In this two-part episode of The Lunar Landing: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, producer Richard Paul examines the behind-the-scenes, public policy stories leading up to Apollo 11's flight to the moon.
Part 1: “Washington, We Have A Problem"
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.
Part 2: “Trials And Fire”
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.