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  Apollo 12: TV network moonwalk simulations

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Author Topic:   Apollo 12: TV network moonwalk simulations
brotherjohn
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posted 04-29-2013 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for brotherjohn   Click Here to Email brotherjohn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I grew up loving the space program. When I was in the 3rd grade, I remember that during the Apollo 12 mission, the cameras were damaged. My 3rd grade teacher made reference to the fact that this had happened, and said that she first became aware of it while watching coverage of the moon landing.

She related that she noticed that the film of the astronauts "didn't look right" and that they had "puppets" acting out the things that the astronauts were doing.

Does anyone have any information on how these simulations were produced? Who would have been in charge of such a project? Are there any screenshots or videos of this still in existence?

Thanks in advance!

Dwight
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posted 04-29-2013 02:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwight   Click Here to Email Dwight     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spacecraft Films "Live From the Moon" DVD/Blu-ray has snippets of the marionettes doing simulated EVA. You can see a tiny bit on the preview video here.

alanh_7
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posted 04-29-2013 03:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think CBS News ran simulated moonwalks in tandem with the actual moonwalks in order to fill in between portions of the moonwalks which were not televised. I seem to recall them having an elaborate set with a full size LM, etc.

When Apollo 12's camera went down I think they used the simulation. Here are segments of it from YouTube for Apollo 15.

Max Q
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posted 04-30-2013 06:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've never heard of these simulations before but it leaves me with an observation: Could they have contributed to the ridiculous conspiracy theories?

Fra Mauro
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posted 04-30-2013 07:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember watching those simulations. They weren't bad, especially since the networks were scrambling to fill the time slot.

Jim Behling
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posted 04-30-2013 08:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember the finger puppets that they used.

p51
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posted 04-30-2013 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Max Q:
I've never heard of these simulations before but it leaves me with an observation: Could they have contributed to the ridiculous conspiracy theories?
Funny, as I read this thread, that's EXACTLY what I was wondering as well, especially when the mention of a full LEM mockup came up (I never knew that either).

I was very young when the last Apollo missions went, I remember seeing Apollo 15 (I think, as it was a morning launch) taking off on TV, but that's it.

Dwight
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posted 04-30-2013 04:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwight   Click Here to Email Dwight     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well those hoax supporters can't get their heads around flight plans sticking very close to time, and being made available to the networks, thereby making sims run fairly close to what was happening on the lunar surface.

Lunar Module 5
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posted 04-30-2013 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar Module 5   Click Here to Email Lunar Module 5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is footage of the Gemini 9 EVA simulations - fascinating stuff - can you imagine any news station doing that today! And of course most of the networks did the simulations from inside the "spacecraft" - as for Apollo 12 - I have seen some snippets from news reports that show the simulation. I loved seeing the Apollo 15 footage - must have been pretty cool to be picked as one of the simulated astros! I wonder who these guys were?

alanh_7
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posted 04-30-2013 08:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
CBS ran the simulations I seem to remember. They had a very large set with a full scale mockup Lunar Module. Often they filmed the two "actors" running sims prior to the moon walks explaining the use of the equipment.

But I believe they often ran those sims live in real time as well and they were very well done.

The mission that stands out the most in my mind for its use of the simulations was the Apollo 15. CBS used the sims to fill the gaps when the crew was in the rover and there was no live tv coverage while the rover was moving.

tfrielin
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posted 05-01-2013 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tfrielin   Click Here to Email tfrielin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I make a reference to the puppets being used by NBC, I think, during Apollo 12, in an article I wrote many years ago — "Narrowcasting: Space Stations for the '80s" in Space World magazine, 1980 if I recall the date correctly.

I believe NBC used the famous puppeteer, Bill Baird, for this simulation after the TV went out.

Personally, I think it's a shame that the early lunar surface TV was so bad--Apollo 11's to me was like watching a B&W photographic negative set to motion, Apollo 12 conked out, Apollo 13 didn't make it, and Apollo 14's was in color, but still low res and static with little to show of what the astronauts were doing.

