Apollo 11: Moon Landing Milestone Gets Epic TV Treatment

Buzz Aldrin plants the flag in the documentary "Apollo 11." (Universal)

The U.S. space program has inspired memorable dramatic movies from "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13" to last year's "First Man," which re-created the Apollo 11 moon landing.

For the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, television will go the documentary route in a mammoth way. The programs start airing weeks before July 20, the day in 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans on the lunar surface.

PBS is gathering its NASA programs under the banner "Summer of Space." The animated "Ready Jet Go!" on PBS Kids will offer "One Small Step" to help parents and children prepare for the milestone.

Here's a look at the prime-time programs:

-- "Apollo's Moon Shot," 8 p.m. Sunday, Smithsonian Channel: A six-part series that mixes newly restored archival footage with the astronauts' debriefings after they returned to Earth. The program also looks at astronaut artifacts from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Those items range from John Glenn's camera to the last space boots on the moon, which remain covered with lunar dust.

-- "Apollo 11," 9 and 11 p.m. June 23 on CNN: The stunning documentary that played in movie theaters comes to television. The film draws on newly discovered 70 mm footage to provide an immersive look at the mission. Director-producer Todd Douglas Miller's film will be repeated, including on July 20.

-- "The Day We Walked on the Moon," 9 p.m. July 7, Smithsonian Channel: An exploration of the first 24 hours of the moon landing. The speakers include Michael Collins, the third member of the Apollo 11 mission, and the children of Armstrong and Aldrin. Other witnesses include Flight Director Gene Kranz, Queen guitarist (and astrophysicist) Brian May and TV host (and physics professor) Brian Cox.

-- "Antiques Roadshow," 8 p.m. July 8, PBS: NASA memorabilia fills the episode called "Out of This World."

-- "Chasing the Moon," 9 p.m. July 8-10, PBS: A six-hour, three-part look at the challenges in putting a man on the moon. The "American Experience" production recounts the space race with the Soviet Union, earlier Apollo missions and the magnitude of Apollo 11's achievement.

-- "Nova: Back to the Moon," 8 p.m. July 10, PBS: Will the moon be the steppingstone to other missions? Engineers and entrepreneurs say so in this program, although President Donald Trump has suggested otherwise.

-- "8 Days: To the Moon and Back," 9 p.m. July 17, PBS: Audio of candid conversations with Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins is combined with news footage, NASA archival material and a CGI re-creation of the journey. Re-enactments, which are used when moments weren't filmed, feature Rufus Wright as Armstrong, Jack Tarlton as Aldrin and Patrick Kennedy as Collins.

-- "Wonders of the Moon," 10 p.m. July 19, BBC America: Blood moons, super moons and total eclipses are topics in the documentary about how our natural satellite affects life on Earth. The program examines a total eclipse across the United States, explores coral reefs in the South Pacific and visits an autumn festival in Hong Kong. Low light cameras will show the moon in its natural light, BBC America says.

-- "Apollo 11: The Forgotten Films," 8 p.m. July 20, Discovery Channel: The two-hour program draws on footage from NASA Research Centers, the National Archives and news reports of the time. Also airs at 8 p.m. July 21 on Science Channel.

-- "Confessions From Space: Apollo," 10 p.m. July 20, Discovery Channel: Apollo astronauts provide "an intimate conversation about life in space, and after," according to a blurb for the show. They include Aldrin and Collins (Apollo 11), Al Worden (Apollo 15) and Charlie Duke (Apollo 16).

-- "Moon Landing Live," 9 p.m. July 20, BBC America: The historic event is re-told through NASA footage and live news broadcasts from around the world. The audience is put at 600 million for Armstrong's first steps on the moon.

-- "Ancient Skies," 8 p.m. July 24, PBS: A three-part series about how our ancestors studied outer space for centuries.

-- "Nova: The Planets," 9 p.m. July 24, PBS: A five-part look at our neighbors, with special attention to Saturn's rings and Neptune's winds.

If you prefer the dramatic approach, National Geographic has announced a scripted series of "The Right Stuff" with Patrick J. Adams as John Glenn. Production starts in Cocoa Beach this fall, and the series will debut next year.

This article is written by Hal Boedeker from The Orlando Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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