on January 30, 2004
Yes, yes - it is uneven, but that's part of why this miniseries is so good. Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and friends were smart enough not to merely recycle "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13," but to experiment with different stories and different viewpoints and visuals. As the majority has commented, great pains have also been taken to cover more than the "highlight reel", and be more historically accurate.
Some of the standouts:
"Apollo One" covers the tragic training exercise that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White. Interestingly, I have never seen Mark Rolston (Grissom) in a sympathetic part before, and here he plays one of the most revered astronauts of the entire space program! Both here and in a later episode, the engineers behind the spacecraft are profiled - one of the most intriguing and interesting parts of the whole series. Engineers and designers are so rarely given credit or shown to be "cool" or even dedicated, kudos to the producers for doing so.
The episode "1968" mixes disturbing and compelling real-life news footage to show the prevailing chaos that year. The skillful editing really gives you a sense of the paranoia that reigned that year, with MLK and RFK being assassinated within months of each other, as well as the Chicago DNC riots.
Bryan Cranston and Tony Goldwyn crackle in their roles as tense Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. The next episode is a relief: Dave Foley is very, very funny, along with Tom Verica and Paul Crane as the 'also-rans' of the Apollo program.
Overall, it's just a pleasure to see the different approaches. Even when it falls flat a bit, the producers deserve so much credit for taking chances here.
I disliked the third episode, mocked up as a '60s documentary (it came off as way too polished, rather than the astro "Medium Cool" it apparently was meant to be)... And the episode with reporter "Emmett Smith" being sucker-punched by a young and hungry Jay Mohr wasn't as strong as it could have been, since we hadn't seen so much of "Smith's" personal side up until then, although he is one of the few constants through the many episode. If they had developed "Smith" as a character more, it would have been much more effective. Both cases were more critiques of the media than dramatic storytelling or historical reenactment.
Kudos also for paying attention to the heavy burden carried by astronaut wives - many of whom had already paid dues as test pilot wives. The original novel "The Right Stuff" is absolutely poetic on the same topic.
Note: A below review claims that the Russians sent an "unqualified woman" into space. Ouch! Sounds like selective history. Actually, the Soviet Union has had a long history of female aviators, namely the famed "Nacht Waxen", bomber and fighter pilots who fought during WWII. The Soviets even had two female aces, both of whom died in combat.
When the Mercury group was picked in the US, men with aviation experience were selected. Only a few, like Gus Grissom, were also scientists with advanced degrees. (Today, very few astronauts are primarily military-trained pilots, with most of them being literally, our brightest scientists.)
Likewise, Valentina Tereshkova was a parachutist, which is why she was one of the three women initially selected to train as a cosmonaut. After the training and poking and prodding she received, just like the Mercury astronauts, it's hardly fair to call her "unqualified".
Laika the dog was unqualified, but not Tereshkova. Geez.
I suppose that because she was an industrial worker, her parachuting experience was slighted by the reviewer, even though communism often sent bright, but socially unconnected men and women into factories and menial labor.
Ironically, the US had many qualified women pilots - Jacqueline Cochran, a record-breaking test pilot springs to mind - but waited until 1983 to send a woman into space.
on February 9, 2004
I originally saw this when HBO aired it in late April to early May of 1998. I wasn't even born when these events actually happened, so to be able to see the accomplishments of the NASA space program is wonderful, not only for myself, but for the people who did see it when it happened. This documentary covers Alan Shepards' flight of Mercury 7, President Kennedys' speech that got the space program off the ground, up through Apollo 17 - sadly, Americas' last steps on the moon.
on June 11, 2011
The packaging is excellent. The price was very affordable. There is a whole DVD of additional features, which is better that having them scattered throughout the whole set. About the episodes, I think that the resolution was a bit low and the images weren't too sharp. But the historical and investigative aspects of the story soon will cover any glitch or complain that you can have with the video. If you are a big fan of HD sharp images, probably this is not for you
on June 7, 2004
This HBO production, executive produced by Tom Hanks is not without it's flaws. At times when it seems like the episodes should be searing, and dramatic, they instead wax sentimental. The music is also rather unremarkable, with the exception of Brad Fiedel's fine contribution to the installment "We Interrupt This Program."
