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New Releases: Apollo 11 Edition

Fifty years ago today, NASA launched Apollo 11—the first mission to land humans on the Moon. While the manned space program was national in scope, the heart of Project Apollo beat firmly in Texas. Houston was more than Mission Control. It was where spacecraft were designed and tested, where astronauts lived and trained.

It was also through Houston that the world watched Apollo on television. To downsize the amount of personnel and equipment on site for reporting, the three television networks agreed to take turns assuming pool coverage responsibilities. All three contracted Houston’s KPRC-TV for these assignments. The station provided both national and international television news coverage of all NASA space missions between Gemini 4 in 1965 and the Challenger explosion in 1986.

To celebrate the anniversary of Apollo 11, the Texas Archive of the Moving Image is excited to share new releases from KPRC and the Larry Weidman Collection focused on the historic mission and its famous flight crew.

Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. This KPRC footage captures a press conference at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Johnson Space Center) introducing his group, commonly known as the New Nine. Armstrong takes a question about the national exposure he and his family will likely receive.

Three months before launch, NASA invited reporters and photographers to the Manned Spacecraft Center for a staged publicity event. In this news segment, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin don their spacesuits and act out what they plan to do on the Moon’s surface. 

A month before launch, news camera caught Armstrong flying the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) at Ellington Air Force Base. He performed six simulated lunar landings, testing various maneuvers. Consisting of a gimbaled jet engine mounted face down, the LLTV duplicated the flight behavior of the Lunar Module.

Eleven days before launch, the press returned to the Manned Spacecraft Center for a press conference with the Apollo 11 flight crew. In this KPRC new segment, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins reveal the spacecraft call signs, “Eagle” and “Columbia.”

Produced by NASA, this government film looks at the progress made by the American space program during 1969. The film begins by reviewing unmanned missions and research projects, such as the Mars Exploration Program. It then chronicles the objectives and achievements of Apollos 9 through 12.

To mark the first anniversary of Apollo 11, KPRC produced this special broadcast. The segment begins with footage of astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin landing and walking on the Moon, followed by audio of President Richard Nixon’s congratulatory message to the flight crew. It then previews what comes next, introducing plans for future NASA projects.

KPRC reporters also spoke with Colonel James McDivitt about the mission and its impact. McDivitt was manager of Lunar Landing Operations during Apollo 11 and manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program during Apollos 12 through 16. A former astronaut himself, he flew on Gemini 4 and Apollo 9.

Reporter Lee Tucker meanwhile hit the streets of downtown Houston to quiz passers-by on the names of the Apollo 11 astronauts. An estimated 600 million people may have watched Armstrong and Aldrin walk on the Moon only a year prior, but most of the people interviewed struggle to remember.   

KPRC celebrated the tenth anniversary of Apollo 11 with a special Big 2 News at 6 broadcast live from the Mission Control Center. Featured segments include stories about the dedication of Tranquility Park, the tourist appeal of Johnson Space Center, and the scientific study of Moon rocks. Meteorologist Doug Johnson delivers his forecast from the center’s meteorological offices before talking with NASA meteorologist Dick Siler about how the space program improved weather technology.

Find more than 100 other films about NASA and the manned space program in the Texas Archive collection here. You can also learn more about Project Apollo and the importance of the Manned Spacecraft Center in our web exhibit, JOURNEY TO THE MOON THROUGH TEXAS