British television Apollo 11 coverage

British television Apollo 11 coverage

infobox television
show_name = British Television Apollo 11 coverage


caption = James Burke, one of the main presenters of the BBC's coverage of the Apollo 11 mission, reviews its launch earlier in the day on 16 July 1969
format = News, Science, children, documentary, music, comedy, discussion
runtime = 8 days
creator =
starring = James Burke
Patrick Moore
Cliff Michelmore
David Frost
Alastair Burnet
Pink Floyd
Neil Armstrong
Buzz Aldrin
country = flagcountry|UK
network = BBC One, BBC Two, ITV
first_aired = 16 July 1969
last_aired = 24 July 1969
num_episodes =
num_series =
list_episodes= |

British television coverage of Apollo 11, man's first mission to land on the moon, lasted from 16 to 24 July 1969 . All the then three UK channels BBC One, BBC Two and ITV provided extensive coverage. Most of the footage covering this historic event from a British perspective though has now been either wiped or lost. cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = BBC Apollo 11 Moon Landing Coverage
work =
publisher = British TV History
date =
url= http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/moon_tv_cov.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
]

BBC Coverage

had a cover with a rocket shooting off and the caption “Target Moon”. [cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Radio Times Covers – The 1960's
work =
publisher =TV & Radio Bits
date =
url= http://www.tvradiobits.co.uk/radiotimes/radiotimes69.htm
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
]

The London studio set of "Apollo 11" consisted of "a long, angled desk, large models of the moon and the Earth, and a large picture of a rocket against a dark, "cosmic"- type background. On the front of the desk was a digital clock which counted down the time to lift-off etc. Film animations and models of various parts of the spacecraft helped explain certain stages of the journey.".

Every day of the mission had broadcasts from the space studio. These would vary between long programmes at important points in the mission, such as launching and undocking. But also shorter progress reports, and special moon-centric contributions to news bulletins, children's television and "Twenty-Fours Hours", a current affairs show. Programmes in between "Apollo 11" reports included "But What If It's Made of Green Cheese", an "Omnibus" anthology broadcast on the night of the moon landing. Rock group "Pink Floyd" were roped in to provide an exclusive instrumental piece called "Moonhead". An audio copy exists of the track and occasionally appears on "Pink Floyd" bootleg albums. [cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Unreleased Pink Floyd Material
work =
publisher =The Pink Floyd Hyperbase
date =2007
url= http://pinkfloydhyperbase.dk/unreleased/index.html#MOONHEAD
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
] Featured alongside them were distinguished actors of the likes of Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Michael Hordern and Roy Dotrice all reading quotes and poetry about the moon. The Show also featured Dudley Moore with "The Dudley Moore Trio" and Jazz singer Marion Montgomery. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = The Pink Floyd Concert Database
work =
publisher =The Pink Floyd Database
date =
url= http://www.pf-db.com/index.php?bootleg_id=847&concert_id=618
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-20
] [cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Ian McKellen - Television
work =
publisher = Sir Ian McKellen Official Home Page
date =
url= http://www.mckellen.com/video/index.htm
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
] David Bowie's song "Space Oddity" was also featured as part of the coverage. [cite web
last =Thompson
first =Jody
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Sixty things about David Bowie
work =
publisher =BBC News
date =2007-01-08
url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6230201.stm
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
] The actual night of the moon landings on 20/21 July was historic also in British TV terms, as it was first ever all night broadcast on British television. With both BBC One and ITV remaining on air for 11 hours from 11.30pm (July 20) to 10.30am (July 21). Neil Armstrong stepped on to the surface of the moon at 3:56am British time. His comments were interspersed with commentary from James Burke, often to fill in the silences.