For all of that, Hanks, and company manage to pull off the gargantuan feat of illustrating for us, the trials, and the victories that were Project Apollo. Considering the amount of material that had to be covered, they do so with finesse, and unwavering aplomb. No space historian would want to miss having this docudrama in their library.
on July 6, 2013
I bought this set without having seen it when it originally aired. Not my usual practice but it was on sale and I decided to take a chance. I sat down late one night just to check out the start of the first episode to get some idea of what it was like. Well.....about six episodes later, when I couldn't keep my eyes open any more, I finally forced myself to stop watching and go to bed. I literally could not tear myself away. The quality of this production is unbelievable! Enormous efforts have made to reproduce the facts and events exactly as they happened. Each episode is presented differently, from various points of view, as the story of the Apollo space program unfolds. Each chapter tells more of the story but each one is unique....one episode will be told from the astronauts' point of view, another from their wives' perspective, even one where we are with the media on the outside trying to get the inside scoop on the terrifying events surrounding the ill-fated mission of Apollo 13. Having grown up in the fifties and sixties I remember the Apollo missions and the excitement they generated and it brought these events vividly to life for me and awoke many precious memories. Obviously this whole production was a labour of love from start to finish and I am grateful beyond words to everyone who was involved in this production.
on July 19, 2004
HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" (E2M) is everything a good docu-drama mini-series should be. Tom Hanks has brought to life the true story of man's greatest adventure to "land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth". For those of us who were alive, E2M allows us to relive those incredible days. And for those who were born afterwards, it gives them a chance to understand exactly what it was they missed. If you have even the slightest interest in the space program, obtaining a copy of this DVD set is a must.
Coincidently, Apollo 11 landed exactly 35 years ago today. I was 13 years old at the time and living in Nova Scotia, Canada. The "Eagle" touched down at 5:17 pm, much to the consternation of my mother who was busy trying to prepare supper. Just like Tom Hanks would later relate, I had my models of the Command Service Module, Lunar Module and Saturn V rocket close at hand while I had claimed the living room armchair for the occasion. My family gathered around our old B&W television which was tuned to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), one of only two stations which were available to us back then. Much of the CBC's coverage consisted of a feed from CBS, so we got to watch Walter Cronkite's famous "Oh Boy!" commentary. My prized 3" reel-to-reel tape recorder (you could get all of 1 hour on a single reel) was busy taping a local radio station carrying NBC's coverage with Jay Barbree.
The entire family congregated again a few hours later for the moonwalk, just before midnight, and watched Neil & Buzz's first steps. I stayed up for the entire 30 hour televised stretch, from lunar landing to liftoff, stealing a moment every now and then to go outside and gaze up in wonder at the moon, filled with awe that two human beings were actually there, living and working on its surface. In this day of CNN and other all-news networks, it should be remembered that the coverage of this event was in itself history in-the-making - TV's longest continuous coverage of a planned event.
My interest in space began with the flight of Apollo 8. When I heard that this was the first manned launch of the world's biggest rocket, the Saturn V, I was sure that one of its million parts would go wrong with disastrous results. Thank God it didn't. I watched and I was forever hooked. A real space junkie, religiously watching each mission after that, coaxing my Mom to let me stay home from school (recurrent cases of "moon sickness", no doubt), clipping out every newspaper, Life, Time or Newsweek article I could find (now faded yellow with age) and trying to tape as much of the audio coverage as I could (few private individuals could afford a video recorder back then). By Apollo 14, I had earned enough money working at a grocery store to buy a 4-track 7" reel-to-reel recorder (which allowed one to put up to 12 hours on a single tape!) and had built a 15" Heathkit color TV. For Apollo 16, I had added a new-generation "cassette" recorder to my arsenal (don't forget that the venerable 8-track was still popular at the time). And, of course, I had acquired a VCR by the time the first Space Shuttle flew in 1981. It has always annoyed me that the more recording resources I could afford, the less TV & radio coverage there was available to tape.
But the effect of the Apollo program on me was profound. Because of it, I entered into a career in radio astronomy, enjoying the technical challenge of building instruments to investigate deep space from the Earth, perhaps recognizing the likelihood that I would never have to opportunity to leave its surface (although I did make the first cut for the Canadian Astronaut Program nearly 20 years ago). In tribute to Project Apollo, we named our son (now 16) after astronaut David Scott who commanded Apollo 15, my favorite of all the lunar flights.
