That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong spoke those words as he took the first steps onto the surface of the moon almost forty-six years ago. July 20th of this year will mark forty-six years since that history changing took place. While Armstrong was the first living being to step foot on the lunar surface, it is his fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin that has remained in the public eye in the years since. Armstrong on the other hand shied away from the limelight after the men returned from the historic mission of the Apollo 11. Now as the world prepares to mark celebrate the 46th anniversary of the lunar landing PBS has released an episode of its hit science-based series NOVA that examines Armstrong’s life and legacy. Released this past December, NOVA: First Man on the Moon examines not just Neil Armstrong as the legendary figure that so many people know, but Neil Armstrong the reluctant public figure. That in itself is the central reason that audiences will enjoy this episode of NOVA. The use of interviews with Armstrong’s friends and family along with actual vintage footage and pictures from his life and career add even more interest to the program. Thanks to its pacing, the third element of the program’s enjoyment and success, the interviews and footage combined with the story in whole are made easy for audiences to follow and in turn all the more impactful. Being able to fully take in the impact that Neil Armstrong made and the legacy that he left behind, every viewer will agree that NOVA: First Man on the Moon is a program that should be in classrooms at every level from middle school through college. It is that valuable a program. And it is yet more proof both in the argument that NOVA remains today the best science-based series on television and that PBS is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming.
Much has been said and made of Neil Armstrong and the legacy that he created over the course of his life. The problem is that for all that has been said and made of his legacy, most of what people know of Armstrong is the that he was the first human to step foot on the moon. What’s really interesting is that despite this recognition, Armstrong actually never embraced the celebrity that came with this fact. For that matter, he never embraced the mantle that was placed on him even before the historic flight of Apollo 11. Rather, as audiences will see in NOVA: First Man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was the epitome of the anti-celebrity. Audiences learn through this nearly hour-long program that from his childhood, Armstrong’s first love was flight. He never pursued his love for celebrity. He chased the dream because of his pure love for aviation. Through everything that he achieved during his life, the program reveals that Armstrong never once tried to bring light to his accomplishments. The attention in question came from exterior sources. It was that same attention that led him to shy away from the media later in his life after the events of the moon landing. The companion interviews included with the program reveal that Armstrong actually never felt that he deserved the attention that he received after the mission. It is also revealed that responsibilities such as speaking engagements were actually thrust onto him and that he only reluctantly accepted them, leading to his undeserved reputation as a recluse. It’s a truly eye-opening story needless to say and one that every American should experience whether in the classroom or the living room.
The revealing story presented in NOVA: First Man on the Moon is reason within itself for audiences of all ages and interests to watch this episode of NOVA. The story by itself is interesting. But without the companion interviews and footage used to advance it, the story would have only gone so far. The interviews included in the program are with Armstrong’s own friends and family including one of the men working at mission control during the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong’s wives (yes, he was married more than once) his friend and fellow Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin among many others. The insights offered by those interviewed paint a vivid picture of a man that few likely have ever known. Their stories paint the picture of a man that did not go into his profession for celebrity, women or any other related reason. Rather the picture painted through the story’s interviews is one of a man that went into his field for his love of the profession. As the interviewees reveal, even in the direst of situations, he stayed calm and collected even after the fact, playing the situations down like they were everyday occurrences instead of making a big deal over them. That is a huge statement. Along the way, audiences get to see first-hand just some of the situations in question thanks to the inclusion of actual footage from some of the missions and projects in which he was included. Audiences actually get the see the result of a docking mission gone wrong as they hear from those first-hand interviews of his cool demeanor in the face of certain doom. They also see the result of that collected mindset as he and his fellow mission member touched down safely in the South China Sea and then returned to U.S. soil as the story is told of how he even played the event down in its aftermath. That same picture of a man focused on his job is painted when a lunar landing training project goes awry. Viewers see Armstrong eject from the training vehicle safely as it falls to earth, yet again playing down the event in its aftermath. These are just a couple of examples of how the interviews and footage incorporated into NOVA: First Man on the Moon make it such a memorable story. The story that is in turn presented along with the companion footage and interviews ironically makes Armstrong even more respected and perhaps even legendary than he was just for being the first man on the moon. It makes him even more respected and legendary for being a man and a man that put his job and his family above fame. Yet again here is even more reason for audiences to check out this in-depth video biography of a man who was great not for his accomplishments but for who he was.
The story of who Neil Armstrong was and his importance to American history in NOVA: First Man on the Moon is by itself a moving presentation. The interviews and footage interwoven into the story help to not only advance the story but to make the story all the richer and engaging for viewers. For all of their importance, the noted elements would mean nothing without proper pacing. It goes without saying that the pacing of this episode is at the very core of its success. Considering how much ground is covered over the course of the episode’s roughly fifty-three-minute run time, its pacing is solid from beginning to end. Not once does the program move so fast as to lose audiences or so fast that audiences are left feeling left behind. That is even considering all of the background information provided via the episode’s companion interviews. Taking into mind the balance of the program’s speed to its overall content, the end product proves to be an episode that is more than just another episode of NOVA or even just another biography. It proves in the end to be an in-depth look at a man that very few truly knew. It is a picture of a man that is just as deserving for who he was as for what he did. It is one more example of why NOVA remains today the best science-based series on television today and why PBS in whole remains the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television.
A lot of thought and work went into NOVA: First Man on the Moon before it was brought to life. The story presented here isn’t just another piece touting Neil Armstrong as “the first man on the moon.” It paints a picture of a man that was far more than that. It paints a picture of a man that wanted only to do what he loved rather than be in the limelight for what he did. The interviews and footage incorporated into the central story help paint that vivid picture. The pacing of the program in whole makes the companion footage and interviews easy to follow. Because the interviews and footage are so easy to follow, the story in whole becomes that much more accessible to audiences, and in turn that much more engaging and enjoyable. All three elements together show precisely that while it might have been released some months ago, NOVA: First Man on the Moon remains just as enjoyable in the living room as the classroom and will be for some time to come. NOVA: First Man on the Moon is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=49575346&cp=&sr=1&kw=first+man+on+the+moon&origkw=First+Man+on+the+Moon&parentPage=search. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:
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