Author Topic: Guardian:'White'on the moon': why Apollo 11 looked so different to black America  (Read 1888 times)

Offline apollo16uvc

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Yup, now the Apollo program is racist too.
Common stuff about it being a waste of money. As usuall this amounts to 'Please someone think of the poor!'

Gotta love the media these days.

« Last Edit: July 14, 2019, 11:22:56 AM by apollo16uvc »
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Offline Obviousman

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There were / are real concerns regarding the disadvantaged. That being said, you have to remember that the money was being spent here on Earth; just how many jobs were created directly by the manned space programme?

We must also remember the spin-offs: medical research, technology, etc.

Racism? No doubting that but you have to remember that the US government did have a soft policy of "positive discrimination" in a lot of cases. Kennedy asked why there were no black astronauts; the answer was that none (or really few) met the required standards. The same thing could be said about women. This was the sixities and there were a lot of 'neanderthal' attitudes... but did that mean the entire project was wrong?

What if that money had gone ' the poor...'? How much money has gone to feeding the poor in Africa, and have things changed all that much? What about cancer research? We still haven't "cured cancer".

Diverting the money wouldn't have destroyed society but I believe that the benefits of the manned space programme - for ALL people - were worth the investment.

It's complex, and not as simple or easy as 'give it to the poor'.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2019, 06:34:32 AM by Obviousman »

Offline Donnie B.

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According to one recent documentary (I believe it was "Chasing the Moon", but it might have been a different one), the first African American astronaut candidate, Ed Dwight, was blocked from being selected by Deke Slayton (head of training and boss of the astronaut corps).  He was quoted as having stated in downright offensive terms that Dwight would never be an astronaut.

And in fact, there would be no black astronauts in the Apollo program, and no African American would go to space until the early 80s.

So it's not just political correctness to say that there was racism in the Apollo program.  It would be ridiculous to claim there was not.

Offline Kiwi

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Here's one of the 40,000 who dealt with the racial problem and got on with the job of seeing that astronauts could get on and off the moon:

First On The Moon – A Voyage With Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., written with Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin, Epilogue by Arthur C. Clarke – Michael Joseph, London (1970)

Page 57>
   North Amityville, Long Island, New York
   Still another man had a right to consider Apollo 11 — or at least a piece of it — "his." His name was Herman Clark. He was a black man, born in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1932. He was a quality control inspector for Grumman in Bethpage, Long Island, and lunar module No. 5 — for Apollo 11 — was "his." He had had it from the very beginning: "We made all the bulkheads and the skins, the docking tunnel. We built it. We saw it when it was nothing but a big hulking piece of metal. On LM 5 I had a particular interest because I had looked at every damned hole on that thing, and every joint. The quality control inspector is a sort of nitpicker. We're the ball breakers, in plain English. We're the most unwanted people. The quality control man,
Page 58>
the inspector, is a guy that not many people like because it's his job to criticize another man. And when you criticize another man, it's rough. There are ways of doing it where you can be diplomatic about it, but in this program, there is one way — you know. You do it by the book. There's no other way. You've got to have almost one hundred percent traceability, all items. Every discrepancy, every scratch, every dent that occurs during the manufacturing of this product has to be recorded and documented. The smallest scratch. We have to find it. To me it's money because if the product gets out — well, then, I get paid. But I also have to realize, as a QC, which is drummed into our heads, that the product is the important part. Yes, we have a schedule, but I don't have a schedule to follow. All I'm responsible for is that the product be right. If that product's not right, you can bet I'm going to hear about it.
   "I am the only Negro in my area — in the inspection part — and I direct a number of white people, and I get damned good cooperation from these guys. My outlook on the racial problem is — I don't have to win your heart, but I will win your respect. I think the guys respect me. And the way a man respects a guy is because I fight for him. The way I fight for him is that whenever there is a disagreement I stick up for him. Our section of the plant is separated from the rest of the plant. We have over there a pretty good relationship going. The people who work on that project, on the LM, take pride in it. The guys there are not there to fight a racial problem. If you've got a problem, take it out of here..."
   Herman Clark was not too concerned about liftoff — rather, he thought in advance that he would not be too concerned. Then NASA asked him and his wife Rosa to be guests at the launch. They stayed at a motel, got up early each day and — like Jay Marks, the Texas automobile dealer — skipped the Cocoa Beach nightlife. On launch morning they wound up in a viewing site about a thousand feet from a man they recognized as former President Johnson. Rosa Clark struck up a conversation with a man next to her who was dressed in sports clothes and was fiddling with some camera equipment. Herman Clark did a double take and said to Rosa, "Do you know who you're talking to? You're talking to Barry Goldwater!"
   Herman Clark had not checked out the spacecraft; that was up to other people. Nor had he checked out the Saturn V boosters. He was thinking ahead — to the time when Armstrong and Aldrin would separate from the mother spacecraft and fly Eagle, Herman Clark's LM No. 5, down to the surface of the moon. He was thinking about that ascent engine, the only one they had, which had to fire to get the two men off the moon again. Weeks in advance he had acquired goose pimples about that moment: "I mean, you've got two guys sitting there and just the idea..."

