Broadcast 3321 James Donovan

Feedback: What did you think of this show?: 

Guest:  James (Jim) Donovan;  Topics:  Mr. Donovan's excellent book, "Shoot For The Moon: The Space Race And The Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11," space policy, returning to the Moon, lessons learned, space and humanity plus more.

Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See

We welcomed for the first time James (Jim) Donovan to the show to discuss his new book Jim "Shoot For The Moon: The Space Race And The Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11" plus a discussion about today's effort to get back to the Moon, space policy, technology, Apollo stories and facts, plus much more.  We started our one segment 87 minute discussion by my asking our guest if he was already a space enthusiast when he wrote the book or did he become one as a result of writing & researching this excellent book on Apollo.  Our guest told us about his early on attraction to science fiction and the space program.  He then talked about what he wanted to do following his having written his Custer battle book, "A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn --the Last Great Battle of the American West."  As you will hear him say, he found absent in most Apollo books the character development of the people that took us to the Moon so that became a primary focus of his in writing "Shoot For the Moon."  During our interview, we did talk about some of the unusual and great characters in the Apollo Moon story and why they were unusual.  Having read the book before the interview, I asked our guest about several of the players, especially some we don't normally hear or read about when discussing Apollo and our early space program.  I'm sure you will recognize many of those highlighted by our guest during this discussion.

Jim spent time talking with us about the early impact on our nation of Sputnik followed by Sputnik 2.  As this discussion was unfolding, we took a later call from Marshall who wanted to add in the impact of our seeing Vanguard blow up on television.  He suggested this added to our worries and apprehension about the Soviets being far more advanced than we were in the STEM and rocket/space disciplines.  Jim and Marshall had quite the little talk about this s don't miss it. 

Listener emails started arriving about the same time.  Larry from Denver wanted to know if Jim had interviewed people who are still around for a type of man on the street perspective from back then, not the NASA and the space industry/astronaut perspective.  Jim talked about the Cold War and the national security aspect of our lunar and space program and the early support for the program which did wane toward the end of our lunar flights.  Listener Karen sent in a note asking about the difference in cooperation and spirit of the time with the people and within our government compared to today, questioning if we could get it together this time to return to the Moon.  Jim had much to say about this, plus he talked about the competing needs today for large sums of money for various projects.  Jim then added in the commercial sector for today which was not present 50 years ago.

Jim talked with us about his learning of the Apollo 11 landing risks and problems.  He provided information about this that many of us will not have heard before so do listen to this segment.  It had to do with decompressing the tunnel, a cork type of popping adding velocity which changed the flight profile of the lander. Don't miss this important and interesting story.  Let us know by posting on the blog if you were familiar with this story prior to Jim talking about it with us. Part of this discussion included Jim talking about the Apollo Guidance Computer.  Listen to his description of it.  Our smart phone have more power than this computer.  Jim talked about problem today with human spaceflight revolving around go fever.  Don't miss it.

Another listener sent in a note asking our guest if an unmanned LEM demo flight was ever considered.  Jim said yes but that it was rejected due to the time it would take to do it plus the costs.  NASA decided it would just be too costly and time consuming so they went for the actual flight instead.  I asked Jim about his observations throughout the book regarding the Apollo persons and their egos.  Don't miss how he answered my question.  Egos were certainly part of our effort to go to the Moon.

As we were coming up on the end of our program, I asked Jim for lessons learned from Apollo that we can apply today to help us get back to the Mon.  Jim offered salient comments and suggestions.  He also talked about some of the benefits from the early Moon effort, suggesting that today we would get at least the same if not greater benefits.  He also talked about the objection of many that we have too many problems here on Earth to solve before establishing a human presence in space.  Our guest suggested solving those problems through expansion, outreach, exploration and creating new growth, spirit, ideas and technology for us to ease our transition to the future.  Let us know what you think of this part of our discussion by posting on our blog. 

Listner Paul sent in a note having been watching the HBO miniseries on Chernobyl.  He wondered how the old Soviet Union could pull off anything in space given how inept, dangerous and destructive they were regarding the Chernobyl nuclear accident which came decades later than the Soviet space program.  Jim was not watching the HBO series but did have a response for Paul so don't miss it.  By the way, I am watching the HBO series and highly recommend it.  That said, for those of you that are animal, pet and dog owners and lovers, I must caution you about parts of Episode 4.  I had to do quite a bit of fast forwarding as it was too much for me to take though I know it was an accurate scene regarding what was done and needed to be done as the animals were radioactive.  Back to space, Jim talked about the early death of the Soviet space leadership genius, Sergei Korolev.  What might have been had he lived longer one will never know. 

Near the end of the program, Ben asked our guests if he wrote about our sending chimps to space given his earlier comments about the Soviet Union sending the dog Laika to space with Laika not returning.  Ben wanted to know if their were animal rights protestors back then as he was not born until decades after Apollo 11 and the earlier space program.   Jim did not think animal rights protests groups were strong or that prevalent back then and I don't remember such protests around sending the chimps to space.  I know they came back and retired with honor and were buried with honor and are in well maintained and hero-like graves.  We valued the space chimps and primates very much.

Before the show ended, I asked Jim for takeaways from 50 years ago to help us return to the Moon today.  Lots was said but somehow we ended up talking about the need for critical thinking and then the Moon Hoax garbage came up.  I told a story of what happened when I was in my local post office yesterday given the crew there knows me and knows about The Space Show.  Listen to the story on air.  In addition, I brought up the even stranger set of comments from last December where basketball great Stephen Curry suggested we never went to the Moon.  This brought us back to critical thinking, being a role model for youth and others, and learning and leadership. 

Before signing off, our guest told us about the book and his website,  He has an email address available on the site so please contact him if you are interested in an autographed copy of the book.   Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show.






"Shoot For The Moon: The Space Race And The Extraordinary"

WARNING: Using Disqus Comments on the Space Show:

To ensure your comments do NOT get caught in the Disqus automatic spam filter systemplease login to your Disqus account or create a verified/approved Disqus account.

Posting multiple URL links WILL TRIGGER the Disqus automatic spam filter system.

28 May 2019 James Donovan
Your Amazon Purchases Helps Support TSS/OGLF (see

The Space Show Toll Free Number is only available on live broadcast programs. Please call 1-866-687-7223

  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • moonwards-logo