"From the Earth to the Moon" series


Active Member
We saw this a few years ago, on free-to-air TV during a non-ratings period. husband & I had missed the first half of the series but were hooked on the rest of it. The production values, the technical detail, the whole package...

Then we investigated, and found that we couldn't get the series in Australia. We could order it in, but it was made for the US region, Australian DVD players are designed for a different region and so we were locked out.

But now we can get multi-region DVD players. I gather it's designed this way so they can continue to charge unbelievably high prices in Australia for DVDs. If we could easily order our DVDs from overseas at a fraction of the retail store price, the local DVD manufacturers would lose their huge profit margin, and that would NEVER do. But of course, it's beginning to happen anyway. Plus, we have DVDs available here which are not available from overseas - good Aussie stuff, such as some of our home-grown comedy series.

Back to "From the Earth to the Moon" - we had acquired a multi-region DVD player so I asked easy child (who seems to have connections with regards to ordering overseas DVDs) to order me a copy of this series, for husband's birthday. I kept asking, she kept forgetting. Then Christmas came, and he'd bought it for ME!

We've been watching it, a few episodes at a time. We still haven't covered the episodes we haven't seen but we're enjoying it all and reminiscing. OK, the series is a bit jingoistic, but not overly so. Besides, when you consider the ingenuity, the human frailty yet determination that was so much a part of the moon race, it's understandable that there should be some nationalist pride. But the technical detail and honesty in this far outweighs any propaganda value in this series. There is so much more information here than was ever released at the time. The technological advancement and human ingenuity that was advanced by this is incalculable and a benefit to the whole world.

I know it may seem surprising that people who don't live in the US would be interested in this, but we are and always have been. Long before JFK announced the plan for the US "to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade" some of the first books I read were astronomy books. husband was also into astronomy from a very young age. I wanted to be "an astronomer's helper" when I grew up (clearly recognising the indoctrination that girls were not permitted to have positions of scientific responsibility).

Although we didn't know each other at the time, we have often both compared notes - "where were you when..." sort of thing. When the US got media coverage on NASA's activities, so did we. Sometimes we got your US announcers, sometimes we got our own scientists reporting on the news from the US. We got the news announcement of JFK's assassination within minutes but it was Aussie newsreaders who announced it to us. Our news was hot on US heels, within minutes, but US coverage was always delayed for us until the first live satellite transmission from the Montreal World Fair in 1967, I think it was. I remember watching Rolf Harris at 4 am doing "Jake the Peg" live from Canada.

The episodes we watched tonight were "We Have Cleared the Tower" and "1968". This last one dealt with the bad year that the world had in 1968, the turmoil, the assassinations of both Martin Luther King Jnr & Bobby Kennedy. And then the turnaround - Apollo 8. They were the first blokes to get up close & personal with the moon, they had gone closer than anyone else. They were the first to go into lunar orbit (the earlier Soviet ship had just looped). There were so many amazing firsts - and it all happened around Christmas 1968.

husband & I were talking about it - we both remember that year. I know the US population were holding their collective breaths - so were we. Maybe my family were less interested in it than I was, but I knew the names and locations of every satellite dish around the world, especially the Aussie ones, involved in this.

Remember - Australia is about 15 hours ahead of Houston. The critical times for the Apollo 8 guys was the first trip behind t he moon, when they were in radio shadow for 88 minutes and had to emerge having achieved lunar orbit, and the 10th orbit behind the moon when they had to emerge having LEFT lunar orbit. Each time they had to do this with loss of signal - how alone they must have felt!

It was Christmas Eve our time when they went behind the moon for the first time. Our news reports were saying: what would they see? Would they make the burn safely? Would they be able to re-establish contact when they came back within range? And above all, would they be safe?
I looked up at the moon that Christmas Eve and worried about them.

It was dark on Christmas Day our time when they entered their last orbit. Once again I was outside, looking up at the moon. The sky on both nights was smoky, the sunsets had been red, from the fires ringing Sydney. It was a bad summer that year for fires. More were to follow, including one I was almost caught in. My sister was planning her wedding. And my family thought I was a bit strange, to be worrying about the moon.

Watching this episode tonight reminded me of those two summer nights in particular, way back then. Christmas was still magical for me, but to know just how much those men achieved in those few days, made it all the more special. But only watching it tonight, could I truly understand how after Apollo 8, the moon landing was almost an anticlimax.

If you haven't seen the series, get your hands on it. If you liked "Apollo 13" you will love this series. It's got a similar feel, and well it should. Tom Hanks is Executive Producer and clearly had a big hand in it. Also tinkering heavily is Ron Howard. It's really good stuff.

And in a similar vein but from a totally different point of view, can you get your hands on the Aussie film, "The Dish"? Sam Neill is in it, it's the moon shot (Apollo 11) from the point of view of the Aussie scientists at Coonabarabran "dish" (tracking station) which actually was the one getting the first signals from the lunar lander, which means that Australia heard them even before you guys! Well, a second or two, anyway! The Aussie scientists weren't really as klutzy as the film made them out to be, but a lot of it was very close to what was really happening - people's attitudes and so on. And yes, husband & I have been over that station.

Do look for that film, and your wonderful series.