Aug 15 2006, 09:40 PM
I've been re-reading my copy of Murray & Cox's excellent history of Apollo (entitled, simply enough, "Apollo, The Race to the Moon"), and I just finished the section about The Fire.
I'm a little curious -- we've discussed here, before, about how Jules Bergman felt it necessary to run the audio tape of the final transmissions from Apollo 1 as the crew struggled in vain to get the hatch open. But, as I read the piece again this time, another fragment of memory popped up that I'm pretty sure happened, but that I can hardly believe was allowed.
On level A-8 of the Pad 34 service tower, where the White Room enclosed the spacecraft, there were several TV cameras. One was in the White Room itself. While there was no camera inside the spacecraft, that camera in the White Room was pointed directly at the Apollo hatch, and there are a number of descriptions of the hatch window becoming very bright as the fire swept across the cabin, with some blurry indications of motion as Ed White tried to open it.
I don't really see how it's possible, but I have a very clear memory of seeing a videotape of that camera as the fire flared. I saw it back in 1967, within a week or two of the event. It wasn't until 1981 ior 1982 that Bergman ran the comm tape, but I know with great certainty that I saw the video of the hatch window.
However -- again, I don't understand how it's possible that such a tape could possibly have been available to the TV networks at the time. I don't even see that it's likely that all of the pad cameras were even attached to video recorders (especially since videotape was a relatively new technology in 1967, and you'd need a separate huge recording deck for each camera on the pad).
Does anyone else remember ever seeing these images? If so, can you remember when and where?
Thanks in advance, people...
-the other Doug
Aug 15 2006, 09:53 PM
Just taking a shot in the dark here: Are you sure you didn't merge your
memory with the re-enactment they did at the beginning of Ron Howard's
1995 film Apollo 13? That showed a gloved astronaut's hand slapping
against the Apollo 1 window while fire raged in the background.
One other thought: The TV network was doing a re-enactment of the fire
for a news broadcast?
Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe the networks would have
been showing a live broadcast of the test. By Gemini they were already
holding back on live showings of manned space missions.
One famous example of this was the splashdown of Gemini 7 being reduced
to a box in a corner of the TV screen while the rest of the space was given to
a football game already in progress (I may have the mission number wrong,
and it may have been a soap and not a football game, but the essentials of
the event I am sure about).
I recall with great certainty the audio tape of the Apollo 1 fire that ABC
played just before the launch of STS-1 in 1981. It ended with one of the
astronaut's words being cut off with a scream. A real scream, not one of
those fake Hollywood horror film type ones.
I was amazed that they would play such a thing right before the first Space
Shuttle launch (it was part of a retrospective on the history of American
manned space exploration, of which there had been none since 1975). I
have not heard that particular audio tape since, nor do I want to.
Aug 16 2006, 02:32 AM
No, I'm not thinking of the Ron Howard film -- this was indeed the TV camera's view of the Apollo 1 hatch. I can definitely recall seeing it on a TV news show, in which the commentator pointed out that there was no TV camera inside the capsule, but that we could see a little of what was going on through the hatch window. He talked through the brightening of the window, and then the feed cut off before the capsule breached and fires and smoke inside the White Room itself obscured the view.
I also recall hearing the voice tape on ABC pre-launch coverage of the Shuttle, but my memory is that it was prior to a scrubbed launch attempt of either STS-2 or STS-3. I seem to recall this because I didn't have a VCR at the time of the STS-1 launch, but I did for STS-2 and subsequent launches. I had been taping the launch attempt, and therefore had the audio tape on the VCR tape -- and I made a point of *not* saving it. I recorded over it when the launch was actually performed. Like you, I found its unexpected appearance disturbing and unwelcome -- although, as a student of the history of the Apollo program, I was somehow satisfied that I had heard it once, and was able to determine for myself exactly what was said.
But that scream -- it was Chaffee's -- will stay with me in my nightmares for as long as I live. And for that, I don't have any good things to say about Jules Bergman. Ever.
-the other Doug
Aug 16 2006, 02:53 PM
No, it was STS-1, as I wanted to record the historic event in the only way
I could at the time, with a tape recorder.
My best friend was the only person I knew who owned a VCR back then.
It was a box the size of a suitcase and cost $1,000. And I was watching
the event on a black-and-white TV which only got a few channels well.
And I walked 20 miles uphill both ways in the snow to work in the mines
For me Jules Bergman and Frank Reynolds are the newsmen I associate
with the early space age (we couldn't get the distant CBS station in very
well, thus my lack of nostalgia for Walter Cronkite). Their voices are
synonymous with Apollo for me.
I understand why would you be unhappy with Bergman, though. I wanted to
hear that Apollo 1 tape about as much as I want to see the bodies from the
Space Shuttle tragedies. Not at all.
As we have established, I recall the audio of the Apollo 1 clip but not what
images they were showing. Maybe someone at ABC still has the actual
tapes - unless they are in the same vault with the Apollo 11 recordings.
Aug 21 2006, 07:28 PM
dvandorn wrote: I don't even see that it's likely that all of the pad cameras were even attached to video recorders (especially since videotape was a relatively new technology in 1967, and you'd need a separate huge recording deck for each camera on the pad).
You are correct that videotapes were rare, yet at that time there was another and much simpler way of preserving anything filmed with a tv-camera. Using one camera with ordinary film at a tv-monitor.
When they noted that something was happening, someone perhaps a newsagent or any technician might have aimed his filmcamera at that monitor and then it was brought to the news.
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here