Robert Heinlein and CBS: A Request for the File 770 Faithful

By James H. Burns: As I look forward to receiving volume two of William Patterson’s  biography Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century: The Man Who Learned Better, I am finally reminded to make this request here–

For any of the File 770 faithful who may be YouTube savvy…

For YEARS, I had read that Heinlein was part of the Walter Cronkite Apollo moon landing coverage on CBS…

(And for those too young to recall, there were HOURS of live commentary leading up to our landing on the moon, and Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s climb down the LEM’S ladder.

(I’m betting there’s discussion of Heinlein’s involvement with the space program, and the Apollo commentaries, in the new book!)

When I first got on the internet, in the 1990s, I was thrilled to finally hear Heinlein’s voice, at a website that contained many snippets of Heinlein, through the years. (There’s also a lovely behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of George Pal’s Destination Moon, showing him visiting that picture’s expansive lunar set.)

But nowhere to be found, or as best as I could judge to be seen in many of the Apollo documentaries that have been shown over the decades, was Heinlein’s CBS footage.

And, one would think, it should be extensive.

Many clips of Arthur C. Clarke’s Apollo coverage exist, but the Heinlein moments seemed to survive only in CBS’ vaults.

(There is at least one other, unrelated, rarity, that I don’t believe has been seen since those lovely summer days in 1969:  Jim Henson, or someone using the Muppet style, created skits showing puppets playing RUSSIAN scientists, very frustrated over the impending NASA success…  I believe the sequences were shown as part of the NBC news live broadcasts…)

If one searches at You Tube on “Robert Heinlein,” intriguing material abounds, but nary any space aged….

I finally caught up with the DVD release of Walter Cronkite’s and CBS News’ Man on the Moon special…

And there, at 41 minutes and 40 seconds, is a Heinlein appearance, and narrative, if only for about twelve seconds.

I believe that any Heinlein work related to the manned space program is vastly important: the person responsible for influencing so many of us to look more wondrously at the stars (not to mention the scientists whose careers he helped inspire, of course!), DIRECTLY participating in those events, and chronicle.

Here’s my request to the readership:

Man on the Moon is available very inexpensively at Amazon (and well worth checking,out!). Could someone here put the clip up at YouTube? Anyone, really, should be able to see and hear Heinlein at this great moment in our history.

As Patterson mentions in the introduction to Volume One of his Heinlen epic, Heinlein said:

“This is the greatest event in ALL the history of the human race, up to this time. This is…  Today is New Year’s Day of the Year One. If we don’t change the calendar, historians will do so.”

5 thoughts on “Robert Heinlein and CBS: A Request for the File 770 Faithful

  1. The series “Man on the Moon – Apollo 11 – Cronkite Broadcast” is already on YouTube in parts. I wasn’t able to find the Heinlein interview in Part 5 (which given the length of the previous parts, should have occurred at 1:55 by my math) but it might be easier for Jim to find it given that he already has seen the broadcast.

  2. Heinlein owned a tape of his full appearance on CBS (from which the 12-second clip is presumably taken). It has been shown at cons by someone from the Heinlein Society– the late David Silver, I think. Possibly Bill Patterson.

    It was shown at a Windycon early in the 21st century, and it was shown at the Heinlein Centennial conference in 2007. Maybe other cons.

    In this thread on the Heinlein Nexus, Jim Gifford writes:

    “We have the footage, from Heinlein’s own copy of the CBS release tape. We showed it at the Centennial.

    “It is copyrighted material so it can’t be put online without permission (which is highly unlikely).”

  3. JaniceG, the obscure book 10:56:20 PM EDT, 7/20/69: The Historic Conquest of the Moon as Reported to the American People by CBS News over the CBS Television Network is essentially a timeline of the CBS coverage with stills and quotations.

    It could probably be helpful in pinning down the exact moments when Heinlein appears onscreen, as well as what happened just before or just after he spoke.

    Worldcat allows people to check whether a copy exists in a library near them.

    Unlikely in your case, I imagine. If you are strongly motivated to pursue this, bug me and I’ll dig up my own copy to help figure this out. Higgins at f n a l dot g o v.

  4. The Paley Center for Media has an extensive collection of recordings which include the Cronkite Apollo coverage. If you go to their Beverly Hills location, I think you could view it there.

  5. I stayed up all night flipping through channels to try & catch everything while making sure to watch CBS when they had Heinlein on. I remember that quote Patterson cites. I also remember Heinlein surprising Cronkite with his suggestion that women go into space and suggesting Peggy Fleming as a prototype.

    I’ve been waiting 45 years to see this again. and under any reasonable copyright regime it would be public domain now. But it isn’t and that is a disgrace.

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