Part 10 of 12
Date of airing: May 3, 1998 (HBO)
Nothing suspenseful and tense seemed to have happened between the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, so the writers decided to get into the context and science of the missions, making this episode essentially the beginning of a context-filled Apollo missions, something the others didn’t have, although it’s to be argued whether there was more to Apollo 11 than just landing on the moon and bringing home some random rocks. The Apollo 15 crew might have been turned into geologists for an adventure of the moon (and so the 16 and 17 crew, judging my the image of how many Apollo program astronauts were part of Lee Silver’s class), but the question remains whether the Apollo 11 to 14 crews were also taught by professors of the science to understand a little more about the moon, to look further than just the next rock lying right in front of you in the dust. Did Neil Armstrong know to not just do that, but look for a specific rock (or get to the nearest mini crater — and he did shoot a picture of the lunar module from the side of one of the mini craters), or was he not told to do that and just focus on being on the moon and have some fun for two hours and a few minutes, and make the lunar surface trips short as possible, considering it was the first-ever lunar trip?
I loved the scientific angle of the episode, even if I barely understood anything, thanks to the fact that I don’t know anything about geology, let alone can distinguish rocks from each other. If this had been a 90-minute show, maybe the writers would have had more time to show the change in the knowledge the Apollo 15 crew was getting (compared to previous Apollo flight crews), would have gotten deeper into the science, like how APOLLO 13 went into turning down both the command module and lunar module (as part of a depiction of technological science, as well as computing), which might have been scenes cut from the FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON episode, if the film had not existed, but hey, this episode worked the way it was built around the geological aspect of the mission, making me realize that from Apollo 15 on, the missions must have been more complex and difficult to do, as you couldn’t just land on the moon for a few hours and do some sightseeing and set up some long-lasting experiments with the help of machines that were left behind — and you couldn’t depict that in a scripted television series either, as it would have gotten boring after a short while. Hell, we didn’t even see Apollo 15 launch, splash down, let alone land on the lunar surface. All this we have seen from the previous missions already. Now it’s time to actually go straight into the science of the moon and find out what makes the moon the moon. We know it’s there, we have stepped foot on it. Now to research it.
For one, I never heard of the genesis rock, and you can bet your life savings on me hitting up this part of Apollo 15’s history on the internet, as soon as I am done writing this wall of text, because the science aspect of finding out what the moon is and where it came from is intriguing to me, and this without having to watch a television series about the Apollo missions. Knowing how planets came to be is part of the universe’s history I want to know about, seeing what planets look like after we did a flyby of it, like New Horizons visited Pluto in July 2015, is something I always have a boner for. Seeing strange worlds for the first time must be exciting, because you never know when you see something that enriches your knowledge about something, or exceeds it, or gives you all the context you were looking for, or didn’t even know you needed. Yes, Apollo 15 went to the moon to look for a particular rock to unlock a specific door of mystery, so that all the theories spoken about where the moon came from can be proven (like Dave proved Galileo right at the end of the mission), but what if you found a rock you didn’t even expect to find there? Voila, a lot more doors opened, a lot more science for you to go through, a lot more answers found out to questions you didn’t even know to ask.
With all the science aspects of the episode, there was barely time to focus on the characters of the hour. After 53 minutes I don’t know anything about the Apollo 15 astronauts, I even know less about Lee Silver. It’s one of the problems FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON always had, but with the general excitement of the Apollo missions waning as the numbers go up, I was hoping for more focus on some of the characters. It turns out the writers continued to focus on the premise and left the characters on the side of the road, which I am sad about. Hopefully there will be a spaceflight television show in the near future that manages to join the scientific part of the achievements with the characters of the story.