Memories of an incredible mission; PICKS OF THE DAY.
Editor's pick THE DAY WE WALKED ON THE MOON (ITV, 9pm) The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission is dominating the schedules this week. Moon Landing Live began on Saturday on Channel 4, while BBC2 weighed in with Stargazing: Moon Landing Special on Monday and BBC4 launched its own series, Chasing the Moon, on Tuesday, which continues this evening.
But as ITV's The Day We Walked the Moon reminds us, there's a reason why the celebrations are taking over our TVs - it's one of humanity's greatest achievements. And back in 1969, some 500 million people around the world tuned in to watch it live.
An impressive number of people were also involved in making the Moon landings happen - according to this documentary, more than 400,000 had a part to play in realising President Kennedy's goal of getting to the Moon by the end of the 1960s.
A few of them crop up in this documentary, including Michael Collins, who was one of the three astronauts on that incredible mission. He served as the command module pilot, orbiting the Moon alone as his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their iconic first steps. He has been described as the loneliest man in the universe, but it turns out he wouldn't agree with that assessment. He says: "I considered myself to be a king."
However, he was aware that if something went wrong on the lunar service, he could have been making the long trip home alone. There are further reminders of just how dangerous the trip was from three of the key figures in Mission Control.
Flight Director Gene Kranz, Capsule Communicator Charles Duke and Guidance Officer Steve Bales explain just how close Apollo 11 came to disaster during its hazardous descent. If something had gone wrong, the first concern would have been for the astronauts, but Frank Borman, commander of Apollo 8 who was NASA's liaison in the White House on the day, and President Nixon's executive assistant, Dwight Chapin, point out just how much was riding on the mission. Although some of us may picture the summer of '69 as a time of optimism (and the Woodstock festival), it was a difficult time for the US. As well as huge social changes, the country had also endured several assassinations and was mired in an unpopular war, making the Moon landing a much-needed boost.
It wasn't just the US that felt the enduring influence of Armstrong's giant leap either. British perspectives on this world-changing event are provided by Professor Brian Cox, astrophysicist (and Queen guitarist) Brian May and space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin Pocock, who explain how their future careers were inspired by Apollo 11.
Trevor McDonald, who was then a young reporter, recalls the excitement of watching the event from his home in Trinidad, while his fellow journalists Adam Raphael and CBS reporter David Schoumacher share their memories of being in Mission Control, covering the biggest stories of their lives.
There are also contributions from Andy Aldrin and Mark Armstrong, sons of Buzz and Neil respectively.
The Day We Walked on the Moon, ITV