Remembering the First Sex in Space: The CBS Feed
The mating of an un-named Space Shuttle and a Boeing 747
back in the anything-goes '70s. Charges were eventually
dropped, but the embarrassment forced the shuttle into retirement.
With all the recent sad news of our space program, such as American astronauts having to hitch rides into and back from space with the Russians while waiting for Apple to come up with a space travel app, the absence or presence of life on Mars depending on which conspiracy theory you cling to, the International Space Station being abandoned and allowed to crash into Australia due to its broken pay toilet and the debate about returning to the moon or if we ever got there at all, it got us thinking nostalgically of the early days of space exploration. In those more innocent days, every mission was an historic first, every maneuver and event a contest for domination of "The Final Frontier" with the Soviet Union.
Remembering Scott Carpenter's sub-orbital flight or John Glenn's first orbital flight, the heroic Apollo 13 mission starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon from a book by Jim Lovell (whoever he is) and directed by Opie from the Andy Griffith Show, the moon landing of Neal Armstrong, well, it gives us a lump in our throats and a swelling of pride in every American breast.
Unfortunately, no one outside of a select few remember the most amazing mission of the era due to the fact that none of the networks broadcast it with local affiliate stations refusing to mention it. Yet, it was truly a first. A huge step in the conquest of space.
It was the occasion of the first sex in Space. While this momentous event occurred during the administration of Ronald Reagan, the mission had been in the planning stages since the heady days of JFK who is reported to have taken great personal interest in the procedure and even offered to participate in the mission if need be.
Happily, we have been able to obtain a full, unadulterated transcript of the CBS News feed of the event, which in the interest of journalistic freedom and full disclosure we present here in its entirety.
This feed was produced in October, 1981, during the Spacelab era, with Dan Rather at the anchor desk and CBS science correspondent Frank Reynolds at Mission Control in the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We join the broadcast well into the countdown and just several minutes from, uuh, well, blast off:
"Good morning, Dan Rather in New York. This is Frank Reynolds in Houston. As you can see, all is in readiness here in Mission Control. Ralph Findley, systems manager on the Interpersonal Space Docking Program is about to re-start the countdown after a scheduled hold of three minutes. Standing by with you in our New York studios are our panel of experts, Masters and Johnson, Hugh Hefner and Heidy Fleisch.
"Dan, I just received word from Mission Control that all is in readiness. We're cutting to live feed provided by NASA. The male volunteer, Captain Don Dingle of the U. S. Navy has been training hard for this mission, spending countless hours in a simulator in Houston after months of hands-on work at the Mustang Ranch in the Nevada Desert, just miles from where the Apollo astronauts practiced for the moon landing.
"And speaking of the moon, the female volunteer in this experiment, civilian astronaut Trixie LaRue, also went through a difficult training procedure at the training center at Cape Canaveral.
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"Thanks, Dan Rather. Frank Reynolds here again at Mission Control in Houston. As you can see, Captain Dingle is positioning himself at about ten meters, trying to line himself up using just manual thrusters.
"Okay. It appears they're in position. We have a green light, and Captain Dingle propels himself forward at approximately 2.5 meters per minute, meaning we should have docking in approximately four minutes, Greenwich Mean Time. Ms. LaRue is guiding him in using a system of signals involving her tongue on those luscious red lips. He's moving in, still about 2.5 meters per minute.
Okay, here comes the first critical go, no-go decision point. Mr. LaRue must determine if the docking bay is ready. She's checking. . . checking.
Dan, she's still checking. . .
. . .it's looking as though there may be a problem. . . no.
She now signals the crew monitoring that the docking bay is in readiness.
"Captain Dingle is manually extending his docking probe. Yes, it's working. You'll notice that Captain Dingle has a well-practiced manual probe extension technique, and is now fully deployed for the first interpersonal docking attempt in outer space.
"Frank, this is Dan Rather. I should point out it's the first that we know of."
"True, Dan. The Russians claim that two of their Soyuz cosmonauts performed a similar maneuver several years ago, beating our space program as they did with Yuri Gagarin and Sputnik. A careful review of Russian launch records reveals the Soyuz flight in question was made by two male cosmonauts."
"In any case, Dan, this is the first American interpersonal docking procedure, likely the first of all time as the Russians failed to tell the world about their docking several years ago until we announced ours. Besides, both Cosmonauts were married and the Russians may have been afraid of the fall out"
I understand that NASA estimated that had this event been broadcast, approximately 172% of adult men in North America would be glued to their sets, watching.
"Frank, this is Dan Rather again in New York. I'm under the impression that 100% of anything is all there is unless you're a professional athlete or it's an election in Chicago? Isn't this true?
"No, Dan. In this case 172% is accurate as NASA predicted that every television in the U.S. would be on, tuned to CBS, especially in the Bible Belt, meaning that most of Middle America would be watching every set they own, as many as three and four per home.