In many ways, I feel sorry for the children of today - they will never experience the monumental awe and global celebration that we were privileged to witness back in 1969. Strange, isn't it, that although Apollo - the pinnacle of mankind's technical achievement - which occurred only 35 years ago is now looked on as though it was something out of our deep past rather than a part of our future. It's almost treated like it was a chapter out of ancient history, similar to other great accomplishments like the building of the Pyramids or the Great Wall. Although it might not seem so today, 500 years from now the moon landings will undoubtedly be remembered as the most significant event to have occurred in the 20th century.
It's hard to choose my favorite E2M episode since they were all so good. As an engineer, "Spider" resonated well with me, portraying the passion and dedication which many of us put into our work, albeit for projects with a much lower profile. "That's All There Is" brought back fond memories of the Apollo 12 mission. I distinctly remember there was talk at the time that astronauts Conrad and Bean may have been on an accidental oxygen high. It's good to know that there effervescent behavior on the surface was just a manifestation of their normal high spirits and comradery. I was delighted at how "Galileo Was Right" was able to present the training of the astronauts to be field-geologists in such an entertaining and informative manner. And finally, the bittersweet "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" brought a tear to my eye, just as happened back in 1972 when I watched Apollo 17 and the last lunar module lift-off from the moon. It's even sadder still, that we have not returned, nor will we for perhaps another 20 years.
on June 28, 2016
For those that don't know by now, Tom Hanks has to be one of the biggest 'space geeks' ever. His unwavering passion for NASA and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey are deeply entrenched in this series. And to this day, the awe and sadness of NASA, Kennedy's dream, the race with the Soviet Union, accidents and loss of life, and how everything seemed to stop around the world as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon's surface. And three years from that moment, moon landings became routine and boring for all to give a moments notice to. And maybe why it got boring for all is that NASA and 24 gutsy astronauts finally mastered it so well. Dramatic mishaps of Apollo 13 was seemingly handled to the effect of changing a flat tire out in space. For all the visions of sci-fi books and movies, astronomers speculations and public paranoia of living on the moon and little moon people popping out of craters, and the hope and fascination for going beyond the moon came to an abrupt end in 1972. Thus series accurately depicts the toils of the program, the politics, and the perseverance. But to quote Stanley Kubrick - "sometimes realism just isn't exciting enough...' And somehow this series misses that 'umph' of getting me to grip my arm rests like I did watching The Right Stuff to Apollo 13. There is good drama in this series, be it supposed to factual. But all comes off 'perfunctory' to keep things moving along. All the acting is superb as well, but I think may have fared better with 'no names' throughout. Chris Issac, Kevin Pollack, Sally Field, Tom Hanks et al seemed to stand out and distract me. While others just as good at acting I wasn't familiar with drew me in. And a plethora of talent from bit parts in TV series and movies like 'Being There' to 'WKRP In Cincinnati'. All very good in their roles, but that nagging feeling for me watching them saying 'where have I seen him or her before...?' Maybe on more viewings I would pay more attention to the story and details than being so star struck? The addendum's on the 4th DVD are alright as well. Small featurettes on 'The Making Of' and 'Special Effects'. But a lot of real 'space geek' stuff such as viewer controlled viewing of 3D graphic models of the rocket components, selecting planets to get a written history of, and so on. Again, in time I may become more appreciative of it all. But was torn from not knowing more about the stars and production to feeling like I was in science class preparing for a test. All in all, a tremendous dream come true for Tom Hanks and all. And respectfully tells the heroic saga of the hopes, toils, determination, and wonders of the greatest personal exploration into space that humanity has done to date.
on June 1, 2004
Initially (first 10 minutes of the movie) I did not like it. I expected it to be more of a documentary kind of movie rather that actors and all that. Then I realized it was kind of interesting and more in depth, giving real feelings of the people of that era. Very nice. I managed to get the movie from my local public library. It is kind of expensive.
I agree with the reviewer bashing the conspiracy clown from Santa Monica. There is some "evidence" that the landing on the Moon has been staged. All that is pseudo science. Real scientific counterarguments EASILY debunk all those insane claims. Anyone who believes in the "conspiracy" is either not so intelligent or did not do enough research.
Do you really think it would be possible to keep all those scientists involved from telling the truth for all those years? I did not hear a SINGLE thing confirming the conspiracy from anyone involved in the apollo project. We hear these things only from so called pseudoscientists.