By the time we finally got good lunar surface TV on Apollo 15 — August 1971, public interest had long since evaporated and I've always wondered if we had the good 15/16/17 quality TV from the start if more people might have stayed interested in watching moonwalks?

Or maybe, not...

ea757grrl
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posted 05-01-2013 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I too wish the Apollo 11 TV transmissions had been higher-quality, I'm fairly sure the drop in interest after Apollo 11 had more to do with the "oh, we've done that already" factor. I think by Apollo 12 the networks were getting complaints about the special coverage interrupting regular programming (including, if I recall correctly, football games).

In regards to Apollo 15, bits of the CBS coverage exist on YouTube, including a station break that has a Tang commercial that talks about the lunar rover. At one point during the coverage of the EVAs, staff announcer Harry Kramer (whose voice you know from the opening billboards with the sponsor names and introducing Cronkite - if you've seen "In The Shadow Of The Moon," you know who I'm talking about) filled in while Uncle Walter was unavailable.

J.L
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posted 05-01-2013 03:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for J.L   Click Here to Email J.L     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by alanh_7:
Often they filmed the two "actors" running sims prior to the moon walks explaining the use of the equipment.
The "actors" were employees of Grumman. I believe Grumman pilot Scott MacLeod filled the role of "commander" during these simulations. The LM and simulated surface were at the Grumman plant in Bethpage.

Dwight
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posted 05-01-2013 03:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwight   Click Here to Email Dwight     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Stan Lebar (Lunar TV Project Manager Westinghouse) relayed to me that Apollo 12 was NASA's wakeup call to the importance the networks and the public placed on TV for the missions. When the TV on 12 was lost, the switchboard at NASA lit up like a christmas tree.

Lunar Module 5
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posted 05-01-2013 04:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar Module 5   Click Here to Email Lunar Module 5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am wondering if, for Apollo 11, the studios had simulation ready in case the TV camera failed? If they did, was this pre-recorded or was it going to be filmed live with the audio?

If there was a pre-record has anyone ever seen it?

alanh_7
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posted 05-01-2013 09:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe Leo Krupp of Rockwell Aviation was also involved in those moonwalk simulations along with Scott MacLeod. I could not think of another term other than "actors" which they clearly were not.

The sims were very well done and really filled the gaps in the tv coverage. But I cannot recall if they continued to run those sims beyond Apollo 15. My memory fails me.

ea757grrl
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posted 05-02-2013 06:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Leo Krupp (of North American Rockwell) and Scott MacLeod (of Grumman) were the go-to technical consultants, especially for CBS, during the Apollo days. They'd be stationed inside a mock-up of their company's spacecraft at Downey or Bethpage, and would explain to an on-site correspondent in the mock-up with them what was happening, how certain things were done, etc. It's therefore likely MacLeod, and possibly Grumman engineer Charles Smith as well, were involved in the Apollo 15 simulations carried on CBS.

On the TV coverage note, according to the research A.R. Hogan has done on the Apollo broadcasts, not only did CBS win an Emmy for its Apollo 15 coverage but all three EVAs were carried in full.

By Apollo 16 the news departments were fighting with the network brass, which wanted to keep live coverage to a minimum so they could keep showing profitable commercial programs (plus some of the EVAs on Apollo 16 and 17 would have interrupted prime-time programs). According to Hogan, during Apollo 16 Charlie Duke's wife politely but firmly expressed her disappointment to Walter Cronkite (who didn't like the reductions in coverage, either) during an interview.

tfrielin
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posted 05-02-2013 08:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tfrielin   Click Here to Email tfrielin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm 99% sure that NBC carried one moonwalk only because both the prime and backup Game of the Week were rained out — so it would have been 15 or 16 since they were during baseball season. And it would have been a Saturday (for you youngsters out there, it may be hard to believe, but back then you only got one MLB game per week on network TV — the aforementioned NBC Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon).

Anyone else remember that?

jiffyq58
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posted 05-02-2013 09:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jiffyq58   Click Here to Email jiffyq58     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember that Apollo 15 was the last mission for which any network carried all of the moonwalks from start to finish. And only one network did that. I can't remember which one, but if the previous poster thinks it was CBS, I'll go along with that. I can't even begin to tell you how upset I was when the networks only showed partial coverage of the Apollo 16 and 17 moonwalks. I think the coverage was particularly sparse for Apollo 17. Sure would have been nice to have had the NASA Channel back then!

ea757grrl
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posted 05-02-2013 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I recall correctly, Apollo 15's first EVA happened during afternoon viewing hours on July 31, 1971, so that would have fit. The station break referenced above (taped off WTOP in Washington) even includes a Mattel commercial of the sort you'd see during Saturday programming.

The "Game of the Week" angle has me really intrigued and I'm currently trying to scour Retrosheet and other sources to figure out which games were scheduled for broadcast on NBC on the dates in question, and which would have been rained out.

Hogan's research (which was extensive, done for his master's thesis - he's also published a condensed version of some of his work in "Quest") says CBS carried all three Apollo 15 moonwalks thanks to a late reprieve by the network, as well as Worden's EVA on the trip home.

Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 had their coverage trimmed extensively due to network pressure. Hogan tells of the then-president of CBS News sending down a memo asking for justification for the air time and resources they wanted to cover Apollo 17. He wanted to interrupt five minutes before launch, then go back to the popular drama "Medical Center" as soon as the spacecraft was out of view. He also wanted them to justify the $200,000 cost of the live feed from the recovery area, too.

As it happened, the launch delay meant the launch broadcast ran for several hours and "Medical Center" wasn't seen that night. Apollo got the last laugh, after all.

tfrielin
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posted 05-02-2013 11:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tfrielin   Click Here to Email tfrielin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I reference both the Apollo 12 Bill Baird puppets and the double rain out in my Space World article mentioned above.

The point of my article was: since the networks were so disinterested in covering the latter moonwalks, we're not going to see much Shuttle coverage on network TV when it enters service in the next year, so we needed a Space Channel. I was anticipating that role would be filled by the fledgling CNN which launched several months before my article came out. But what I didn't foresee was the NASA Channel coming along later. Which really was what I wanted — real wall-to-wall coverage.

My cloudy crystal ball...

Glint
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posted 05-02-2013 03:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was pretty loyal to Uncle Walt, and never saw the puppets on NBC. Are there any still shots at least floating around the web?

I did find a humorous write up about the Networks' scramble on Apollo 12 in Google Books. The book is "Destination Moon" by Rod Pyle.

Lunar Module 5
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posted 05-03-2013 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar Module 5   Click Here to Email Lunar Module 5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For those interested here are two reports that include some of Apollo 12's simulations (not well edited at the beginning but I was in a hurry - apologies).

Ronpur
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posted 05-03-2013 11:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have an Apollo 12 memory regarding a mock up of the LM. And it is of Captain Kangaroo!! I can remember him climbing on a mock up on a lunar surface showing what the astronauts would be doing. I was only 6, so it is a very fuzzy memory. Anyone else recall this?

alanh_7
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posted 05-04-2013 07:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Buffalo CBS affiliate was the clearest station we received. This was the days before cable and 1000 station options. And I was a Walter Cronkite fan, so we watched CBS the most. (Jules Bergman with ABC was also one of the best science editors in my opinion).

I recall being really happy the Apollo 15 took place in the summer when I was off school and able to watch them. I recall Apollo 12 being early in the morning on a school day and being so disappointed when the camera burned out.

Those sims were an important part of part of my memory of the Apollo moonwalks.

carmelo
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posted 05-06-2013 11:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These simulations are in the Apollo 12 set of Spacecraft Films?

