< Back to the Articles Section
Yahoo Chat With Tom Amandes and Harrison Schmitt
Date: May 9,
Subject: Tom Amandes
DiLucchio (PD): I'm Patrizia DiLucchio, this is PEOPLE Online on
Yahoo! Chat and we thank you all for joining us this evening.
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.
joining us are:
Schmitt, who was the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) on Apollo 17. He
also was the only geologist (by degree) to fly to the Moon.
portrays Jack in tomorrow night's episode. He is also known for
his role as Elliot Ness in the television series, "The
Harrison and Tom! Here's our first question:
SOFTBALL_SOCCER_GIRL asks: What kind of things do you do in
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
(TA): It was obvious from the tape! Even the geology back room
they were pretty tickled.
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
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
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.
didn't need that for "Apollo 13." And it probably would have
added considerable costs to this series.
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.
Dr. Schmitt, what do you think of the discovery of water on the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Lunar Helium 3
offers one, in my opinion, of the most exciting and promising
alternatives to fossil fuels to the generation for providing
mine, and myself, at the University of Wisconsin are activitely
exploring these possibilities.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
activities and games related to "From the Earth to the Moon,"
visit the HBO official site at http://www.hbo.com/apollo.
everyone for joining us tonight.
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!
© FanBolt Entertainment since 2002. Design by Emma. All rights reserved. All
contents of this site is copyright of their respectable owners and no
infringement is or was intended. Any reproduction, duplication, or
distribution of these materials in any form is strictly prohibited.