Preview: Live from the Moon
by Jeff Foust
|It’s interesting that Apollo represented the farthest humans had ever traveled, yet was one of the first times that people could “participate”, in a sense, in such exploration in real time thanks to television.
The other challenge noted in Live from the Moon was a cultural one: the perception by some within NASA that live television was a distraction from the real goal of getting people to the Moon and back safely by the end of the 1960s. Over time, though, astronauts and others were won over by the visual impact and resulting public interest in the missions created by that video. The final straw, as one person recounts in the film, may have been Apollo 12, when Alan Bean burned out the color TV camera brought with them on the lunar lander when he accidently pointed it at the sun. With no live TV, media and public interest in the mission waned even though it was only the second time humans had landed on the Moon.
Live from the Moon tells the story of live television from the Moon through an extensive series of interviews with astronauts, technicians who developed the cameras, operators of the ground stations in California and Australia who received and distributed the Apollo TV images, and others. Apollo historian Andrew Chaikin describes being transfixed by the images as a child, even declining any opportunity to go to summer camp to ensure he would be home and watching TV when Apollo 11 landed in July 1969. It’s interesting that Apollo represented the farthest humans had ever traveled, yet was one of the first times that people could “participate”, in a sense, in such exploration in real time thanks to television. One wonders what impact a lack of such broadcasts would have had in public interest in Apollo: would the Apollo 11 landing have been as big a global event? As NASA makes plans to leverage new “Web 2.0” technologies to allow for greater participation in future missions, including a human return to the Moon, Live from the Moon provides us with a lesson of how cutting-edge technologies at the time helped raised the profile and impact of space exploration.