Apollo 11: A Night to Remember (review)

You couldn’t channel surf this past weekend without stumbling across a moon-landing retrospective, which was fine with me: I wasn’t there in July 1969 (I would make my debut on planet Earth a month later), so I was delighted at the look back. What we didn’t get in the States, however, at least not that I saw, was how the event played out around the world. The newly released Apollo 11: A Night to Remember gives us the British-eye view on the momentous lunar mission, combining rare archival news footage from the BBC with 40-year-old tutorials from BBC science reporter James Burke on everything from the astronauts’ training — he got to ride the vomit comet! — to how they might escape if their Saturn rocket blew up on the launch pad. (My favorite: Burke demonstrates the many layers of the cumbersome Apollo spacesuits; it ends on quite a funny note.) From the launch-morning breakfast of steak and eggs to the splashdown in the Pacific, this is a gee-whiz reminder of what an exciting time it was — the Cape Kennedy blastoff gives me chills even now, as does that first step onto the lunar surface, even in grainy, low-res black-and-white — and a bittersweet kick in the ass, if an inadvertent one, for us to go back. It’s all hosted by British institution Sir Patrick Moore, whose The Sky at Night has been running on the BBC without interruption since 1957. This is, in fact, a special episode of that program — er, programme.

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