J.L
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posted 05-07-2013 09:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for J.L   Click Here to Email J.L     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by carmelo:
These simulations are in the Apollo 12 set of Spacecraft Films?
No. I believe there is less than a minute of this footage shown in the Spacecraft Films produced documentary "Live from the Moon". I was the one who supplied the footage.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-07-2013 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These simulations were from the networks, not NASA, and therefore are still subject to copyright. Fair use allows about 30 seconds worth of footage to be used, but any longer would require licensing.

rodpyle
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posted 12-02-2014 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rodpyle   Click Here to Email rodpyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a fun thread... it's a topic I've discussed in talks but good to see it here (sorry I am late to the party, as usual)...
  • CBS: As noted, used the concrete moonscape at Grumman;s Long Island plant. a good simulation and the guys knew what they were doing. Scale LM mockup too.

  • ABC: Apparently scrambled down the street to Western Costume Co, in Hollywood, because the "spacesuits" were off-the-rack from such previous rentals as "Twilight Zone." They may have been originally from "Destination Moon" or "Conquest of Space," I don't recall. All smooth blue fabric (from the film references) with puffy neck rings, a glass plate in the helmet and, as I recall, no gloves. Goofy as hell, and all in front of a not-great lunar backdrop. Not sure, but I suspect the "astronauts" were grips or stagehands... looked pretty confused most of the time.

  • But NBC took the Darwin Prize on this one. Had a contract that they hoped not to use with Bob Barker Marionettes. So here come Pete and Al, wandering over a dusty talc-and-plaster moonscape, arms and legs dangling in front of them. Looked like a rehearsal for "Thunderbirds Are GO!" Then one of them would say, "Let me grab that hammer" (Conrad's "Universal Tool"), and we would cut away, then return to the puppet with a little hammer taped to his hand. I was 12 and even then (before life's sense of irony set it) laughed till I cried.

Blackarrow
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posted 12-02-2014 06:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's hardly surprising that simulations were available when live TV was not. It was the same for the Apollo launches: once the Saturn V flew out of sight, simulations took over to show the flight into orbit.

NukeGuy
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posted 12-02-2014 09:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NukeGuy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oddly enough, the Apollo 12 EVA simulations is the event that sparked my interest in engineering. I remember watching Apollo 11 as an 10 year old the previous July. The poor video quality was not inspiring. The Apollo 12 simulations allowed me to see everything clearly. I was watching the first EVA that morning and caught the space bug. That day at school I went to the library and took out as many books on space and rockets that I was allowed. That night I designed my own rocket to be made out of an aluminum can, gunpowder from a roll of caps and a funnel for the nose cone. I remember it was Nov. 19, a Wednesday (Hawaii 5-0 was on as I was designing my rocket). Fortunately, I never built my design and soon learned about model rockets. I miss Centuri model rockets!

I had a book that contained the biographies of all the astronauts an realized that most had engineering degrees. And that is how Alan Bean inspired me to be an engineer!

schnappsicle
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posted 12-05-2014 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I watched every second of every mission I could starting with Gemini 4. When I came inside during the Apollo 12 EVA and saw the simulation on TV instead of the real thing, I immediately went outside and started playing again. It looked so phony, I couldn't watch it.

Now that I think about it, it really didn't make a difference. We wouldn't have been able to see much more of the EVA anyway since all they had left to do was unload the Alsep and deploy it.

We would not have seen anything during the second EVA either. I suppose they could have pointed the camera into Surveyor Crater, but with the resolution we had back then, everything would have been a blur, much like we saw on Apollo 14.

Speaking of which, I stayed up all night to watch both Apollo 14 EVA's even though I couldn't see anything. I guess I was just fascinated staring at the landing site for 4 hours.

One Big Monkey
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posted 12-06-2014 02:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for One Big Monkey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This page has a couple of interesting shots of the CBS set up.

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