From the Earth to the Moon (“Mare Tranquilitatis”)

Part 6 of 12
Date of fairing: April 19, 1998 (HBO)

In which the show gets a little more patriotic, because it was depicting the moon landing, which is one of the most successful arcs of the United States of America, let alone humanity, so of course there could not be any bad feelings towards anything in this episode. What a shame that Buzz Aldrin wasn’t listening, because it looked like he had some feelings towards the fact that he wasn’t the first one getting out of the lunar module, which means he would not be the first one to step foot on the moon. It was essentially the only notable storyline of the episode (if you exclude the actual moon landing), and it was kind of fascinating, because chances are you probably didn’t know how uneasy Buzz’s feelings were about being the second man on the moon. Then again, this could have been a fictional account of his life during pre-flight training in the Spring of 1969, but considering how FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON was always close to being a scripted documentary, chances are Buzz really had those feelings and may have quit the program over this kind of petty stuff. What this episode was missing though was a little bot of a talk about how Neil and Buzz weren’t just bringing themselves on the moon, but also humanity. Buzz not having thought about that in the months leading up to the launch obviously had him missing some point of the whole Apollo program, but the interview sequences with Emmett could have deserved a scene that was about Buzz realizing he would not be the first on the moon, but he would still carry humanity on his shoulders.

Pre-flight television interviews are the hardest and most useless.

It was a solid episode, although maybe it had been a good idea to showcase some of the troubles the astronauts went through to get to the moon. The crash of the Flying Bedstead is a known accident and I was hoping for it to be captured for this episode (although I couldn’t really remember if it was Neil’s accident, and I’m far out of having watched FIRST MAN now), but the 1201 and 1202 master alarms during the lunar descent could have been played at more greatly. They were part of the “Go!” song from Public Service Broadcasting’s Apollo-focused instrumental album (it’s my favorite number of said album) and they were the moments of tension that brought sheer thrill to the moon landing sequence in the Ryan Gosling-led biopic. In this episode though they seemed like a momentary lapse during an otherwise successful mission and no one is going to remember how chaotic it may have been during the 1201 and 1202 alarms. But I do appreciate that almost the entire landing sequence was depicted here, as well as how Buzz continuously gave Neil the data he needed to land the Eagle, especially the moments Neil was not horizontal to the moon surface and Buzz had to remind him of that fact twice or three times. Lunar landings probably don’t look exciting for some people, but similar to the pre-launch scenes in “We Have Cleared the Tower,” those brought a lot of awe into my brain. So may things to not forget during the landing, and both Buzz and Neil did not forget anything.

Meanwhile, I was missing the part of the Apollo 11 mission that happened after the landing and Neil and Buzz’s first few steps on the moon. Michael Collins mentioned some experiments he would be doing while in the command module, but barely anything was seen of him while Neil and Buzz conquered their first interplanetary body of human history. The simple notion of being all alone should have deserved a scene or two, simply just to see how Mike is coping with the fact that he truly was disconnected to everyone. Granted, he had radio contact with Eagle and Houston, but if the mission on the moon had gotten south, Mike would have been the sole survivor of the flight, and he would have taken the trip back home to Earth all by himself — let that not only sink in for a moment, but let Mike talk about it for longer than just mentioning that the crew has been trained for potential events like this. All of sudden I would love to see a television series with a lonely astronaut up in space, lost and unable to return. We may have had that with THE MARTIAN recently, but how about making it a lot more complicated and thrilling? Okay, I’m gonna rewatch THE MARTIAN now.

It’s human’s first look at the lunar horizon.

Also missing were a few scenes with the wives of the astronauts on or around the moon. It’s an aspect FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON regularly decided to cut in favor of some hard science stuff or more Apollo history notes, but the things about this episode is that the wives were entirely absent, not even mentioned throughout these 56 minutes, which is kind of a huge letdown. You set up your Apollo-focused spaceflight miniseries on HBO, got a ton of cash to make it, have twelve episodes to do so and then you still miss out on certain aspects of the spaceflight program. Do I have to watch THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB now, which wasn’t really a well-received show to begin with? Considering my hunger for more spaceflight drama, I would have to think about watching the ABC miniseries now. Right after I finished rewatching THE MARTIAN.

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