NPR History: 50 Years Later, Looking Back At Apollo 10, Precursor To The Moon Landing. “It’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 10 mission. NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with General Thomas Stafford, who led the Apollo 10 mission.”
“MARTIN: So I think you’ve raised something I was going to ask you about, is these missions are happening at a time when there was the space race going on with the Soviet Union. So I guess a lot of people wanted to know, well, it’s like, were you jealous, or were you mad that you weren’t going to land? What I think I hear you saying is no, everybody was kind of doing their part. Everybody just wanted to do their part. Would that be fair to say?
STAFFORD: Well, you’re absolutely right. We’re doing our part. And Deke Slayton called me, and he said, Tom, he said, you’re going to be the backup for 7. You’re going to turn around and fly 10. He called Neil in, he says, Neil, you’re backing up 8. You’ll fly 11. Called in Pete Conrad, said you’re backing up 9. You will fly twelve. And between the three of you, if the systems go right, somebody should have a chance to land.”
“Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.
That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.
And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.
“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”
Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.”