instance I had some sort of sense of what it was like to walk on the Moon.

It was very exciting for me.

PD: And for our final question of the evening, a question for both Harrison and Tom...

AlienWorkshop_ asks: In your opinion, what will it take to return the space program to its full potential?

HS: Well I would expand on what I said earlier, that it will take the private business and financial communities to become increasingly involved over and above their considerable involvement today. This is primarily because governments will be occupied with other issues.

Clearly NASA will continue for some time as an agency of science, and as long as the space station is part of their plan, they will be a major engineering agency as well. But frankly, I do not see NASA, or other governments, leading humans back to the Moon or on to Mars. I think the managerial practices and experiences of the private sector will be required.

That's already obvious in communications, remote sensing and increasingly in the use of space for navigational aides. So it is not something that has not already happened, but something that must occur on a larger scale.

TA: I would have to say that I agree with Jack, that we will need reasons to explore the Moon and beyond and financial reasons are paramount.

But in addition, I think the imaginations of the next generation of space explorers need to be constantly fueled. I think that the Mars explorer did that and brought back the excitement that was in place when I was in a kid.

I know that when you flew Jack, that you were disappointed that Nixon declared that that would be the last time humans would walk on the Moon this century. And that made me disappointed as well, as heck, I wanted to go.

And I think that with some of the abilities we have now, to look out into the universe, will fuel our imaginations. And I think even this series will add to the excitement, and I think you really need to have that excitement there.

PD: Dr. Harrison Schmitt and Tom Amandes, we would like to thank you both for joining us this evening. As you may know, tonight was the sixth and last in a series of six cyberchats that PEOPLE Online has done with astronauts and actors associated with the HBO series, "From The Earth To The Moon."

HS: It was my great pleasure to be here with you and with my counterpart in space!

TA: It was a great honor for me. And thanks Jack for all your help.

HS: I look forward to seeing the final episode.

PD: We would like to extend _special_ thanks to HBO for helping make this series possible! It's been a _great_ series - and you can read the transcripts for the evenings you missed.

Transcripts for the webchats are available at the National Space Society's interactive "From the Earth to the Moon" Viewer's Guide at http://www.nss.org/apollo, or at People Online at http://www.pathfinder.com/people/transcripts/e/earthtomoon.html.

We would also like to thank the National Space Society for their help, in particular Robert Pearlman.

For an archive of LIFE photography from the Apollo program, visit LIFE's new site, "A Giant Leap for Mankind," at http://www.space.lifemag.com.

And for activities and games related to "From the Earth to the Moon," visit the HBO official site at http://www.hbo.com/apollo.

Thanks again everyone for joining us tonight.

This is Patrizia DiLucchio for PEOPLE Online on Yahoo! Chat - tune in tomorrow evening for the final two episodes of HBO's "From The Earth To The Moon." Good night!

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