Kavya NarayananJul 20, 2019 11:22:20 IST
Eight days, three hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds. That’s the amount of time over which the most celebrated space mission ever – Apollo 11 – unfolded. Humans stepped on the Moon for the first time during this mission. Photographs and audio from the mission changed our understanding of our place in the universe. Yet, for a moment so positively grand in human history, only part of the Apollo 11 mission’s memorabilia are preserved in a public forum, for the general public to take in.
Over the past fifty years, there have been many documentaries and series showing, in parts, the events over the course of the eight-day Apollo 11 mission. Every few years, those iconic stills and precious footage shot during the Apollo 11 mission are rehashed. For the first time, I feel like I’ve discovered a more complete version of events with the one-episode wonder 8 Days: To the Moon and Back.
Classified exchanges between the three Apollo 11 crewmembers and the control room at NASA are freely available for anyone who wants to read transcripts. But to actually hear and see their voices come alive during those critical moments? That’s easily the best element in the show. We watch the mission itself come alive through the voice of the astronauts, their fears and excitement as the mission progresses.
There are many instances where the dramatic retelling with the show’s three actors – Patrick Kennedy (Michael Collins), Rufus Wright (Neil Armstrong) and Jack Tarlton (Buzz Aldrin) – are recreated just enough. Like that flash of a smile from Collins after having single-handedly docked part of the spacecraft to the mission’s main module – a super-tricky, critical manoeuvre. The first proper smile lights up Armstrong’s face when he and Aldrin realize what they’ve just pulled off – a lunar landing! None of the uncalled-for drama, just a beautiful 87-minute sojourn, from training and interviews of the astronauts before launch to their splashdown in the Pacific.
We get to witness the circumstances under which some of the most iconic visuals from the Apollo 11 mission came to be. The show highlights many hold-thy-breath moments the astronauts were faced with when their lives depended on their skill and some quick decision-making. We see incredible real footage from the spacecraft, the Moon and newsrooms here on Earth. We also see Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins being human, joking around, freaking out, cheering every big milestone along the way.
Real scenes from the launch interwoven with trivia about the Saturn V, enhances the mission’s more nerve-wracking moments and the astronauts themselves. The show celebrates Apollo 11 as an accomplishment of humans – not just NASA, not just Aldrin’s/Collins’/Armstrong’s. The most memorable words from the mission may have been “that’s one small step for man, one giant step for mankind”, but 8 Days also picks up on the many, many other quote-worthy things the astronauts say along the way.
In a sense, I saw the story of Apollo 11 through the eyes of a generation that came fifty years before. I was transported to a time I know little about – have nothing in common with. I was right there in the crowds, eagerly waiting to hear that everything’s going to plan. By the end, it dawns on me that my generation, too, will live an “Apollo 11” moment – an equally special one. We could be the first generation to land on Mars – this time with all the technology we need to document and interact with that exploration.
You can tune in to see the premiere of 8 Days: To Moon and Back on 20 July at 8 pm on Sony BBC Earth.
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