Chasing the Moon – PBS

“The most harrowing moment in the new three-part PBS series Chasing the Moon, about the race to the Moon in the 1960s, happens on Earth, in the suburban home of astronaut Frank Borman, near the Manned Spacecraft Center south of Houston. Over an excruciating 20 minutes, we get to watch Borman’s wife, Susan, as she watches her husband and his crewmates blast off in December 1968, on Apollo 8, that first trip to the Moon. Susan Borman is sitting on the floor in the family room, her back against the plaid couch. Her sons are on the couch behind her. They are watching the family’s black-and-white TV, which is sitting, as was common in those days, on a wheeled cart. Along one wall of the room stand 14 friends and visitors, also there to watch, one of whom is a priest. It’s real life, and you have to keep reminding yourself of that, because the colors are so vivid, the tension so palpable, it feels cinematic. On the kitchen counter, a large red can of Folgers coffee. The Borman refrigerator is a 1960s brown side-by-side. On top of the refrigerator, a china tea kettle and serving dishes. There’s a brief flash of the TV crew setting up lights and camera. If you pay attention, you can see a microphone, camouflaged by a candle centerpiece, sitting on the coffee table inches from Susan Borman’s face. How Frank Borman, the commander of the Apollo 8 mission, came to have a TV crew in his house, recording every moment, every facial expression, of his family during what was only the second time the giant Saturn V had launched with people atop it—that, too, is instructive. It had been almost two years since the Apollo 1 launchpad fire killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. Susan Borman was close friends with the new widow Pat White, who lived right nearby. Frank Borman, interviewed for this documentary, says, ‘The fire shattered my wife’s confidence in NASA and in the Apollo program.’ He notes that supporting Pat White had, in part, led his own wife to starting drinking too much. Approaching their own pioneering flight, Borman says, ‘NASA wanted me to allow a film crew to come into the house while we were up on our way to the Moon. I mentioned this to Susan, and she was opposed to it. She didn’t want it. But I said, ‘Look, this is going to be important for the space program.’ At a moment when Borman’s wife is struggling to help a friend whose astronaut husband was killed in a spaceship, and her own husband is about to try to fly to the Moon in just such a spaceship, Borman says he ‘mentions’ the TV crew to Susan, as if an actual discussion of this level of personal invasion by the media wouldn’t ever occur to him—even 50 years later. …”
The new Nat Geo and PBS Apollo Moon documentaries reach liftoff by unearthing surprises on the ground (Video)
W – Chasing the Moon (2019)
NY Times: Fifty Years Ago We Landed on the Moon. Why Should We Care Now?
PBS: Chasing the Moon – Part One 1:52:54, Part Two 1:52:54, Part Three 1:52:54

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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