If you watch only one documentary during this month’s 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, let it be In the Shadow of the Moon. British director David (“The Churchills”) Sington seamlessly tells the story of the U.S. space program —and much more—almost solely through interviews with some of the 24 astronauts who went to the moon. Among them: Michael Collins, “Buzz” Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Gene Cernan, John Young, Alan Bean, Edgar Mitchell and Jim Lovell.
In the Shadow of the Moon was released in 2007. Sington knew he was in a race with time to get the memories of these aging American heroes on film.
Here’s how Collins describes President John Kennedy’s audacious challenge that launched the Apollo program: “It was elegant in its simplicity. Do what? Moon. When? End of decade.”
Cernan confesses guilt over being an astronaut instead of flying fighter jets in Vietnam. “Good or bad, that was my war.”
Bean, Mitchell and Duke talk about the lifelong spiritual changes brought about by the journey to the moon. Bean and Young poignantly remember the loss of three colleagues in a tragic fire on the launch pad during a test countdown.
Aldrin explains the burden of worldwide fame after walking on the moon.
Lovell recalls how photographs of the Earth from the moon helped jump-start the environmental movement in the late 60s and early 70s.
These guys all clearly had, in the late Tom Wolfe’s famous words, “the right stuff.”
It seems so long ago now. It’s hard to believe we pulled it off—and what a singular moment it was when we did. As President Nixon (or one of his speechwriters) noted during a telephone call to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon: “For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one: one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”
In our jaded, polarized and easily distracted world of today it seems incredible that we summoned the will to do such a monumental thing and stuck to it.
A unique time indeed. Watch In the Shadow of the Moon to relive it —and marvel at the men and machines and a time when, in astronaut Jim Lovell’s words, “we made bold moves.”
And come to FreedomFest July 17-20 to hear Charles Murray and Catherine Cox speak about their book Apollo: Race to the Moon on Saturday July 20, the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon.
Marc Beauchamp is the programmer for the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival at FreedomFest, where Charles Murray and Catherine Cox will speak about their book Apollo: Race to the Moon on Saturday July 20, the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. For tickets go to www.freedomfest.com/register-now/ or for the FilmLovers Pass go to www.anthemfilmfest/tickets/