posted 02-03-2006 10:42 AM
Last week, my journalism students at Forbush High School in East Bend, N.C., conducted an interview with Dick Gordon. For a group that had little or no previous interest in spaceflight, I think they came away fairly impressed.
I've included a transcript of the interview for your reading pleasure:
Ed: What was your reaction when you were selected as an astronaut?
Capt. Gordon: It was one of euphoria, I guess. I was pretty happy, because I was in the second selection and was not selected. I was very, very unhappy about that and kind of angry. A year later, I had another opportunity and was selected. I got a call from Deke Slayton asking me if Iíd like to come to work for him. Of course, I said yes, and that was the beginning.
Tiffany: Which mission was more fun for you, Gemini 11 or Apollo 12?
Capt. Gordon: Well, they were both really different. They were both hard work. Boy, thatís tough question. Iím not sure I know how to answer that one. I guess the great excitement of going to the Moon and seeing the Earth from that distance, that was probably the most exciting. But the Gemini was a lot of fun as well. A lot of people have called it a hot rod. It really was fast. It got you into orbit real quick. The mission only lasted three days, so it was a very, very busy time. It had its own exciting aspects as well as Apollo 12.
Candace: What was the experience of your spacewalk like?
Capt. Gordon: That was frustrating. We had not learned how to operate in that environment. We had no handholds. We had no restraint system to keep you in place. I had to use one hand to keep myself at the workplace, but I needed two hands to do the work. So that became a significant frustration. I finally kept myself in place by straddling the nose of the Agena so I could finally use two hands to do the work. So Ö it was not very much fun, but it was quite an experience to be out spacewalking.
Candace: Could you describe the launch of Apollo 12 for us?
Capt. Gordon: Oh boy, it was a long launch. A lot of things happened during the launch. It was over 10 minutes to get us into orbit. The weather was not very good. As a matter of fact, there were thunderstorms in the area. One of the exciting things about the launch was 36 seconds after liftoff, we were struck by lightning. It disrupted the electrical system, electrical power, to the spacecraft. We had to do some scrambling to get things back in order.
The Saturn V is a very gentle ride. The forces are not very high. The maximum is about four Gs. Itís an old manís ride. I could even go again.
Josh: How was your experience with your crewmates on Apollo 12?
Capt. Gordon: Well, that was probably one of the best things in the flight. We were all three naval aviators. We had known each other before we ever got in the program, and we were pretty good friends, so we got along very well. We didnít have too many arguments. As a matter of fact, I canít remember any arguments at all. It was one of the pleasant parts of the flight, just being able to participate with two good friends. That was probably the best part of the whole flight.
Marie: What was the most difficult task you accomplished individually?
Capt. Gordon: The most difficult task? Oh, boy Ö thatís kinda hard to say. Probably the most difficult Ė in retrospect, not at the time Ė but the most difficult part was not being able to walk on the Moon. I had to stay in orbit. But at the time, it didnít bother me at all, because I thoroughly anticipated that I was gonna go get to fly again, and I would have. In a normal rotation, I was the backup crew commander on 15 and would have flown probably on Apollo 18 and it was cancelled. 17 was the last one, so the difficulty was probably something that never happened.
Ed: What did you miss most about Earth while you were in space?
Capt. Gordon: Probably a good, hot shower and a nice bed to sleep in. But it wasnít a very long period of time. We knew we had to do that. A lot of people think the food may not have been very good, but I enjoyed it. It was pretty good. But I think the biggest thing was trying to keep house, and keep clean. I think probably the thing I missed most was a nice, hot shower.
Andrea: Were you able to achieve all your goals as an astronaut?
Capt. Gordon: Well, I think probably so, all of the goals I was allowed to pursue. I think one of my goals, obviously, was to be able to walk on the lunar surface. That was the mission for Apollo, and that was one of my initial goals that unfortunately I never got to achieve. But Iím thankful for the part I was given to play, and Iíll just let it go at that.
Renee: What kind of belongings did you take with you when you went into space?
Capt. Gordon: Oh, golly Ö I took some personal items Ö some flags, my Navy wings, different things Ö some jewelry, some gifts for other people. It was a PPK, it was called Ė a personal preference kit Ė and it just had just a lot of personal items that we were allowed to take with us.
Jasmine: Do you still keep in touch with any of your astronaut co-workers?
Capt. Gordon: Yes, we do. We donít have formal reunions, but see each other quite frequently, maybe at the air races, an anniversary of some kind, an event where some of us get to see each other. I see Alan Bean frequently and talk to him, oh, once or twice a month. But we donít do anything on a formal basis, but there are occasions. We have an autograph club that we go to, and we also all work together at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Hall of Fame. So we get to see each other at least once a year.
Lindsay: When you looked back at Earth, did you ever have a moment when you just couldnít believe you were there?
Capt. Gordon: No, not really. I think all of us kind of expected to be there after training so much. I think the thing, in retrospect, sometimes when I look at the Moon, not very often, but sometimes, itís kind of hard to believe that I was out there, 240,000 miles from home. Thatís kind of a stretch. Itís nice to remember.
Abby: What do you think about the conspiracy theories that say the Moon landings never took place?
Capt. Gordon: Oh, I think theyíre a bunch of nuts myself. What it really means is theyíre calling all of us liars, that we never went there. We know we did. What do they think we brought back. They were lunar rocks, lunar material. It can be proven. I donít know. They needed 15 minutes of fame, I guess. But I think theyíre way off base. I donít believe anything that they came up with.
Mr. Houston: Who was the best astronaut you ever knew?
Capt. Gordon: Richard Gordon.
Mr. Houston: Whyís that?
Capt. Gordon: Well, youíve got to be the best. If you donít think youíre the best, youíre not going to be the best. You just have to believe in yourself. My answer to that is that nobody remembers who was second, so itís not an ego thing. Itís more one of confidence, confidence in your own abilities. This is the way it is. If you donít think youíre No. 1, you never will be. (END)