Just watched a fantastic documentary In the Shadow of the Moon from 2006. It's a 1 hr 40 min documentary interview with ten of the Apollo astronauts. There's no narrator, just the astronauts and historical footage. The focus is their view of the overall experience, not so much the details. (watch the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon for lots of the details)
Be sure to watch through the closing credits, where the astronauts give their views on the persistent hoax theories that we did not land actually land on the Moon. I liked Charlie Duke's comment, "We've been to the Moon nine times. I mean, why did we fake it nine times if we faked it?"
All these men were interesting, but the real treat was Michael Collins' comments. He was the astronaut who stayed in orbit around the Moon while Neil and Buzz became the first men to walk on the Moon. Collins was simply spoken, animated, and funny in an understated way. Below are of some of the things Collins said in the movie:
On the day of the launch, as they got out of the van at the pad to walk to the elevator:
When you get out to the base of this gigantic gantry, it's … it's empty, there's nobody there, it's deserted. And you're accustomed to scores of workers, swarming like ants all up and down and around it, and you're in a crowd of people. And then suddenly, there's nobody there and you think, "God, you know, maybe they know something I don't know!"
While waiting for launch:
I had the feeling the whole world was watching us. So, not only do I have a lot of things I can do wrong, but the consequences should I do them wrong are going to be immediately obvious to three billion people. And … that's a worrisome thought.
Regarding Kennedy's famous May 25th 1961 speech, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.":
It was beautiful in its simplicity. Do what? Moon! When? End of decade!
On whether he felt "lonely" by himself in orbit for more than 24 hours while Neil and Buzz were down on the Moon:
I was certainly aware of the fact that I was by myself, particularly when I was over on the back side of the Moon. I can remember thinking, "God, you look over there and there's 3 billion people, plus two somewhere down there, and then over here there's one plus … [looks around behind himself] … God only know what!" So, I know I felt that strongly, but I didn't feel it as loneliness, I certainly didn't feel it as fear. I felt it as awareness, almost a feeling of exultation. I liked it. It was a good feeling.
About to splash down into the ocean:
I remember looking at the ocean and admiring, "Nice ocean you got here, planet Earth."
On the success of the Apollo 11 mission:
To me, the marvel of it is that it all worked like clockwork, I almost said "like magic". There might be a little magic mixed up in the back of that big clock somewhere. Because everything worked as it was supposed to. Nobody messed up. Even I didn't make mistakes.
On their worldwide reception after the mission:
Wherever we went, people, instead of saying, "Well, you Americans did it," Everywhere they said, "We did it. We Humankind, we the Human race, we people did it." I had never heard of people in different countries use this word "We, we, we" as emphatically as we were hearing from Europeans, Asians, Africans. Wherever we went, it was, "We finally did it!" And I thought that was a wonderful thing. Ephemeral, but wonderful.
Below are some comments from the other astronauts I especially liked:
My father was born shortly after the Wright Brothers. He could barely believe that I went to the Moon. But my son, Tom, was five. And he didn't think it was any big deal. — Charlie Duke
One day, you're just Gene Cernan, young naval aviator, whatever. And the next day, you're an American hero. Literally. And you have done nothing. — Eugene Cernan
I thought I had the best job in the world, from the day I entered flight training, until I looked on TV one day and Al Shepard goes up in a rocket. He's gone higher than I've ever gone, and faster than I've ever gone, and most importantly, he's made more noise doing it. He's even on TV doing it. How do I get that job? — Alan Bean
They talked about the Atlas booster, and putting a capsule on top of that with a man in it, to try to put a man into space. And of course, at that time [beginning of the 1960's], the Atlas boosters were blowing up every other day down at Cape Canaveral. And it looked like a very quick way to have a short career. — Jim Lovell
Since that time, I have not complained about the weather one single time. I'm glad there is weather. I've not complained about the traffic, I'm glad there's people around. One of the things that I did when I got home, I went down to the shopping centers. I'd just go around there, and get an ice cream cone or something, and just watch the people go by and think, "Boy, we're lucky to be here, why do people complain about the Earth?" We are living int he Garden of Eden! — Allen Bean
Buzz Aldrin, on his trip down the ladder to the lunar surface: We had it in our flight plan that we'd take the first 10-15 seconds down at the bottom of the ladder, to sort of hold on to the edge of the landing gear and just sort of check our stability and so forth. So that's when I decided to take that period of time to, ah … [clears throat] … to … take care of a bodily function of slightly filling up the urine bag, so that I wouldn't be troubled with having to do that later on. So, anyway, everybody has their firsts on the Moon. [chuckling] And that one hasn't been disputed by anybody.
The first feelings were, "Wow. What am I doing here? This is different world!" And there's a part of it of … "You dumb ass… You've really got yourself into something here!" — Edgar Mitchell
You are the person now, not just an average fighter pilot, who did this and that pretty well, but, "This guy waled on the Moon." And now I have to sort of uphold that image for the rest of my life, no matter what I do. — Buzz Aldrin
I guess I can sort of admit it now, I've admitted it a little bit to a few friends, I've always had a guilt complex, to some degree. That was my war [Vietnam], good or bad. Whether it was a good war or a bad war, we're not discussing it. But that was my war, to fight for my country, and my buddies were getting shot at and shot down and in some cases captured, and I was getting my picture on the front page of the paper. And I've always felt that they fought my war for me. They look at it totally different. They said, "You were doing something that this country needed more than anything else at the time. You were part of a program, the only thing we had to hold our head high and be proud of." — Eugene Cernan