Apollo 11: A Night to Remember (DVD Review)30 May, 2009 By: John Latchem
Prebook 6/2/09; Street 6/30/09
With the approaching 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, this DVD of the BBC’s coverage of the event serves as proof the mission was a worldwide celebration. The landing of a man on the moon July 20, 1969, was a powerful a moment, and remains so even for those who only read about it in the history books.
The BBC has re-created its coverage of the mission, resulting in a DVD viewing experience probably not far off from what it was like when it happened.
BBC icon Patrick Moore, one of the original anchors of the coverage, hosts the presentation. The result is a wonderful historical document for space enthusiasts.
The coverage begins the day of the launch, July 16, 1969, and a profile of a rarely seen bunker of concrete and steel 40 feet under the launch pad, designed to withstand the explosion of the rocket. In an emergency, astronauts and launch personnel were supposed to slide down a tube for three-and-a-half minutes and lock themselves in. The room is likely just for show; if a rocket the size of the Saturn V were about to explode, the crew would be lucky to have 30 seconds to get away.
The early part of the DVD is loaded with such segments, which show off NASA equipment and techniques to viewers, from the inner workings of space suits to the planes used to simulate weightlessness.
The footage of the launch is pretty much the highlight of the DVD, not only for its historic significance but for the contributions of the BBC correspondents. Most of the rest is pretty dry footage from the voyage, or video from the lunar excursion that is otherwise readily available, interrupted only momentarily with a few words from Moore.
The DVD also includes a 1960 episode of the BBC astronomy series “The Sky at Night,” hosted by Moore. Topics of discussion include the first photos from the far side of the moon, and an analysis of lunar craters, some of which are so deep Mt. Everest would fit inside them. The 15-minute program is fascinating if only as an example of how just 50 years ago knowledge of the moon was still largely a factor of elaborate guesswork.