Preview Screening: Chasing the Moon
Catch a sneak peek of Chasing the Moon, which will premiere on PBS’ American Experience on July 8. “Chasing the Moon,” a film by Robert Stone, re-imagines the race to the moon for a new generation, upending much of the conventional mythology surrounding the effort. The Library will screen the 38 min. 13 sec. clip “The Giant Leap.” Following the clip, there will be an informal discussion and the opportunity to share moon landing reminiscences.
In mid-July 1969, crowds flooded Cocoa Beach in anticipation of the historic launch. Camped out along the beach and gathered in cars, spectators endured the blistering heat in anticipation of the impending launch. At the same time, civil rights leader Robert Abernathy led a peaceful protest, criticizing the priorities of the federal government. Then head of NASA Thomas Pain received them warmly, noting, “We would like to see you hitch your wagons to our rockets” in making their concerns heard by a national audience. Pain invited Abernathy to the launch site, and the protesters joined the thousands of Americans gathered to see the Saturn V launch Apollo 11 into the atmosphere.
On July 20, 1969, the biggest television audience in world history tuned in to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon’s surface. The relationship between the press, Hollywood, and NASA reached its zenith as broadcasters produced the first truly global live television experience of the landing. CBS News Director Joel Banow recounts how CBS News even hired a Hollywood special effects wiz to create simulations of the journey so that they would have something to televise until Armstrong and Aldrin were actually on the moon.
Though these first stages of the landing couldn’t be seen live on earth, the Apollo 11 crew proceeded with the difficult undocking and landing maneuvers that should place them safely on the lunar surface. Audiences watched simulations and listened to audio coverage with baited breath as Armstrong delicately maneuvered the lunar module only to discover the landing site was in fact a football-field sized crater, forcing Armstrong to hover the craft and look for a new site with a mere thirty seconds of fuel. At last, audiences heard the triumphant words, “the Eagle has landed.” Mission control responded, “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue – we’re breathing again.”