Broadcast 3207 Michelle Evans

16 Oct 2018 Michelle Evans
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Guest:  Michelle Evans; Topics:  Comments about the movie "First Man" and the life of Neil Armstrong, Neil flying the X-15, Edwards AFB, Neil's personal life, Gemini 8 mission and more.

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We welcomed Michelle Evans back to the show to discuss the biopic movie about Neil Armstrong, "First Man." Our program was a two hour discussion without a break. In addition, note that Michelle was a consultant to the movie regarding the X-15 segments. Neil was an X-15 pilot at Edwards AFB as this came up as a discussion topic multiple times during our two hours.  Michelle not only had lots to say about the X-15 part of First Man, but also the actual Neil Armstrong experience at Edwards with the X-15, an experience that was not always positive as Neil made mistakes with the X-15.  Also, the death of his daughter Karen appeared to impact him during this time frame.  His boss at Edwards, Paul Bikle had plans to ground him.  When Neil applied to NASA to be an astronaut, Bikle was not listed as a recommendation though he did talk to NASA and recommended against taking Neil into the program.  Michelle added many facts and details that were not made available or clear in the First Man movie. All of this makes a strong case to read her classic X-15 book.

Regarding the movie, Michelle, myself and many of the callers shared disappointment with it though Michelle did stress many of the positive points of the film.  We all talked about their being a lack of context throughout the movie.  We had many listener phone calls about the movie.  The first call was from Gene in Pasadena. He thought that the movie would inspire younger people to get interested in the program, in X-15, how all of this started, and maybe even drive some of them into space and engineering careers.  I disagreed with him and Michelle, while hoping he was right, also had second thoughts about Gene's suggestion.  Listen to this detailed discussion and let us know what you think by posting your thoughts on the subject on our blog.  Later in our discussion near the end of the program, another caller brought up the same concern and idea.  By the way, in terms of the movie making a difference, I looked up the sales ranking on Amazon for First Man and then Michell gave us the sales rankings for her X-15 book.  Following these numbers might be a way of determining if Gene's idea about younger folks being inspired by the movie to learn more actually happens.  I made note of these numbers and will follow it up on future programs.

The movie covered much of Neil's personal life, including his family life during the 1962-69 time frame.  Michelle did talk about some of what the movie depicted and his wife Janet factored heavily in our discussion as did the death of his daughter Karen.   Michelle told us about having talked with Neil and his sons regarding her  X-15 book. She also suggested we look at the story and movie of "A Beautiful Mind" in comparison to this story about Neil's personal life. 

At different times during our discussion, Michelle called out some factual errors made by the movie and we talked about a few specific scenes including a bracelet scene on the Moon and the communion on the lunar surface rumors regarding Buzz and Neil.  I asked about the isolation trailer and the scenes in the movie which Michelle explained.  We then took a call from Ft. Worth John who had seen the movie and also thought it came up lacking in several areas.  Michelle and John talked extensively about the X-15 experience and Michelle mentioned Neil's X-15 boos, Paul Bikle, and the problems Neil had flying the X-15 and while at Edwards.  Don't miss what Michelle had to say on these matters.  John and Michelle did talk about the Gemini 8 scenes in the movie and Michelle provided a factual backdrop for Gemini 8 which she said Neil absolutely saved.  Gemini 8 proved out rendezvous and docking and put the US into the lead in the space race with the Soviet Union.  We never fell behind after Gemini 8.  Michelle offered some interesting comments thinking it might have been better if the Soviet Union had been able to orbit the Moon and she wished they had kept trying.  Listen to her analysis of this part of the story.  Do you agree with her?  What do you think?  Tell us by posting on the blog.  Michelle also mentioned how President Nixon wanted to purge JFK from the lunar story and even killed the idea of the JFK aircraft carrier picking up Apollo 11.  Before the call with John ended, he brought up the flag issue that had been in the press the past few weeks.  Listen to what Michelle said about that issue. Again, share your thoughts with us about it on our blog.  One thing Michelle said many times during our program and again here was that Neil was not that focused or caring about walking on the Moon. His big deal was to safely land the Eagle on the Moon.  Don't miss how Michelle explained this to us.

Another listener asked Michelle if there was an X-15 book in the works.  The simple answer was no but Michelle was hoping that it would happen, possibly as a mini TV series because each of the 12 chapters in the book was a story about each of the 12 X-15 pilots.  I agree that there should be a movie or mini-series based on her book.  I hope it happens. 

Other issues including model making, the X-15 model for the movie and naming the Edwards flight center for Armstrong came up for discussion.  Michelle did not think Neil would have liked having the center named for him that but again, listen to all of what she said about this when asked about it.  Toward the end of our discussion, I asked Michelle if she thought Neil would like the movie.  You will have to listen to what Michelle said in response to my question to find out the answer.  Emails came in asking if Michelle met the actors and what she thought of them.  We all liked the British actress who played Janet Armstrong, Claire Elizabeth Foy.  Michelle thought Ryan Gosling did a good job.  The issues we seemrf to have with the film did not involve the talent but instead the screenplay.

Before the program ended, Freemont John called as he too had seen the film and was disappointed.  He also thought the film insulted Buzz.  Michelle had much to say about that given the film was a biopic about Neil and none of the other astronauts had much to do in the film.  In fact, part of the lack of context problem was that one never knew who the other astronauts were other than Ed who was mentioned by name along with Buzz and Mike.  Note what Michelle said about astronaut characters in the credits.  One would never have known they were in the film.  She did not think the film was insulting or dismissal of Buzz but it clearly focused in on Neil.   Nobody else other than Janet was central to the story.  One more call came in from retired model building John in Santa Barbara.  Michelle knew John and they had an interesting model building discussion. 

In conclusion, Michelle said that she would be speaking on X-15 this weekend at Torrance, Ca.  Here is the information if you are nearby and want to attend and meet her. as she will be speaking at the Western Museum of Flight on Oct. 20, 2018.  In addition, check out her website,

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this program.  You can reach Michelle through me, her website and the email address she gave out on air near the end of the program.




The movie "First Man" and Neil Armstrong going to the Moon

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