Title frame from Spacecraft Films' "Live from the Moon: The Story of Apollo Television."
Credit: collectSPACE/Spacecraft Films
In the new documentary, "Live from the Moon: The Story of Apollo Television", astronaut and capsule communicator (CAPCOM) Joe Allen ponders out loud what Galileo, Kepler and Newton might have made of the news that humans had traveled into space.
"They would think it might be possible," expounds Allen. "If we would then tell them that we humans had captured images, where the motion was captured as well, they would think that's a miracle."
It is the story of that "miracle" that director Mark Gray set out to tell in "Live from the Moon."
"No one has really told the story of the television - how it was accomplished, what it showed and represented - the unique nature of a world traveling along on a great voyage of exploration," explained Gray in an e-mail interview with collectSPACE.com. "I felt as though we were in a unique position to tell that story."
Gray, through his company Spacecraft Films, was the first to compile the complete record of Apollo television transmissions and offer them on DVD. For seven years, his focus was locating, remastering and restoring NASA footage from both the agency's vaults and the National Archives. Spacecraft FIlms' DVDs have become the go to source for early space program video, used by NASA and many of the recent years' space documentaries.
Several of the DVDs included documentaries produced by Gray, but "Live From the Moon" was the most extensive.
"The most challenging aspect has actually been focus," shared Gray. "The story of Apollo television leads to so many stories it is painful to cut. There are some really good aspects of the story that just couldn't make the cut, but will surface in some other way, either online or later through a DVD release."
What made it in to "Live from the Moon" tells how for the first time in history millions of people could share, in real time, the experience of frontier exploration.
"Placing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth was hard enough in 1969," explains Gray. "'Live From The Moon' tells the story of how television, still a technological toddler, was developed for space flight, and examines the impact of the iconic passages that were returned."
Included are never before seen images from the first test of the lunar surface television cameras, as well as rarely seen footage from the tracking stations that received the signal from the Moon.
"'Live From The Moon' also tells the story of television many didn't see, from the later Apollo lunar missions, and how quickly the American people turned away from the telecasts of one of the country's greatest triumphs," Gray continued.
To tell that story, Gray literally circled the Earth, shooting interviews at the deep space communication stations in California and Australia, as well as at space facilities and museums in Houston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Princeton, Kennedy Space Center, Huntsville, Ala., Washington, DC and Weatherford, Oklahoma.
Along the way, he interviewed astronauts, flight directors, mission controllers, tracking station operators, historians and those who built the television cameras for the space program. In addition to Dr. Allen, "Live from the Moon" is told with the insight of moonwalker Alan Bean; Apollo 10 commander Tom Stafford; flight director Chris Kraft; Neil Mason, who drove the Parkes Telescope; Westinghouse camera team leader Stan Lebar; and the voice of mission control Jack King, among others.
"Every single one of them believed that the TV was one of the most important legacies of Apollo. And many of them admitted candidly that they didn't give the TV much thought during the actual missions," recalled Gray.
That the television was an afterthought would have been of no surprise to those who followed Galileo and Newton, who dreamt of Moon missions before they were possible.
"Someone made the point... that even though many science fiction stories foretold man's first journey's to the Moon, none included the Earth watching on television. Of all the times to be alive, I think of witnessing the Apollo television transmissions live as quite an honor. It was a magic time, and the story of how it was accomplished is worthy of being told," said Gray.
"Live from the Moon" will premiere at Spacefest in San Diego on Saturday, Feb. 21. Spacecraft Films is currently developing distribution agreements in both the US and worldwide for a wide-release timed with the 40th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing this July.
Click to view an exclusive HD trailer for "Live from the Moon" at collectSPACE.com.
- Video - Direct From the Moon
- Video - Apollo 11: The First Moon Men
- Leaving Home: The Legacy of Apollo 8
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