John Godson, who was directing the news that night remembered "When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon's surface, the whole BBC control room, with the canteen ladies and security guards standing beside the vision control desk, exploded into cheering and clapping. To us it had been a similar type of relief as it must have been to Armstrong, his crew and Ground Control. Up to now, nothing had gone wrong. I vividly recall we had Armstrong's ‘One small step’ spiel with very little distortion, considering he was in full lunar gear. I mean, it was easily comprehensible though, shall we say, slightly garbled. It was quite difficult to make any visual sense out of the first pictures from the lunar surface, as I recollect. But under those circumstances we would have had James Burke describe, voice-over, what we were trying to assimilate with our eyes. I was there to direct the situation - to decide when voice-over explanations were required, to be ready to take actions if the picture circuits failed. In fact, it resulted in quite a calm overnight operation with, if I remember correctly, not a single major panic situation other than numerous sound comprehension problems." cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = BBC Apollo 11 Moon Recollections
work =
publisher = British TV History
date =
url= http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/moon_recollections.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
]

The first images from The Moon were upside down, so engineers on Earth operated an electronic switch on receiving the signal to correct the picture. All transmissions from the moon were in black and white. When Buzz Aldrin became the second man on the moon twenty minutes later, the picture quality had improved - after the moon-rise in Australia the signal had moved from the smaller Goldstone in California to the stronger signal received on the main on-axis receiver of the Parkes cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Parkes and Apollo 11: receiving the moon walk
work =
publisher = CSIRO Australia
date =
url= http://www.csiro.au/science/ps13j.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-04-13
] radio-telescope in Australia, and then relayed via the Honeysuckle Creek station to Sydney for subsequent distribution uplink. The BBC later earned a "Queen's Award For Industry" for the electronic standards converter, which helped translate the pictures from California, via the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall to the BBC in London

For several hours after the live event, pictures of the moonwalk were reshown as edited highlights.

Patrick Moore considers it the most exciting event he ever reported on. He said "Bridging the gap between two worlds was an awesome achievement." [cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = The Patrick Moore Interview
work =
publisher = BBC (via archive.org)
date =
url= http://web.archive.org/web/20011030033920/http://www.bbc.co.uk/home/interview_archive/patrickmoore.shtml
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
] James Burke has said in retrospect that it was "The greatest media event of all time". On its tenth anniversary in 1979, he looked back on the whole Apollo programme in two BBC documentaries, "The Men Who Walked on the Moon" (BBC1) and "The Other Side Of The Moon" (BBC2, later the same night). cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = James Burke - Curriculum Vitae
work =
publisher = Palmer's James Burke Fan Companion
date =
url= http://www.palmersguide.com/jamesburke/burke_resume.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-22
] The producer of those documentaries has written a memoir cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = BBC tv Apollo Coverage: A Personal Memoir
work =
publisher = Beach Media, San Diego
date =
url= http://www.beachmedia.com/apollomemoir1.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-03-14
] of BBC tv's Apollo 11 coverage, recalling that the event became a bone of contention between the Science & Features Department, which had covered previous space events, including the Apollo 8 mission, and the Current Affairs Department, which had more appropriate resources for staging very big events.

ITV coverage

ITN provided the bulk of the coverage of the Apollo 11 mission for Britain’s then only independent television station. The main front man for the bulletins was Alistair Burnet, assisted by science correspondent Peter Fairley and former employee of NASA, Paul Haney.

On the night of the moonwalk, ITV chose a much lighter tone in covering the event than the BBC. With 16 hours of coverage, in between news bulletins was "David Frost's Moon Party", a discussion and entertainment show made by London Weekend Television. It featured showbiz personalities such as Peter Cook, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Lulu, Mary Hopkin, Sammy Davis Junior , Hattie Jacques and Eric Sykes. It was said to feature "relevant facts about the moon landing" with "a wealth of outside comment", that according to one commentator "broke up the mood of awesome solemnity that tends to afflict those occasions." The show continued until 3am, and singer Engelbert Humperdinck, who also featured, was said to have collapsed from exhaustion due to its epic length. The show, transmitted from London Weekend's Wembley Studios, also featured more serious guests, such as Desmond Morris and Dame Sybil Thorndike. But the author Ray Bradbury objected to what he saw as the frivolous tone of the show, and walked out before he could be interviewed.