Why is it so hard to believe we landed? Did Russians fake their flights? Are space stations fake? Are the space shuttles fake? Are the shuttle accidents fake? Is hubble telescope a fake? Is the probe that landed on the Mars fake? Is the British probe that reached Mars but never landed a fake? Global conspiracy? Is there a conspiracy with Brits and Russians? Are satellits fake? Did we fake the Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Are nuclear submarines fake? It the nuclear energy fake? Are airplanes fake? Is quantum theory fake? Are computers fake? Is internet fake?
Is it really so impossible for us, humans, who came up with the above (iether before or after the Moon landing) to land and come back from the Moon? All that during the cold war when these kinds of achievements REALLY did matter?
People who believe that landing on the moon was faked should really do their research properly. If not, maybe they should keep believing in UFOs and area 51 conspiracies. I do not want to call them names. I am also a peaceful guy, but these kinds of arguments make me mad.
on February 2, 2004
The praises of this series have been sung by others, and I heartily recommend this DVD to everyone, but I would like to make a few points, some of which are negative, but which don't detract from the immense value of this series.
(1) Without the development of the giant Saturn V Moon rocket, man never would have gotten to the Moon, and yet its development, unlike that of the Command Module and Lunar Module is not dealt with and yet its story was just as dramatic. The problem of "combustion instability" and its solution is very interesting and took the lives of some excellent engineers but it is not mentioned. It is interesting that Wernher von Braun, the head of this effort is barely mentioned or shown in the series, whereas he was a very visible P.R. man for the space program in the 1950's and 1960's. I believe the producers of this series were aware of von Braun's past as a Captain in the dreaded Nazi SS and his possible (not proven) role in the war crimes involved in the production of the V-2 rocket in World War II and they didn't want to bring up this controversy.
(2) I give great credit to the producers for the episode about the development of the Lunar Module and the other episode showing how the astronauts were trained to become proficient geologists on the Moon. Science and engineering are usually not interesting for the television viewer, and yet these things were made quite interesting. My only complaint is that the engineers
who worked on the Lunar Module are shown to be a bunch of lovable "nerds" who view the work as recreation, but in reality many engineers gave their lives as heroes, just as did the Apollo 1 astronauts, because of the immense stress due to the time pressure. Others survived but had the marriages and family lives ruined. None of this is really shown.
(3) The actors who played Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first two men on the moon, played by Tony Goldwyn and Bryan Cranston, put in especially superb performances. Aldrin, the troubled genius, was especially well portrayed by Cranston who put in a lot of time studying Aldrin before filming commenced.
(4) The episode about Alan Shepard and Apollo 14 was quite good in showing how the flight controllers and the support teams led by Don Eyles overcame the Abort Switch malfunction. Here real-time problem-solving was shown. I was, however, disappointed that the Apollo 16 mission was not really shown because they had a more serious problem with the back-up Service Propulsion System which
also had a problem and was quite solved in a similar way. The Apollo 16 crew's exploration of the Descartes-Cayley site would have been quite interesting too because it was quite different than expected.
(5) The episode about the end of the program in Apollo 17 was both good and bad, the bad part being the story that Tom Hanks appears in about the filming of the early 20-th century movie about a flight to the Moon. This was just a waste of time, in addition to the slander against Thomas Edison. There were more important things to show, in my opinion. However, the end of the episode leaves me with tears in my eyes, because of all that had been accomplished in such a short time, and was then allowed to be thrown away because of short-sightedness. I hope that the Presidents recent decision to go back to the Moon will be carried out because Mankind needs to look to the future and to continually expand his horizons.
on November 29, 2003
I was born in July of 1968, and my "birthday present" for my first birthday was the landing of Apollo 11. So by the time of the death of manned space exploration, I was having my First Communion. Then came along "The Right Stuff", a film that truly had THE RIGHT STUFF and made me hunger for more to learn about the history of space that occured during my lifetime. Then came "Apollo 13", showing that people did not give a darn anymore about space, unless it was a matter of life or death, and this gave impetus to the star of the film to take the same quality of "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13" and do the best possible in showing the entire story of travels "From the Earth to the Moon". This along with growing up with the PBS series from Carl Sagan, "Cosmos" gave me a great love for aerospace. I graduated from High School soon after the Challenger exploded, and as a 35 year old retired and disabled adult the Columbia was lost. But I hope that this is not the death of manned space missions, and the return to manned space exploration will occur hopefully with a permanent return to the Moon, perhaps outposts on Mars, and beyond.