Review for the Found-Footage Documentary Film "1969: Moon Shot"
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American Moon Landing
The ABC series "1969" began on April 23, 2019 with the episode "Moon Shot", reminding the world of the magical U.S. feat of landing on the moon under the terms of President John F. Kennedy's insistence in 1962 to be there before the end of the decade.
The first episode was well received and featured former astronaut Michael Collins along with present astronauts like Stephanie Wilson (STS-120, STS-121, and STS-131) and Robert Behnken (STS-123, STS-130 Endeavour) to comment on aerospace history and retired pros from the 1960s like flight administrator Gerry Griffin and astronaut/command module communicator Charlie Duke.
Surprisingly, Buzz Aldrin did not appear in the episode except in archived footage of the Apollo 11 mission. He was busy with his plans for a gala black-tie dinner and celebration with special guest speakers at Kennedy Space Center in July 2019.
The Moon's a little cracked and I'm a little wrinkled. Some wear and tear here and there doesn't mean we're broken!— Buzz Aldrin; Twitter, April 24, 2019
Michael Collins Speaks
Former astronaut Collins held a variety of important positions after returning to Earth, but claimed that he did not want to go back to space, according to some accounts - he reportedly spoke about wanting to spend a lot of time growing a garden.
Collins spoke extensively in the documentary about the magic of the moon mission to bring people together all over the world. He felt that, like the Olympic Games, the Moon Shot made people forget about growing stresses and fears surrounding race riots, the rise of feminism, and the Viet Nam Conflict for a while.
This all caused me to remember a 1969 race riot in Columbus, Ohio that resulted in an official city curfew one night that trapped many people at friends' homes.
Former astronaut Charlie Duke agreed with Collins's statements, recalling that many of his friends were prisoners of war in Viet Nam when he was a communications officer talking to Neil Armstrong on the moon. During July 2019, Charlie will be one of the guest speakers at the 50th Anniversary celebration of Apollo 11.
Charlie and many others who appeared in the documentary spoke of the stresses and worries of the Mission Control men during their days and nights at their consoles in July 2019. Film footage included scenes of the men brushing away tears as the astronaut crew made it safely back to Earth. When President Richard Nixon met them outside their quarantine center windows, he was fairly jumping up and down with excitement.
Reverend Ralph Abernathy Objects
Reverend Abernathy's contribution for and against the moon mission was a welcomed presentation, because many of us in the North did not see the film footage of his peaceful protests in 1969. The film was simply not shown up here in Ohio.
Reverend Abernathy's daughter spoke on film about how her father was aggrieved that $33 Billion went to the moon landing when people on Earth were starving.
NASA representative Thomas Payne went to meet Abernathy and over 300 peaceful protestors to explain that the billions spent in July 1969 was a drop in the bucket compared to what would be needed to cure hunger in the War on Poverty. He took a group of ten protestor families up to the observation area at Cape Kennedy to watch the launch. The reverend said he was awed and that Cape Kennedy was hallowed ground.
Hunger has remained a problem 50 years later.
$33,000,000,000 in 1969 = $229,000,000,000 in 2019.
Women Put Us on the Moon
Two women portrayed in the film "Hidden Figures" appeared in the documentary: Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden. Katherine's daughter also appeared, speaking admirably about her mother and the other women at NASA, but also all of the people working behind the scenes and on camera for Apollo 11 and the U.S. Space Program.
Margaret Hamilton also appeared. She was a pioneering female software engineer whose coding made the moon landing possible. She beamed as she said that her codes were the first software to run on the Moon.
Last Minute Course Correction
Despite all the preparations and mathematical figuring that happened on the ground, Neil Armstrong had to make a last-minute route change as the Eagle LEM approached the lunar surface. He had just 60 seconds to decide whether he could change course to prevent crashing on rocky terrain or to miss the landing and return to the Columbia Command Module.
The documentary includes film footage of the craters and rocks with moon-dust blowing under the engines of the Eagle, along with a few phrases spoken by Armstrong and Aldrin - mostly Oh God! Wow! My gosh!
Michael Collins in the documentary said that when the Eagle landed, most people around the world forgot all about national boundaries and race. Half a billion people watched television to see Neil and Buzz step onto the lunar surface, and Michael recalled rainbows all around the Columbia as it landed back home in the Pacific Ocean.
Such sentiments and camaraderie around the world would be a nice feature of life today, if we could achieve it.
Our Lunar Future
Many people alive in 1969 are no longer living, but I hope the memories of the Apollo 11 crew can be maintained through the coming centuries. This documentary is a good step toward that preservation.
In the National Air and Space Museum on the Smithsonian mallway in Washington D.C. I have seen many films containing footage of the U.S. Space Program through Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. I am anxious to see if "1969: Moon Shot" will be added to the mix.
The documentary could be improved with an interview from Buzz Aldrin and some future film footage of the 50th Anniversary Gala, but I am glad to have seen it as it is.
Footage of new lunar landings are sure to follow.
- '1969': The summer of the moon landing, Chappaquiddick, Charles Manson, Woodstock, Nixon, gay rights, Black Power movement. ABC News; April 23, 2019.
- July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind | NASA
- Holt, N. Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars. Back Bay Books; 2017.
- Kamp, D. The Found Footage That Provides a Whole New Look at the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Vanity Fair; December 2018.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Patty Inglish MS