The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 has unleashed so many books and videos you could easily trip over them walking down the street.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Peter Deegan, has been a NASA nut since well before July 1969. Friends have asked him for recommendations of what you see and read … here’s his suggestions. They are mostly things that have been out for some time.
It’s been great to see a great many memoirs of people involved in NASA’s space program. The success of the Apollo 13 movie spurred more folks to record their memories from the time. Not just astronauts but also flight controllers, managers and engineers
The best of the astronaut autobiographies is Mike Collins’ Carrying the Fire which has just (finally!) been released as an ebook. Major-General Collins writes very well, apparently without a ghost writer.
James Hansen wrote the definitive biography of Neil Armstrong. First Man goes into considerable detail with the co-operation of the late Mr Armstrong. Ignore the film ‘First Man’ which presents Mr Armstrong as emotionless (watching video of him proves otherwise) and has inexplicable errors in the landing sequence.
Buzz Aldrin’s Return to Earth doesn’t go into as much detail about his missions as people now might like. Not just Apollo 11 but his efforts on Gemini 12 to prove working in space was possible.
Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race gives both sides of the story from Alexei Leonov (first man to walk in space) and Dave Scott (Apollo 15 commander).
Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module by Chief Engineer Tom Kelly about the building of the Lunar Module. It’s a readable story of the troubles and personalities involved in the making of the first manned craft designed only for travel in space. You get some idea of how they planned and managed such a complex task without modern communications (no email, online collaboration). They held meetings in aircraft hangers, the only place large enough to hold all the managers and engineers necessary. Paper memos ruled!
Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist, presenter and expert on the Moon. Her The Book of the Moon: A Guide to Our Closest Neighbor is a clear and interesting little book, it’s history, physics and place in human culture.
Apollo Flight Journals
If you really want to dig into the details…Apollo 11 Flight Journal covers the flight itself.
The extraordinary Lunar Surface Journals cover each of the Apollo lunar explorations in fine detail.
The journals combine the transcripts with post-flight debriefing, links to photos, videos and other information.
A huge ‘tip of the hat’ to Eric M Jones who started the Journals plus all the people who have contributed details to a wonderful resource.
If you want a photo for a PowerPoint presentation or Word document, head to the NASA Archive .
Every photo and video taken by the Apollo astronauts is up at NASA Archive There are usually two versions, small and large file size.
Here’s a set of thumbnails of the moonwalk photos with links.
Hear the raw audio to and from Apollo 11 from NASA.
Though it might be hard to understand with the spotty reception and technical jargon. Read along with the Apollo journals.
13 Minutes to the Moon
13 Minutes to the Moon is just one example of why the BBC is a great institution. Long before the 50th Anniversary, they commissioned an in-depth look at Apollo 11 using the 13 minute descent from orbit to landing as it’s basis.
Kevin Fong interviewed astronauts, controllers and other experts. The podcast is refreshingly accurate and well produced.
The Infinite Moonkey Cage
A delightful and thoughtful interview with an astronaut, flight controller and two of Buzz Aldrin’s children. It managed to avoid the usual tropes and be a genuinely interesting talk even for those of us well familiar with Apollo. More personal than technical. Just one example of why BBC Radio 4 is so loved and respected.
The best depiction of an Apollo mission is Apollo 13. Neil Armstrong said it was “an exceptionally good movie.”
From the Earth to the Moon
A follow-up to the Apollo 13 movie was the HBO series, From the Earth to the Moon. Very entertaining and well written story of NASA from before Mercury through to Apollo 17.
It’s interesting to see, then unknown, actors in early roles. Tony Goldwyn plays Neil Armstrong and Brian Cranston plays Buzz Aldrin among many others.
An unexpected highlight is Spider, episode 5, about the building of the Lunar Module. What might seem to be a boring story was made into something interesting, funny and quite touching.
The Original Wives Club is about the astronaut’s partners, home life and relationships.
You can skip ‘We interrupt this broadcast’ (episode 8) a lacklustre attempt to show Apollo 13 from a different perspective.
If you want to completely soak yourself in Apollo 11, get Moonscape.
Moonscape combines the video, film and stills from the landing, EVA (moonwalk) and take-off with few interruptions. It’s an enhanced version of what we saw on TV back in 1969. There are subtitles to help understand the somewhat garbled audio. Still photos are shown alongside the video when the image was taken (the photo reference numbers are shown, so you can lookup the original image on the NASA site).
Moonscape was made by volunteers and contributors, available free from Moonscape.info
Still from Moonscape. Both videos at the ‘First Step’. The film camera inside the LM (left) and the TV picture sent live to Earth. Ground Elapsed Time at top right.
The recent documentary Apollo 11 is also excellent with great quality video and stills of the entire mission.
Still from ‘Apollo 11’. View at Mission Control during the moonwalk.
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo looks at the work of the Flight Controllers. Interviews with legends of MCC like John Aaron, Steve Bales and Sy Leibergot.
The Sky at Night
The Sky at Night, the BBC’s long running astronomy program has a special episode on Apollo 11. The founder of The Sky at Night, Sir Patrick Moore was no TV talking head. Sir Patrick (much missed) was an acknowledged lunar expert who helped NASA narrow down their list of potential landing sites. Also check out Sir Patrick’s interview with Neil Armstrong.
The NASA app is always a great resource and it’s an easy way to watch NASA TV which has a lot of current and archival Apollo 11 coverage.
JFK Moonshot is fantastic fun. A virtual reality app that will drop a Saturn V rocket anywhere you like. See an Apollo rocket launch from your living room or backyard. A free app for iOS or Android.