CNN Documentary 'Apollo 11' Premieres on TV Tonight

Tonight, June 23 at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. EDT, the smash hit film "Apollo 11" will premiere on television on CNN with limited commercial interruption. If, by chance, you miss the premiere or just want to watch it again, CNN will be bringing "Apollo 11" back for an encore on June 29 at 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. EDT.

The film, directed and edited by filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller, is the result of over two years of hard work and collaboration between CNN Films and Miller’s team. In a painstaking and monumental task, they made the film entirely from archival footage. In fact, a lot of the film was developed from newly-discovered 70mm footage and 11,000 hours of audio recordings that, until now, haven’t been seen by the public. On March 1, 2019, the film premiered in cinemas and IMAX theaters. Now, not only will the film premiere on television, it will be playing in museums and science centers around the world, and it has even been uplinked to the International Space Station for the crew to enjoy. The film will also be distributed on Blu-ray, DVD and video on demand by Universal Pictures. 

In anticipation of CNN’s television premiere, Miller and a member of his team joined the public at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, where the feature-length version of the film (compared to the shorter, giant-screen version designed for museums and science centers) was screened on the Intrepid’s flight deck as part of the museum’s summer movie night series. 

Related: Apollo 11 at 50: A Complete Guide to the Historic Moon Landing Mission

The inspiration for this film came after Miller worked with CNN to create "The Last Steps," a short film about Apollo 17 that was also created entirely with archival footage. "We all just wanted to make something that was true to the material and also be entertaining," Miller told at the screening aboard the Intrepid. "But," he continued, "it was more like a film for us, you know, we’re all fans, and we just wanted it to feel like you were there for the ride."

Miller and the entire team behind "Apollo 11" had the monumental task of gathering and then going through enormous amounts of video, photo, and audio data from the mission — feat that required members of the team to develop a new type of film scanner and new audio software to handle the data, Miller said, adding that "Apollo 11" is certainly a technical achievement.

When asked what moment sticks out to him the most in that enormous sea of footage, Miller said,"By far, my favorite shots are the suiting up shots the day of the launch. That was one of the first images that we saw off the film scanner and it always gets me… Just to look at Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins being in that room getting suited up to go take on this mission to do what was impossible to even think of, even a few years before they were putting on their spacesuits. And, to do it in the name of all of us, humanity. It just always gets me. It just makes the hair on my head stand every single time I see that shot." 

The team also worked closely with NASA’s chief historian William Barry and astronauts Aldrin, Collins and his children and Armstrong’s children. "I thought it was very important that the families of the astronauts see the footage first," Miller shared. 

The film’s premiere on CNN will continue to share the Apollo 11 mission with the world. When asked what he hopes people will take away from the film, Miller replied simply, "hope." 

"The lesson of Apollo 11, and the entire Apollo program, teaches us is how big in scope it was. How hundreds of thousands of people spread across the world all came together to work on something that was monumentous for humankind. And if we can do it once, we can certainly do it again."

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.