In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of man’s landing on the Moon, Acorn Media has released Apollo 11 – A Night to Remember, a 2006 BBC4 two-hour documentary created from archival footage. Hosted by astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, the special presents the Apollo 11 mission, which took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon and back.
After President Kennedy’s speech in 1961 to a joint session of Congress where he stated “that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” his idea was realized in July 1969. Much of the footage will look very familiar to those who witnessed the event or space enthusiasts who have seen it since, but this special allows viewers to see it as the British audience did, with commentary from the BBC news desk and filmed reports by James Burke, who was granted access to the equipment used by NASA and was given a plane ride that simulated zero-G. It’s interesting to see the Moon landing presented from another country’s perspective, because while it was an American endeavor, Armstrong made his famous leap for all mankind.
What’s most impressive is that this footage wasn’t shot dramatically and the events and some key phrases are all well known, but they remain fascinating to relive or to witness for the first time. The tension builds as the countdown starts at about six minutes, turning into excitement once the countdown hits ten. People can be heard cheering as the rocket takes off to its celestial destination in a blaze of glory.
The Eagle lunar module, carrying Armstrong and Aldrin, landed in the Sea of Tranquility. A camera underneath the module captures their approach. Soil samples are collected and the United States flag is planted. The latter causes Moore to comment that there is no fluttering, an allusion to the Moon landing deniers who claim a wind, which wouldn’t exist there, moves the flag. President Nixon congratulates the men and in the closing credits we see that they returned and were placed in quarantine.