Page 212>
To a quality control inspector like Grumman's Herman Clark life seemed to be one constant fight: "Just to give you an idea, there's this stress corrosion problem. There's a lot of liquid shimming [joining] done on this. We have two joints. Say you have a gap between those two joints. The maximum we can permit is under two-thousandths of an inch. And we liquid shim it. This is a headache, because the mechanic is under pressure from his lead man to get that job done. If he could just drill it up and put the rivets in, he could have it done in half an hour. But to liquid shim — it might take him all day, because you have to let the liquid cure, or harden, which takes two hours. If a quality control inspector criticizes the job, some guy is on edge. A lot of times he will say, 'What's wrong with the job?' Well, our responsibility is to write a discrepancy on the crab sheet — a minor discrepancy, that is. If it's a major discrepancy we write it on a tag. And then I usually end up in fights with the foreman, who has to side with his mechanics because he is obligated to a schedule." So we get into fights all the time. It's just a constant thing — especially when you run into opinion-type crabs. When it's a cut-and-dried discrepancy, that's no problem. You just do it over."

Page 243>
   Charlie Duke, who had been agonizing over those 12 02 alarms, also found it hard to comprehend: "When I heard Buzz say 'Engine stop' it was hard for me to believe that they were there. Later Chris Kraft told me, 'Boy, Charlie, I thought we were gone when they had those things' [the 12 02 alarms]. On my way home I was saying, 'Well, they've actually done it.' But it sort of boggled the mind to think that the thing had been accomplished. There had been no time to react."
   In North Amityville, Long Island, Herman Clark, the quality control inspector who had checked out the ascent engine of Apollo 11's lunar module, found that his own emotional reaction had just begun. Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon, but the engine he had checked out still had to get them off. And if it failed...

Page 309>
   North Amityville, Long Island
   Herman Clark, the Grumman quality control inspector who had checked out lunar module No. 5 for the flight of Apollo 11, felt intensely emotional and a little apprehensive. "Here we were working on a piece of hardware," he said, "but when I knew they had landed the reaction really started." He enjoyed watching Armstrong and Aldrin bounce around on the moon ("They were really having a ball"), but he wished that the television reception could have been better. He badly wanted to have a good look at the LM. The astronauts said that it was in good condition, but Clark wished that he could see for himself. He thought of the things that had happened during the two years he had been working on LM No. 5, the arguments he had had, things that could have gone wrong, mistakes that had been caught; and he desperately hoped that he and his men had caught them all. There was the time the wrong kind of primer paint nearly got used on some machine parts which were going inside the cabin: "Somehow this engineering order hadn't gone the right route. Then my group leader started questioning and I said yeah, could be. So we sent a report over to the laboratory requesting the lab to run a test, and we found out that stuff was highly toxic and it would have an outgassing effect out in space where there's no atmosphere, or where you have almost a complete oxygen atmosphere. If it had got into the vehicle it could have killed the guys. Maybe this would have been picked up by somebody else; we don't know. But we did pick it up." As he waited for the ascent engine to fire, Herman Clark thought it was just as well to do a little praying.

[Following lunar liftoff]
Page 312>
   On Long Island, Grumman's Herman Clark had literally been holding his breath. With liftoff confirmed, he said to himself: "Okay. Job well done QC-wise!" Now it was time to go back to work and see if he and his men could do the job again. Perhaps, Clark reflected, they would feel more confident after the third or fourth lunar landing; each lunar module had been "tighter" and more "leakproof" than its predecessor...
Don't criticize what you can't understand. — Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (1963)
Some people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices and superstitions. — Edward R. Murrow (1908–65)

Offline Glom

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Speaking of getting too starry eyed and looking at this more critically, an interesting op-ed about how the legacy of Apollo has hindered what came after.

Offline Peter B

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Interesting presentation by Teitel.

Around 15:40 she says that by September 1963, Kennedy was so concerned at the cost of Apollo and it seeming to be turning into a boondoggle that he wanted to cancel it. She then refers to a speech Kennedy gave to the UN that month.

The thing is, the speech says nothing about cancelling Apollo. What he said was:
Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity--in the field of space--there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nations Charter will apply. Why, therefore, should man's first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries--indeed of all the world--cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending someday in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all of our countries.


Is it generally accepted that the way to interpret this paragraph is that Kennedy wanted to actually cancel Apollo, or is this a bit of melodramatic overreach?

Offline AtomicDog

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I'm a black man who was rabidly interested in all things space in the sixties, and still am to this day. I still remember the arguments I had with my peers and elders defending space exploration. Perhaps if I had known of the women of Hidden Figures and of scientist/engineers like George Robert Carruthers, I could have been more convincing.

Be as it may, I came across the writings of another 60's black space nut that may be relevant to this thread:

Ad Astra
"There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death." - Isaac Asimov

Offline bknight

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Very nice article about the 60's.  I always enjoy the speeches from Neil(both of them). :)
Truth needs no defense.  Nobody can take those footsteps I made on the surface of the moon away from me.
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