The deal I made with Apollo 15 astronaut Colonel James Benson Irwin to get an interview with him
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS – November 3, 2017) – In my many years as a working journalist, I’ve had some strange incidents, but the one I had with Apollo 15 astronaut, Colonel James Benson Irwin, was probably the most unusual.
Irwin served as lunar module pilot for Apollo 15, from July 26 to August 7, 1971, was the 8th man to step on the moon’s surface and his flight was the first to drive the lunar rover.
He was in London, England, for some meetings, and the BBC had asked me to go the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, to try and interview him for The Gospel Road show on Radio 1, after a press conference he was giving there. It was a couple of years after his epic moon walk, so the BBC producer knew he would make a fascinating interview.
But, because of a traffic snarl, I arrived well after his press conference had ended. After I finally arrived and parked my car, I went into the lobby and approached him, my large BBC tape recorder in hand, but Irwin was not amused and told me sharply, “I’m sorry, but I’m not giving anymore interviews. If you can’t arrive on time, I can’t bother to talk with you.”
However, like any journalist worth his salt, I decided that was not the end of the story, so, after uttering a quick prayer for help from the Lord, I followed him across the lobby of the Hilton Hotel and watched him, confusion written all over his face, trying to work out how to make a call on a British pay phone.
After a few minutes, I approached him again and said, “Mr. Irwin, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll make the call for you, if, in return, you will give me an interview.”
A wry smile swept over his face and he handed me some British coins, gave me the number he was trying to connect with, and I did the rest.
I then retreated so he could talk in privacy to the person on the other end of the line and then, when he had finished, he came over to me and said, “I guess, young man, you’ve earned the interview.”
Irwin’s mood had changed and he laughed and added, “Can you believe it? I landed on the moon, but couldn’t work one of your pay phones!”
Irwin, a born-again Christian, then gave me a fascinating interview in which he said, “It is more significant that God walked on earth than that man walked on the moon…my own life is given purpose and perspective through God who walks on this earth in Jesus. In that sense we are a visited planet!”
He went on to say, “It was my experience in exploring the moon on the Apollo 15 mission that moved me to devote the rest of my life to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.”
He even showed me a piece of moon rock that he was carrying with him.
Irwin was then, the founding president of the High Flight Foundation, an inter-denominational evangelical organization based in Colorado Springs, and he said that, while on the moon, he had felt the power of God “as I’ve never felt it before.”
He went on to say, “While on the moon, at the end of the first day exploring the rugged lunar highlands, I was reminded of my favorite Biblical passage from Psalms. While speaking by radio to Mission Control in Houston, I began quoting the passage, ‘I’ll look into the hills from whence cometh my help,’ and then I added quickly, ‘but, of course, we get quite a bit of help from Houston, too.”
And, on this occasion, Irwin, who sadly died of a heart attack in Glenwood City, Colorado, on August 8, 1991, and was memorialized with burial in Arlington National Cemetery, “looked” to a British journalist to get some help in operating a British pay phone.
My advice to any budding Christian journalist is don’t give up when the person you want to talk with at first says “no” to your request. That really is a challenge by him or her to get you to come up with a good reason why they should give you the interview. Ask God to give you that good reason, and that usually works, as it did with James Irwin.
Photo captions: 1) Colonel James Irwin of Apollo 15. 2) Irwin on the moon. 3) Lobby of the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London. 4) A British payphone of that era. 5) Dan Wooding with his humanitarian at a film festival in Beverly Hills, California.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist, who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. Dan now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of numerous books. He has a radio show and two television programs, all based in Southern California. Dan’s life story is now being turned into a Hollywood movie, and he was recently honored at a film festival in Beverly Hills, California, with a top humanitarian award for his long-standing work on behalf of persecuted Christians. It was presented to him, in front of 500 Hollywood luminaries, by his son, Peter Wooding.
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