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One small step for man ...

Walking On The Moon

Channel 4, 8.30pm

THIRTY years ago this week Neil Armstrong made history by walking on the moon.

Channel Four is celebrating the momentous event with a week of programmes all about the wonderful time. When man first set foot on the moon, the world was captivated and history was made.

This was the most celebrated moment of endeavour and discovery of the 20th century, but what was the truth behind the space race, and the pioneering Gemini missions?

As part of their series commemorating the great event, this Channel 4 documentary reveals the stories NASA kept quiet and the human cost of progress in the early years of the space race.

Although the Gemini programme had been eclipsed by the glory of the more famous Apollo missions, in both projects the spirit of exploration was largely replaced by a competitive obsession to beat the enemy.

The Soviet Union and the United States vied for control of space, a place where the future would unfold, a potent symbol of achievement.

"Any idea that the programme was a great voyage of exploration or scientific endeavour is nuts," says astronaut Frank Borman.

"People just aren't excited about exploration, but they were sure excited about beating the Russians."

Masterminding the American Gemini space programme was scientist Werner Von Braun, creator of the infamous Nazi V2 rocket. But the Russian programme continued to beat the Americans to every goal.

For new president John F Kennedy the pressure was growing, as he, along with the nation, asked the same question: "Can we beat the Russians to the moon?"

Following Alan Shepard's successful flight into space, broadcast live on international TV, a moon landing seemed within America's grasp. Gemini's progress was paving the way for the history- making events of Apollo.

Kennedy addressed the moon-issue by stating that we would be there "before this decade is out".

The year was 1961 and boundaries of human ability and technology were pushed to the limits. But over the following years it became clear that the Apollo programme's laws were deep-rooted.

Gemini had been conducted with such enthusiasm that mistakes went unnoticed.

This was most apparent when three astronauts tragically died in a fire in 1967 as they tested their Apollo 1 space capsule.

"Somehow, somewhere along the line one of us must have missed something, therefore we let our crew down," said Gene Kranz, Apollo flight director.

This tragedy overshadowed the new Apollo programme but led to safety changes which created a more efficient spacecraft, pushing Apollo further towards its ultimate destination - the moon.

When the CIA photographed Russian rockets preparing to launch to the moon in 1968, the US space programme was put into overdrive.

Apollo 8 was launched in full view of a captivated audience.

One billion people watched the amazing live images on television, as Jim Lovell, Bill Anders and Commander Frank Borman travelled 800 miles into deep space.

Not The Nine O' Clock News Story

BBC 2, 10.00pm

THERE was a time when Mel Smith, Griff-Rhys Jones and Rowan Atkinson were anarchic young unknowns. Even less believably, there was a time when they were all very, very funny.

It's 20 years since Not The Nine O'Clock News began its run on the BBC, and the programme's then radical formula of scathing satire and absurd buffoonery is still at the heart of every similarly `radical' news pastiche since, from the irreverence of Channel 4's 11`O Clock Show to the genuine guerrilla warfare of TV terrorist Chris Morris.

In 1979, TV comedy was still the domain of The Two Ronnies, Mike Yarwood and Jimmy Tarbuck, each of whom was, even then, over 170-years-old and about as funny as this prolonged decay implied.

Suddenly, the young and disrespectful were given airtime and they used it to pound at the foundations and formats which had been established for far too long.

This documentary details the early life of the programme which was first dismissed by critics and went on to attract more than 12 million viewers and introduce the world to Richard Curtis, Clive Anderson and Ruby Wax.

These names, ironically, are now the feeble old guard themselves.


Ch5, 5.00pm

EVERYONE'S favourite sulky teenager continues her mission to get through this drab existence with a droll remark here, and a cutting comment there .

If you like The Simpsons you'll love Daria, the antithesis to the all- American blonde and breezy cheerleading teenager.

Based on Darlene from Roseanne, she has an acerbic wit and holds no prisoners.

In this episode Ms Morgendorffer becomes unwillingly involved in the opening of Lawndale's new student coffee house- and is unwittingly embroiled in its near closure.

4 Later: Late Night Poker

C4, 12.05 am

IT may look like a bunch of blank-faced folk sweating around a table in a smoky back room, but the games played by healthy athletes are infinitely less exciting than high-stakes poker.

Channel 4 has got card sharp as a motley mix of professional players and desperate amateurs try to keep straight faces for six weeks to win pounds 40,000 - the largest prize awarded in a British tournament.

Forty fanatics start out, but only 10 will make it through to the final as the rest head back to the mirrors to work on looking impenetrable.

The fun here comes from the camera work - we watch the action from under a glass table and are only too aware who's been dealt the sweet hands and who's got to blag to keep their swag.

The game is apparently one of the most widely played varieties - Texas Hold'Em - and everyone around the table has put up pounds 1,500, so don't expect them to play nice.

Among the contenders is computer entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair, who hopefully plays poker better than he `designs the future'.

Actor Ross Boatman, who got hooked while starring in Patrick Marber's play Dealer's Choice also has a go alongside Simon Trumper, who looks pleasingly like Robert De Niro. Hope he cleans up...
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 17, 1999
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