"Thanks for the explanation, Frank. It's unfortunate that our affiliates have declined to carry this mission. Is it because of a loss of interest in the space program? Or, is it due to political pressure from. . .
"Let me break in here, Dan. Well, it appears that Captain Dingle is now at about 2 meters, and all appears A-OK. It's quiet here in Mission Control, as quiet as I've ever heard it. The only sound I hear is of breathing. Very heavy breathing, with a little panting from the technicians on the bioengineering monitors.
Suddenly, there's an explosive shower of sparks and a loud bang, causing an alarm to shriek. The view on the screen shifts to the Mission Control Center in Houston, where a cloud of smoke rises from an instrument panel directly in front of the big screen television that dominates the front wall. Other technicians rush to the panel, some carrying fire extinguishers.
"Dan, there appears to have been an explosion in Mission Control, causing a hold in the countdown until insertion. Wait. . . wait a moment, Dan. Now I'm being told that a technician spontaneously combusted in Mission Control, blowing out several service panels with drool.
On the screen we see two white-coated technicians hustling a third technician up the aisle and out of the room. His hair is standing on end, his clothes are in complete disarray with a look on his face like his frontal lobe shorted out.
"As you can see, this technician is being taken to sick bay where an especially trained team of electro-shock therapists from the CIA are standing by."
"Dan, this is Frank Reynolds. I'm told the situation is under control, and the interpersonal docking maneuver experiment is continuing so as not to miss this window of opportunity. I see now that Captain Dingle is un-phased by this unfortunate interruption, and is moving closer. . . closer. . . closer, adjusting his flight path as he moves in. Dan, it's an exciting moment for all of us on Earth.
After years of preparation and anticipation. . . wait a minute, Dan. I sense trouble.
Captain Dingle is drifting slightly, yes, he's drifting slightly, well, south. And Ms. LaRue just mouthed the words, 'not in your dreams,' yes, those are her exact words. 'Not in your dreams.'" Captain Dingle looks disappointed, but he's dutifully correcting his drift. He's back on target, a rather sheepish grin on his face. That was close, Dan. People here at Mission Control really broke out into a sweat at that one."
"Frank, this is Dan Rather in New York. Perhaps we can get comments from our panel of experts while we have a break in the action."
The camera cuts to the CBS studio. The intense faces of Masters and Johnson watching the monitors on the desk in front of them closely, while Hugh Hefner seems preoccupied, and Heidi Fleisch is nowhere to be seen.
"Doctor Masters, what do you make of this most recent deviation from NASA's flight plan?"
"Well, Dan," says Masters. "It appears that Captain Dingle may have lost his sense of direction, and that Ms. LaRue was trying to get him back in the proper attitude.
"I disagree," says Johnson. "I think Captain Dingle has decided on his own to deviate from the planned flight path, and Ms. LaRue had every right to insist on completing the docking maneuver as planned.
"Mr. Hefner, any comments, sir?"
The camera cuts to Hefner, who, as usual, is wearing silk pajamas and robe, with a pipe in his mouth through which he blows bubbles while making inarticulate sounds, eyes bulging, rolling and vacant.
"Thank you, Mr. Hefner. Unfortunately, Ms. Fleisch is nowhere to be seen, so back to you, Frank."
"Thanks, Dan. It seems we may be having another problem.
"Frank, were the people at Mission Control prepared for this many contingencies?
"Yes, Dan. I believe they were. They rehearsed every possible scenario repeatedly in the pool they use to simulate weightlessness at a Motel Six just outside town. Okay, it appears that for a moment Captain Dingle lost extension, but, it's okay, he's fine now."
"Well, Dan, as you can see, Captain Dingle and Ms. LaRue are now within millimeters of docking. The tension here at Mission Control is so thick you could cut it with a knife. You'll notice the cameraman is moving to get into exactly the right position to document docking, if you'll excuse the alliteration.
Okay, the cameraman is signaling his readiness. He's an old pro at this sort of thing, having worked for years with John Holmes and Linda Lovelace. Okay, we're just about there. Captain Dingle is moving closer, he's closer. . . closer. Ladies and gentlemen, we have contact, and. . . docking is successful."
A great cheer erupts in Mission Control, and the split screen shows everyone lighting up a post-docking cigar or cigarette while the other half of the screen shows Ms. LaRue looking a bit bored and Captain Dingle hanging on to Ms. LaRue as his jet thruster fired. After a moment Captain Dingle relaxes, mops his forehead with a white towel Velcroed to the wall of the space station before politely offering it to Ms. LaRue. Captain Dingle shows a wan smile as he turns toward the camera.
Frank Reynolds announces, "Wait, wait a minute, it appears Captain Dingle has a prepared statement for this momentous event.
Yes, yes, he has. . . ladies and gentlemen, the next voice you hear will be that of Captain Dingle."
"Mission Control, this is Tranquility Base.
Docking is successful," Captain Dingle reports, his voice cracking slightly. "To paraphrase the great Neil Armstrong, that's one small hump for man, one great big hump for mankind."
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