Next month, KRCU Public Radio will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with special programming.
Each year on the anniversary of the Moon landing, or on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s call to send a man to the Moon, the media is filled with nostalgic sounds from the 1960’s and images of dark lunar footprints and fiery rocket pads. But, in the glory of those remembered moments, it’s easy to forget the political climate that shaped the race to the Moon.
From award-winning public radio producer Richard Paul, this five-part series throughout the month of July will take you back behind the scenes of putting an American on the Moon, and provide insight on the space program, political movements, and social movements of the decade.
Paul says the value in taking a deep dive into the late 1960’s is that it shows us what’s changed, what hasn’t, and what keeps “coming back up again.”
“When I was in high school, they used to tell us that it took 50 years to know what any particular event’s impact would be,” says Paul. “50 years after the Moon landing, we have a vague nostalgia for that time that could use a substantial reality check.
The Lunar Landing: A 50th Anniversary Celebration will consist of one two-hour segment and three one-hour segments. The first, “Washington Goes To The Moon, Pts. 1 and 2” will be aired Friday, July 5 at 11 a.m., where KRCU’s Caffe Concerto would usually be programmed to play. The following one-part episodes, “Rocketing Ahead,” “Race and the Space Race,” and “Rocket Girls and Astro-nettes,” will be aired at noon on July 12, 19, and 26, after one-hour episodes of Caffe Concerto. They will also be available online.
You can read about each episode below:
“Washington Goes to the Moon” Pt. 1: Washington, We Have a Problem // July 5, 11 a.m.
NASA management, White House budget politics and Congressional oversight had as much to do with Apollo 11 reaching the Moon as the Saturn 5 rocket. This episode, "Washington, We Have A Problem" looks at the battle to keep the Apollo space program funded and on deadline. It tells the story of how, after pledging to send a man to the Moon, President Kennedy got cold feet and tried to get out the commitment by bringing the Soviets on-board. We also hear about attempts by Lyndon Johnson's budget director to scrap the goal of getting to the Moon by 1969 in order to help Pres. Johnson pay for the Vietnam War.
“Washington Goes to the Moon” Pt. 2: Trials and Fire // July 5, noon
Today we understand better than ever that the exploration of space is a risky business. The explosions of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 made that clear. In this episode, “Trials and Fire,” we go back to the fire on board Apollo 1 that killed three astronauts, a disaster which nearly derailed the entire Apollo Program. We explore how the fire revealed deep flaws in a NASA management structure that businesses and governments around the world viewed with envy, and how NASA's attempts to hide those flaws fed into Congressional distrust.
“Rocketing Ahead” // July 12, noon
In 1969, humans landed on the Moon. But why? Why did we go? The answer has a little bit to do with science and a lot to do with politics. In this episode, we learn about how the Democrats rode Sputnik to the White House in a campaign that forever changed science, technology, and academia in America.
“Race and the Space Race” // July 19, noon
Narrated by Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, this episode tells the unlikely story of Civil Rights and the Space Program. The Space Age began when America was going through a wrenching battle over Civil Rights. And, because the heart of the old Confederacy was chosen as its base, NASA played an unintended role in Civil Rights history. In this episode, we hear about those who broke the color line at NASA, their stories of frustration, and their stories of perseverance.
“Rocket Girls and Astro-nettes” // July 26, noon
Narrated by Eileen Collins, the first woman commander of a Space Shuttle, this episode chronicles the story of women in the ultimate Man’s World: the labs and Shuttle crew cabins of NASA. Told in the first person, we explore the experiences of NASA’s first woman engineers, scientists, and first astronauts. We also hear about the fascinating story of a group of women pilots who – in the early 1960s – were led to believe that they would be America’s first female astronauts, and were even given the same physical tests as the Mercury astronauts.