Bill Anders

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Chasing the Moon

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of
the moon landing

By Jody Shiroma , PBS Hawaiʻi

 

Apollo 11 Saturn V launch vehicle lifts off from Kennedy Space Center.July 20, 1969 was a momentous day, a day whose events some would refer to later as the “greatest experience of their lifetime.” Parents around the world invited their children to join them around the television, “Come and watch this,” they said.

 

Families gathered around their television sets in awe, listening intently as messages came crackling over the airwaves. From Apollo 11, two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, accomplished what no other humans had done – they stepped foot on the moon. Armstrong’s words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” echoed around the world.

 

(Image at right) Apollo 11 Saturn V launch vehicle lifts off from Kennedy Space Center.

 

As Americans and the world shared their experiences, for those living in Hawai‘i the event continued as astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins made their first landfall on O‘ahu after their capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Their quarantine unit arrived at Pearl Harbor aboard the recovery vessel, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, on their way back to Houston.

 

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and PBS Hawai‘i are premiering Chasing the Moon, a three-part, six-hour documentary series that brings the awe, excitement and unforgettable experience to life for both those who lived through it and for the generations who have come after.

 

Apollo 11 astronauts (from left): Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. share a laughFrom the space race’s earliest beginnings to the monumental achievement of the first lunar landing in 1969 and beyond, this series recasts this period as a fascinating time of scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama. Utilizing previously overlooked and lost archival material – much of which has never before been seen by the public – the film features a diverse cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events.

 

Among those are astronauts Aldrin, Frank Borman and Bill Anders; Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet premier and a leading Soviet rocket engineer; Poppy Northcutt, a 25-year old “mathematics whiz” who gained worldwide attention as the first woman to serve in the all-male bastion of NASA’s Mission Control; and Ed Dwight, the Air Force pilot selected by the Kennedy administration to train as America’s first black astronaut.

 

(Left) The Apollo 11 crewmen, still under a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives. (Center) Poppy Northcutt became the first woman in an operational support role to work in NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston with the flight of Apollo 8. (Right) Ed Dwight, the first African American to be trained as an astronaut

 

“When we think of that breathtaking moment of the 1969 moon landing, we forget what a turbulent time that was,” said Mark Samels, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer. “The country was dealing with huge problems – Vietnam, poverty, race riots – and there was a lot of skepticism about the space program. Chasing the Moon explores the unbelievably complex challenges that NASA was able to overcome. It was a century-defining achievement, and our film tells a familiar story in an entirely new way.”

 

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

CHASING THE MOON

Monday – Wednesday at 9:00 pm
July 8 – 10
on PBS Hawaiʻi

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AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Chasing the Moon - cover story