Space History News
space history and collectibles feature articles

discussion forums about space history and collecting

calendar of worldwide astronaut appearances

collecting guides and selected space history documents

related space memorabilia and history websites

Go / No Go :
"Apollo 11: Men on the Moon" DVD

Review by Rick Houston

Studio:   Spacecraft Films/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Release:   2003
Length:   More than 10 hours on 3 discs
MSRP:   $44.99
Extras:   astronaut commentary from post-flight debriefings; lunar landing with multi-track sound; multi-angle launch footage; pre-mission interviews; training / preparation footage; Saturn V stacking, rollout and footage of pad operations.

This was drama of the highest order.

No one knew how Apollo 11 would turn out for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as they lifted off from the Florida coastline on that July morning in 1969. Would Armstrong and Aldrin be able to land on the lunar surface for the first time in the history of mankind? More importantly, would they be able to fulfill Kennedy's 1961 mandate and return safely to Earth?

Rarely had an event captured the entire world's attention like Apollo 11. Hundreds of millions of people watched on television, transfixed by the enormity of what they were seeing. Ask almost anyone old enough to remember, and they can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing as they watched those dark, grainy images of Armstrong climbing down Eagle's ladder.

Those images, and so many more, are contained in Apollo 11: Men On The Moon. First released in 2002 by Spacecraft Films and again the following the year after the company's association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, the second effort is a huge improvement over the first.

On the first disc of Apollo 11, an informative and relevant narrative is played over footage that was left silent on the original release.

The first disc also contains an incredible 15 different launch views, as well as the famed lunar landing that can be played with any one of six different audio options. Want to hear Armstrong and Aldrin describe the landing process themselves? It's here in a post-flight debriefing played over the landing sequence.

Watch these images for just a few minutes, and it's clear that a lot of care was taken to put together the most comprehensive record of the Apollo 11 flight ever made available to the public.

There's nothing of any consequence on the second disc, other than a little ol' moonwalk. Again, there are several options available... three camera and two audio. Angle 1 for the camera is a composite of TV, 16mm film, 70mm Hasselblad images and EVA training film. If that is not enough, you can chose "just" the TV or 16mm full screen viewing options.

For audio, check out the air-to-ground transmissions or the aforementioned astronaut commentary from their post-flight debriefing. The only way to top this would be to have the moonwalkers describe the action in-person.

Christopher Columbus did not have a camera when he discovered the New World in 1492. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay were unable to take moving pictures when they summited Mt. Everest in 1953. Apollo 11 was the first time explorers documented their adventures with video, allowing us to share vicariously in the experience.

The TV images are the ones you remember, if you lived to see those historic first steps live. They're grainy, and only in the imagination is the detail of Armstrong's and Aldrin's suits visible. The picture is strikingly similar to the ghostly images beamed back to Earth of cosmonaut Alexi Leonov's first spacewalk four years earlier.

Lunar surface television would improve drastically by the end of the Apollo program, but the stark black-and-white TV provided by Apollo 11 only added to the drama of the unknown. Armstrong and Aldrin bounce out of range of the fixed camera. What dangers lurked just out of frame?

It's all here: Armstrong's immortal, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Aldrin's awed "Magnificent desolation" description of the lunar surface and President Nixon's phone call to them both.

As the historic moonwalk footage ends, the second DVD is over, but there's still a lot more to come on the third and final disc of this set. Some of the most spectacular footage in Apollo 11 is contained here, in the last half of the "Probe and Drogue" television transmission chapter.

We're escorted in living color into the Lunar Module Eagle, as it makes its way into history. A backpack that will soon be used by one of the astronauts on the lunar surface is visible. We can see through the windows that Armstrong and Aldrin will look through. The instrument panel is so plainly visible, you can easily read its dials' labels and markers.

As Eagle was released in lunar orbit, this is our first and only view inside the craft. Breathtaking.

Go/No Go: If ever there was a set to buy, this is it. The flight of Apollo 11 was far too important, and thereีs simply too much contained in this release to pass it up.

If the entire Spacecraft Films catalog is essential to any collection, Apollo 11: Men On The Moon is the best of the best.

Order now: buySPACE | Amazon | Spacecraft Films

back to collectSPACE

© 1999-2014 All rights reserved.
Questions? E-mail
About the reviewer:
Rick Houston is an avid collector of DVDs (he has more than 600). Houston is also a space history enthusiast, so he is sure to not miss a documentary or docudrama.

Feedback: collectSPACE: Messages

'Go/No Go' Review Archive: