Apollo 11 at 50: NASA Is Streaming the Landing

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Buzz Aldrin descends onto the moon’s surface. Credit: Neil Armstrong/NASA

Update (7/20/2019): Today’s the big day. NASA TV will live-stream the original moon landing and then, six hours later, the moon walk. Broadcast times on the YouTube channel linked below are 4 PM EST (for the Moon landing) and 10 PM EST (for the moon walk).

Original story below:

Fifty years ago yesterday, the Apollo 11 mission took off for the Moon. You can see CBS’s coverage now on YouTube, showcasing not just what happened, but how it happened. It’s the same way you, your parents, or your grandparents saw the event.

I am admittedly not much for watching video. I use YouTube almost exclusively for listening to music when I use it at all. But there’s something fascinating about seeing the real-time broadcast, complete with commercials and with breaking news coverage of then-current events happening in… well, not “real-time” obviously, but what real-time looked like 50 years ago. The original launch occurred at 9:32 AM on July 16, 1969, with the later lunar touchdown on July 20. Armstrong actually stepped out on the lunar surface six hours later.

Watching the full live stream is fascinating for another reason — it highlights the degree to which both the takeoff and landing were extended, live affairs, carried out over hours with extensive footage. The idea that the moon landing was some kind of hoax carried out by Stanley Kubrick or through some other form of visual effects wizardry has been debunked more times (and from more angles) than I can think of. But one of the better treatments of the topic is by S. G. Collins of Postwar Media.

Collins details in the video above why the special effects technology of the 1960s literally wasn’t capable of this kind of feat. Both launches and landings were live broadcasts that went on for hours and were seen by millions of people worldwide. Today, those kinds of issues would be no object for special effects wizards to solve. Fifty years ago, it was an entirely different matter.

I hadn’t planned on watching any of the moon landing details this weekend, but after watching some of the Apollo 11 launch broadcast I may change that plan. Seeing the moon landing lift-off sent chills up my spine, grainy video and bad color reproduction be damned. Seeing the Saturn V in action is a joy, blurry video and all.

It is unfortunate that the triumph of Apollo 11 and the following Apollo missions remain the last time we have sent humans to another world beyond our own. I do not know if I’ll be around when the 100th anniversary of Apollo rolls around, but I hope that by the time we hit the 75th — and I do hope to be around for that one — we’ll be able to say that we eventually exceeded the achievements of my grandfather’s generation. “We came in peace for all mankind” is too good of a slogan to leave it isolated and alone on the lunar surface. There are further worlds, farther worlds, to explore. Hopefully, one day, we’ll reach them.

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