Around midnight, a serious discussion on the ethics of the moon landing was held, with historian AJP Taylor and entertainer Sammy Davis Junior "forming a somewhat bizarre alliance in attacking manned space flights."cite newspaper
last = Billington
first = Michael
title= Moonmen or Dr. Finlay
year = 1969-07-21
publisher = The Times
location = London
] The show continued for longer than expected as the film "Down to Earth" was cancelled when NASA had brought forward their schedule by several hours, originally the moonwalk had been planned for 7am British time.

There was also reactions from the public at Trafalgar Square, reactions from the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and Peter Sissons interviewing experts like Sir Bernard Lovell at Jodrell Bank.

For the coverage of the moon landing itself, ITV was reliant on computer captions, saying the likes of "Armstrong taking manual control", and "Touchdown, The Eagle has landed". The captions were made by listening to the Houston-Lunar Module talkback, then entering in computer codes, which translated the Eagle's speed and altitude into on-screen information. Paul Haney described the moonwalk on the coverage as "the greatest thing to happen since fish crawled up on the beach and survived." On the landing he remarked the landing was only four miles off the point projected "which is pretty good for Government work". Reminiscing in 1999, ITN producer David Nicholson remembered it as "perhaps the most exciting twelve minutes I’ve ever seen on television. It was a hugely thrilling moment. I remember in the ITN control room there was a gasp from the production staff."cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = ITV Moon Landing Coverage
work =
publisher = British TV History
date =
url= http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/moon_itv.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
]

In his diary on July 21 1969, comedian Michael Palin wrote "the extraordinary thing about the evening was that, until 3:56 am, when Armstrong clambered out of the spaceship, and activated the keyhole camera, we had seen no space pictures at all, and yet ITV had some how contrived to fill ten hours with a programme devoted to the landing."cite book
last = Palin
first = Michael
title= Michael Palin Diares 1969-1979 - The Python Years
edition = 1st Edition
year = 2007
publisher = Weidenfeld & Nicolson
location = London
id = ISBN 0-297-84436-9
pages =5
] Comparing the BBC and ITV's takes on the broadcast, Stanley Reynolds in The Guardian commented "Perhaps on no other programme have we seen quite so clearly the basic differences between the two television services." [cite newspaper
last = Reynolds
first = Stanley
title=Television Review
year = 1969-07-22
publisher = The Guardian
location = London
]

Michael Billington reviewing in "The Times" was much more favourable to the ITV coverage. He said they had "seized the initiative" off the BBC. "In the past it has always been the BBC that has been ready to abandon its schedules to suit historic public events: yesterday, however, the traditional roles were reversed and it was the BBC that persevered with Dr. Finlay's Casebook and The Black and White Minstrel Show. while Independent television showed itself far more flexible and enterprising." He praised Frost for the way he "chaired the proceedings with his usual unflappable professionalism" and Burnett for "combining straight news with personal comment". Though he said "the combination of news and variety is more debatable. There is certainly something a bit strange about going straight from a discussion about the orbit of Luna 15 to hearing Cilla Black singing her latest recording. On balance, I think this type of juxtaposition is justified, if only because some point of rest is needed in a programme of this length. The danger is that the viewer will be so saturated with information that his responses will be blunted when it comes to the moments of real excitement: pop music, however, provides the necessary let-up and fulfills much the same function as comic relief in a five-act drama.

Missing/Existing footage

The footage of the BBC and ITV coverage became victim to the then broadcasting policy of either wiping videotapes or simply not keeping them at all. It is not definitely known what happened to these original tapes. This has led to rumours have circulated over the years that they were taped over almost immediately with horse racing, that the coverage was barely taped at all or that the tapes fell to bits during digital remastering. All these rumours have since been discounted.

