The space program had no bigger friend than Walter Cronkite. In his memoirs, A Reporter’s Life, Cronkite wrote, “Of all humankind’s achievements in the twentieth century – and all our gargantuan peccadilloes as well, for that matter —- the one event that will dominate the history books a half a millennium from now will be our escape from our earthly environment and landing on the moon.” And Cronkite got to be the narrator, 40 years ago today, when the lunar module Eagle landed gently on the moon’s surface. Cronkite had just as long as NASA to prepare for that moment, but when the time came, the words he came up with to mark the historic event were, “Oh, boy! Whew! Boy!” I think it was the perfect sentiment.
Cronkite was the first guest on this program five years ago in October. It was a deliberate choice of course. When Bob asked if he had any advice for the new program, Cronkite offered, “Yes, try to do a second.” Unfortunately, our interview with Cronkite was only about 10 minutes long. It was campaign season and we wanted to focus on the news of the day. We thought there’d be time for a more thorough job in the years to come. I would have liked to have heard Cronkite’s thoughts on CBS assigning him to their new morning news program in 1954, with a co-host no less… a puppet named Charlemagne the Lion.
Cronkite said during an interview done when he was in his 80’s that his biggest life regret was that he never got to go into space. Maybe our next guest could have helped him fantasize what it would have been like. Alan Bean was the fourth man to walk on the moon. He’s now an artist (“The only artist to have walked on the moon!” his website proclaims), and the painting below is his favorite.
It’s called “The Fantasy.” The painting shows Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean all on the moon together. It’s a fantasy because Dick Gordon never got on the moon. He had to stay behind on the command module. I think Bean always felt kind of bad about it. “Dick was the more experienced astronaut, yet I got the prize assignment,” says Bean. “In the three years of training preceding our mission, he never once said: “It’s not fair, I wish I could walk on the Moon too.” I do not have his unwavering discipline or strength of character.””
Bean’s paintings will be on display at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC until January 13, 2010. And you can see more of them online at, alanbeangallery.com