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This week on Big Picture Science: “Nailing the moon landing.”

This week on Big Picture Science: “Nailing the moon landing.”

Image of an Astronaut on the Moon.

Neil, Buzz, and Michael made it look effortless, but the moon landing was neither easy nor inevitable.  Soon after President Kennedy publicly stated the goal of sending Americans to the moon, NASA confessed that the chances of success were only about 50-50.   But on July 20, 1969, despite daunting difficulties, astronauts stepped onto the lunar regolith.

In this special anniversary episode, the Big Picture Science team goes beyond the iconic phrases and familiar photos to consider the errors, mishaps, and the Plan B contingencies that dogged the Apollo program, as well as hear stories of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who made Apollo 11 possible.  Listeners will learn why the Soviet Union, despite an enormous technical lead at the beginning of the 1960s, squandered their opportunity to be the first to leave footprints in the dusty landscape of the moon.

Our guests include two celebrated authors who’ve written books about the space race and the nurse who was the first line of defense in case of illness or injury for the Apollo astronauts.  Also, Molly tours some of the significant artifacts of Apollo in a visit to the Museum of Flight, in Seattle.

It was one of the most important events of the twentieth century.  Join us as Big Picture Science takes you back to when visiting the moon was still no more than an implausible dream.



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