The entire world was watching a grainy TV signal on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, declaring, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Audiences will once again experience the thrill of one of humanity’s greatest achievements when Apollo 11: First Steps Edition launches at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater on Friday, June 14. This film is a special, giant-screen version made exclusively for science centers and museum theaters and derived from Todd Douglas Miller’s critically-acclaimed theatrical documentary Apollo 11.
It seems impossible, but this project began with the discovery of a trove of never-before-seen 70-millimeter footage and 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings from the Apollo 11 astronauts and 60 key NASA personnel captured during every moment of the historic voyage.
Miller’s team spent more than half a year painstakingly reviewing the materials and piecing together the entire nine-day Apollo mission. They were able to distill this into a 47-minute film that makes viewers feel as though they are witnessing the events for the first time.
“We realized that no one but the people at Mission Control had seen what we were seeing, and we were seeing it fifty years later,” says director Todd Douglas Miller. “In some cases, iconic images from the mission were familiar to us, but we had only ever seen them on 35-millimeter footage. In all cases, after scanning the 70-millimeter material, we were able to see the Apollo 11 mission in a brand-new way. Standing there, seeing this footage for the first time, was like a religious experience. We were floored, speechless.”
Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, the founding chairman of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, recalls the thrill of that night. “When it was about time for them to step out onto the moon, I woke my children up. We sat down in front of the TV, and we were just cheering. It was spectacular to see.”
The overwhelming excitement was not just limited to the United States. “They also showed things like the Eiffel Tower and huge crowds of people watching the event,” Dr. Rodgers says. “People were gathered around their TVs in countries all over the world.”
Dr. Rodgers will be the featured speaker for the launch of Apollo 11: First Steps Edition at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater. She will provide honest and thoughtful insights about our nation’s space program as well as discussing her work promoting STEM studies through the global network of 43 Challenger Centers.
She hopes this new IMAX film will rekindle America’s passion for space exploration and inspire a new generation to reach for the stars by pursuing rewarding careers in STEM-related fields.
And, if the film’s historical consultant, Robert Pearlman, is correct, the excitement of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission comes at a time when many more career opportunities in space exploration are beginning to emerge.
“We’ve come to a point where there are companies that are building rockets that will take private citizens to the moon,” Mr. Pearlman says. “Later this year, the first Israeli moon lander will be launched from Kennedy Space Center, so we’re having a lunar renaissance.
“Meanwhile, NASA is looking in coming years to send astronauts back to the lunar orbit in cooperation with its partners, with the intention of pushing on to Mars. After 50 years, we’re at a new crossroads.”
With the engines starting up in preparation for an all-new space race, the opportunity to relive Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s unprecedented odyssey is just as thrilling today as when mankind left its first footprint in the lunar soil.
Apollo 11: First Steps Edition (2D) Launch Event at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater will be on Friday, June 14 at 7 p.m., with guest speaker Dr. Rodgers. A portion of the proceeds from opening day screenings will support the Challenger STEM Learning Center at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga.
Tickets are $11.95 for adults; children (three-12) are $9.95.
Apollo 11 Fast Facts:
- Apollo 11 landed on the Moon at 4 p.m. Eastern Time on July 20, 1969. Armstrong took the first step at 11 p.m. EDT.
- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to walk on the Moon.
- Astronaut Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 command module in orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin spent more than 21 hours on the Moon.
- 550 million people around the world watched Neil Armstrong’s first step on TV.
- A total of 12 astronauts have walked on the Moon’s surface. Six of those drove Lunar Roving Vehicles on the Moon.
- There is more computing power in your cell phone today than the entire computing power used for the Apollo 11 program.