In honor of the passing of Neil Armstrong, whose first step on the lunar surface marked a “giant leap for mankind,” History plans to air a full day of programming about the astronaut and the Apollo 11 mission that first brought humankind to the moon. Beginning at 8am ET, the stunt will take viewers on a multi-perspective trip through the pivotal years of Armstrong’s career, and in particular the mission for which his name became synonymous.
The event launches with Failure Is Not an Option, based on Mission Control Flight Director Gene Kranz’s best-selling book. (Movie fans will remember Ed Harris’ Oscar-nominated portrayal of Kranz in the film Apollo 13.) This particular documentary follows 30 years of technological innovation and human determination, including the unforeseen disaster in space that led to a daring and all-but-impossible mission to bring back the Apollo 13 astronauts alive.
Following at 10am ET, Moonshot takes original NASA footage — transferred to high definition — and uses it to put viewers aboard the Apollo 11 for its eight-day trip into space. Exploring the mission behind the scenes and following its astronauts from their early days in the NASA program to those first steps on the moon, as well as the lives of their families, this film presents a close-up and personal view of one of humankind’s most courageous and stunning technological feats in all of history.
A further look at the Apollo 11 mission and its impact on humanity follows with Our Generation: Apollo 11: The Moon Landing at 12pm ET. The nation that sent Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon was embroiled in Vietnam and suffering discord and civil unrest at home, but the mission to the moon managed to bring — albeit temporarily — a brief sense of unity as people everywhere marveled at the accomplishment.
Tech Effect: Apollo 11 airs at 12:30pm ET and focuses on the decade that saw President Kennedy’s challenge to America to land a man on the moon, and the technological developments that it took to get him there. From the Saturn V rocket and the handmade computers on board the lunar module to the spacesuits designed for the first moonwalk, and even the satellite network designed to beam live pictures of the lunar landing back home, this special looks at everything that went into that first “giant leap.”
Similarly, Modern Marvels: Apollo 11 at 1pm ET shows how the goal of the moonshot forced the technology of the time to rapidly advance. Engineering, metallurgy, communications, computing — all of these and more were taken to new heights as a result of the necessity to meet the challenge put forth by President Kennedy near the start of the decade. And at the tip of it all were Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Mike Collins — three men blessed with particular skills who, like the technology that ramped up to launch them to their ultimate goal, were pushed to their limits.
The entire daylong Neil Armstrong salute on History is as follows:
8-10am — Failure Is Not an Option
10am-12pm — Moonshot
12-12:30pm — Our Generation: Apollo 11: The Moon Landing
12:30pm-1pm — Tech Effect: Apollo 11
1-2pm — Modern Marvels: Apollo 11
2-4pm — Failure Is Not an Option
4-6pm — Moonshot
Photo: NASA/ZUMA Press/Newscom