In the Shadow of the Moon, producer Ron Howard's breathtaking latest film, chronicles the history of the Apollo program by bringing together the surviving crew members of every manned Moon mission. With the help of digitally restored, rarely before-seen archival footage, the former astronauts describe, in their own words, a time when humans walked on the face of another world.
The Apollo program was forged in the middle of the Cold War; In 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to Congress challenging the United States to put a man on the Moon and return him safely back to Earth before the decade was up. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had already orbited the Earth, becoming the first man in space. A few weeks before President Kennedy's threw down the gauntlet, Alan Shepard took a suborbital flight that lasted only 15 minutes—not much by anyone's standards, but enough to give the United States the "in" into outer space it was looking for.
On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on another celestial body.
"This country can do extraordinary things when it's galvanized," director David Sington, who hails from the United Kingdom, told TreeHugger at a recent press junket for the film.
"And when the leadership or the events conspire to make America, which is normally a country in which people just do their own thing, when it makes people actually decided on one goal, then that is where the sense of optimism and potentiality is," he added.
Having directed a couple of documentaries about climate change, the correlation between the "Space Race" and climate change was, for Sington, unmistakable. After all, the Moon landing has its own peanut gallery of doubters, skeptics, and conspiracy theorists, many of whom, he said, were otherwise highly intelligent people.
Still, Sington's faith in the United States is singular. "I think that one day in America there will be—and I think that you can see it beginning to happen—a strong political consensus that we need to tackle this issue," he said. "And when that consensus is crystallized by the political leadership it's going to throw up, then I think we'll deal with it.
"But it'll happen in this country irrespective of anything else. It's this country's destiny to do that." ::In the Shadow of the Moon