Moon Machines (DVD Review)9 Jun, 2009 By: John Latchem
Prebook 6/9/09; Street 7/7/09
Even the most-ardent space-enthusiast will likely find something new to learn with “Moon Machines,” an excellent documentary series from The Science Channel.
History has recorded the names of the 12 men who walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972, but it took the hard work of more than 400,000 men and women to get them there. While there are countless documentaries about the space program focusing on the astronauts and the missions, “Moon Machines” focuses on the engineering of the equipment, rockets and other vehicles used to explore the moon.
The show uses interviews with designers and lots of fun test footage, and if there’s one thing the retrospective conveys, it’s a sense that the achievements of the space program were no fluke, but the result of the ingenuity of a country willing to devote the resources to pulling it off. Who would think to use a company previously known for making women’s underwear to make the space suits?
Of the six episodes, the most fascinating is probably the third, focusing on the creation of the guidance system for the spacecraft. It’s mind-boggling to think the computers they were dealing with, while cutting edge for the time, were 50,000 times less sophisticated than a modern pocket-sized MP3 player.
With its interviews of the Apollo program’s behind-the-scenes players, in some respects the show plays a bit like a nonfiction version of HBO’s terrific From the Earth to the Moon miniseries. It’s especially interesting to see the Apollo 11 landing revisited in several episodes from the different points of view of those who assembled the different systems.