PBS Series 'Chasing the Moon' Takes a New Look at the Apollo-Era Space Race

"Chasing the Moon" will air on PBS July 8 to 10.
"Chasing the Moon" will air on PBS July 8 to 10. (Image credit: PBS)

A new PBS documentary series explores the space race, including the first human moon landing, using forgotten archival footage from five decades ago.

"Chasing the Moon" premieres July 8 to 10 (all nights at 9 p.m. EDT) on PBS, just days before July 20, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. The three-part series aims to turn on its head the conventional stories about the moon landing, focusing on aspects such as "scientific innovation and [public relations] savvy, political calculation and media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama," PBS said in a press release.

The series has three episodes. Part 1, "A Place Beyond the Sky," focuses on the space race the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in during the early years of the space program. Part 2, "Earth Rise," covers the human Gemini and Apollo missions that prepared for the moon landing. Finally, Part 3, "Magnificent Desolation," examines the moon landing itself and the cultural and scientific legacy of Apollo 11.

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

"As a 10-year-old kid in England in July 1969, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night to watch two Americans set foot upon another world, the moon quite literally staring at us through the window above our television set," filmmaker Robert Stone, who has garnered Oscar and Emmy Award nominations for past projects, said in a PBS statement.

"I'd recently seen [Stanley] Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey,' and the one-two punch of those two intensely visceral experiences ignited a fire in my mind that's stuck with me ever since," he continued. "It's when I first began to want to be a filmmaker. In many ways, 'Chasing the Moon' is the culmination of a lifetime of thoughts that have been churning through my mind about this extraordinary period in which I grew up, about the boundless ambition and promise of a brighter future that space travel inspired, the belief that anything is possible if we join together in a common goal, and the urgency it ignited to preserve and care for our home planet."

Space.com will be sharing clips from "Chasing the Moon" between now and the show's air date, so stay tuned.

A companion book, "Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise That Launched America Into the Space Age," was written by Stone and writer/researcher Alan Andres and released on Tuesday (June 4). It includes more information about the stories the documentary touches on. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace