Apollo 11: When Man Walked On the Moon
This week marks a historical moment in space travel—it’s the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.
Apollo 11 lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969 at 9:32 a.m. Four days later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would become the first humans to walk on the Moon.
The nuts and bolts of the Apollo missions starts with President John F. Kennedy’s speech in September 1962 where he characterized space as a new frontier. He called on America’s space program to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…— President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962
Nearly seven years later, President Kennedy’s dream was fulfilled but not without its tragedy first.
During a test in January 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died when their Apollo 1 space capsule caught fire. The astronauts were trapped inside and could not get out.
It was a serious set back for the program. Many lawmakers worried if the cost of the space program was worth it. Astronauts wanted more input into the spacecraft that would eventually carry them to the the Moon.
The space capsule was overhauled. The hard-work and dedication of those involved with the space program came through.
After a series of unmanned tests, including Apollo missions 4, 5, and 6, on October 11, 1968, NASA resumed manned space flight with Apollo 7.
Two months later, NASA would launch Apollo 8 and would be the first lunar orbit of the moon. Apollo missions 9 and 10 would be the test of the Lunar Lander with the latter being the dress rehearsal for the eventual lunar landing.
After Apollo 11, there would be six more missions to the moon but only five would make it. Apollo 13 suffered a catastrophic failure while flying to the Moon in April 1970 and was forced to return to Earth. Apollo 17 was the final moon mission and was the first to feature a civilian astronaut.
This week marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. And there’s no shortage of specials.
Here’s a look at a few of them that are airing—just check your on-demand service or your local listings from time and channel:
CNN Films: APOLLO 11
This is by far the best documentary about the moon landing. Told entirely through recorded transmissions, interviews and using newly uncovered and historical footage, it’s a perspective of the moon mission never seen before. The film itself is presented almost wholly without outside narration—the story is told by those who where there. Apollo 11 immerses you into the story of the first moon landing from the moment the spaceship is rolled out of the assembly plant at Kennedy Space Center.
PBS’s American Experience: CHASING THE MOON
This multi-part series from PBS’s American Experience focuses on the early space missions from Gemini to the Apollo missions. This series includes new interviews with those involved, historical interviews and audio recordings from the time-period.
Smithsonian Channel’s: APOLLO’S MOON SHOT
This is yet another stellar documentary series that uses historical interviews and new interviews from space historians, journalists who covered the moon landing, and Smithsonian’s own historians from the Air and Space Museum. This multi-part series is available on-demand right now through the Smithsonian Channel. Episodes are also airing through the week.
There’s also a special airing on the Smithsonian Channel on Saturday, July 20 at 9 p.m. called THE DAY WE WALKED ON THE MOON. This is a minute-by-minute accounting of what happened when American astronauts walked on the moon.
Visit NASA.GOV for images, video and audio of America’s Space Program, including the Apollo missions.
If you’re wanting to see a dramatization of the Apollo program, check out the HBO mini-series FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON.
And if you’re interested in reading about it, check out the new book titled AMERICAN MOONSHOOT: JOHN F. KENNEDY AND THE GREAT SPACE RACE by Douglas Brinkley.