BBC footage known to exist is a mix of fragments kept in the archive and amateur recordings made at the time.cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Audio and visual material currently in existence
work =
publisher = British TV History
date =
url= http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/moon_recordings.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
]

*1 minute of footage of James Burke reviewing the Apollo 11 launch on 16 July 1969 on the "Twenty-Four Hours" programme
*Various filmed inserts presented by James Burke. Featuring him inside the Apollo Command Module, demonstrating Apollo Saturn emergency precautions, demonstrating the Luna EVA suit and explaining weightlessness training
*Some BBC News bulletins by Reg Turnill (not part of the live coverage)
*In autumn 2000, an amateur video recording was found of the event. It was found to be unplayable, but there is hope one day that some visual material may be salvageable
*In 2003 a few telerecorded clips were discovered
*A video fragment of Patrick Moore and James Burke presenting in the BBC studio on 20 June 1969. It lasts 20 seconds and comes from an amateur home made recording.
*8mm home movie footage from a TV screen that show some captions superimposed over pictures from mission control (though this has not been positively identified as BBC footage)

All that are known to exist from the ITV archives are two taped interviews by Peter Sissons at Jodrell Bank. Footage from Houston while the craft descended onto the moon, showing on-screen data also exists.

BBC4 reconstruction

The entire evening of the BBC’s coverage was reconstructed on the BBC Four programme Apollo 11, A Night To Remember on 28 February 2006. A show in which "Satellite pictures have been married up with amateur audio recordings, and linked with rarely-seen reports, background films, a couple of rediscovered studio clips, and some new explanatory pieces by Sir Patrick Moore, one of the presenters in 1969." cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Apollo 11 Documentary
work =
publisher = British TV History
date =
url= http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/night_to_remember.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
]

oundtrack CD release

On 20 September 1994 a CD was released by "Pearl" entitled Apollo 11 Moon Landing: The BBC Television Broadcasts July 16-24, 1969 by Original TV Soundtrack. It contained "complete BBC television coverage of the historic first moon landing, with additional commentary by Arthur C. Clarke and Patrick Moore." It is based on an amateur off-air audio recording lasting an hour and a quarter. Other off-air recordings are also known to exist.

TRACKLISTING
*1. Apollo + 25 - Arthur C. Clarke
*2. Speech By President John F. Kennedy (May 1961)
*3. A Million People Have Made Their Way Down To The Cape
*4. 30 Billion Dollars For The Apollo Programme
*5. This Is Apollo Saturn Launch Control
*6. And All Eyes Looking Upwards
*7. 3 Minutes 45 Seconds And Counting
*8. 600 Million People This Afternoon Watched The Apollo 11
*9. We're Now In The Approach Phase
*10. Hatch Reported Coming Open
*11. Armstrong About To Release TV Camera
*12. About To Pick Up The "Contingency Sample" Of Moon Rock
*13. Making Sure Not To Lock It On The Way Out
*14. Neil Is Now Unveiling The Plaque
*15. Armstrong And Aldrin Talk To President Richard Nixon
*16. Houston Communicates With Michael Collins
*17. Armstrong And Aldrin Talk From Surface
*18. With 3 Minutes Dead Go To The Lift Off
*19. Lift Off
*20. One Minute To Orbit Insertion
*21. It's Down Below 23,000 Feet Now
*22. Command Module Is Stable 2
*23. Recovery 1 Is On Station
*24. On Board USS Hornet
*25. Final Thoughts - Patrick Moore [cite web
last =
first =

authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Apollo 11 Moon Landing: The BBC Television Broadcasts July 16-24, 1969 by Original TV Soundtrack
work =
publisher = Epinions
date =
url= http://www.epinions.com/Apollo_11_Moon_Landing_The_BBC_Television_Broadcasts_July_16_24_1969_by_Original_TV_Soundtrack_727031913627/display_~full_specs
format =
doi =
accessdate =2008-02-18
]

References

External links

* [http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/moon_recollections.html BBC Moon Landing Coverage - British TV History]
* [http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/moon_itv.html ITV Moon Landing Coverage – British TV History]
* [http://www.tvhistory.btinternet.co.uk/html/moon_broadcasts.html Complete TV listings for British television’s Moon Landing coverage]


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