Above & Beyond: "Aw, Hell, Television Is Here"
- By Harold Baker
- Air & Space magazine, January 2001
U.S. Air Force
(Page 3 of 3)
Those forerunners to today’s vast Cape media complex were an instant attraction for military brass and civilian scientists who, to our amusement, beat paths through the dune grass to view a technology they coveted. For more than a year, they had sought lighted buttons for their multi-line telephones, but had been thwarted by a contract service that, among other excuses, had cited the questionable quality of local lines. Our trailers had them, though, and they worked on those lines. Within weeks, phone buttons were lighting up all around the Cape.
Herb Gold, our film director, began a lengthy relationship with NBC that in time would make him co-recipient of an Emmy. He had close ties to NASA’s manned spaceflight program and got to know most of the early astronauts. In turn, anyone who made significant contributions to any phase of the pool coverage would be recognized at the Cape by our red hard hats with WFGA and NBC lettering and an array of exotically named rockets and launch dates across the back.
That included astronauts. John Glenn acquired his hard hat in July of 1962 when, with Gold as operator and Glenn describing their surroundings, a camera was allowed into mission control for the first live beaming of a U.S. civilian signal to Europe via the Telstar I satellite.
We nurtured our relationships with astronauts. When Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth and went into isolation for medical attention and evaluation after splashdown off Grand Turk Island, NBC and our crew sent him bagels, cream cheese, and lox. Such interaction was crucial. NASA could be most secretive about reasons for launch delays and often would not alert the media. NBC would have beach parties the night before each scheduled launch of note. If the astronauts showed up, we would know the launch was off. No-shows by them and key NASA personnel would indicate all was on schedule.
Only once did that system fail. In May 1962, Scott Carpenter came, ate, drank—and orbited Earth aboard Aurora 7 the next day.