Apollo: Missions to the Moon documentary sends you back in time

National Geographic's riveting effort recounts all 12 crewed missions using only archival footage, photos and

Apollo: Missions to the Moon documentary sends you back in time

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Intimate photos and video allow us to join the families of Apollo 8 astronauts as the husbands and fathers circle the moon on Christmas Eve for the first time in a dress rehearsal of the lunar landing.

The documentary offers an in-capsule look at the moment Apollo 13 experienced an oxygen tank explosion, as a variety of journalists, including Jules Bergman, describe Mission Control’s efforts to bring the astronauts safely back to Earth.

The highlight of the documentary, predictably, is Apollo 11, focusing on every aspect of the mission, from liftoff and separation of the lunar module to the nail-biting moments when a program alarm in the capsule almost stopped the landing before it occurred.

National Geographic’s Apollo: Missions to the Moon, premiering July 7 on the National Geographic channel, taps NASA’s archival cache to present an immersive, riveting two-hour documentary about all 12 crewed missions.

The famous exchange — "how are we going to get to the moon if we can’t talk between three buildings" — comes just before we hear the astronauts’ panicked voices inform mission control of the capsule fire.

After all, July 20 will mark 50 years since Apollo astronauts pulled off mankind’s first moon landing.

Apollo: Missions to the Moon kicks off National Geographic’s Space Week to mark the Apollo 11 anniversary.

The documentary follows the Apollo missions in order by stitching together 500 hours of film footage, 800 hours of audio and more than 10,000 photographs — much of which will seem new because it’s never been broadcast before.

Haunting images and video follow the astronauts as they head into the rehearsal for the first Apollo launch.

The onboard video is stunning, especially if your memory is only of grainy black-and-white images of the TV.  The crispness of the color is enough to make you believe you’re watching tape from something that happened this morning — as long as you ignore the beehive hairdos, horned-rim glasses or the parade of mammoth mid-’60s cars.  The dramatic orchestral score by composer James Everingham reflects the emotion of the time.

Much like the 2019 documentary Apollo 11, there’s no current-day narrator or later day interviews to get in the way of experiencing the missions just as people did five decades ago — triumphs and tragedies.

Fans of  Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 will find the 1995 movie remarkably faithful to actual events, right down to mission control’s exchanges with the spacecraft.

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