From the Earth to the Moon (TV miniseries)

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This article is about the 1998 HBO miniseries. For the 1865 Jules Verne novel, see From the Earth to the Moon. For the 1958 film adaptation of the novel, see From the Earth to the Moon (film).
From the Earth to the Moon
From the Earth to the Moon Title.jpg
Title caption of From the Earth to the Moon
Genre Docudrama
Theme music composer Michael Kamen
Composer(s) Michael Kamen
Mark Mancina
Mark Isham
Mason Daring
James Newton Howard
Brad Fiedel
Jeff Beal
Marc Shaiman
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 12
Production
Executive producer(s) Tom Hanks
Producer(s) Brian Grazer
Ron Howard
Michael Bostick
Running time 60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel HBO
Original run April 5, 1998 – May 10, 1998

From the Earth to the Moon is a twelve-part HBO television miniseries (1998) co-produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Tom Hanks, and Michael Bostick, telling the story of the landmark Apollo expeditions to the Moon during the 1960s and early 1970s in docudrama format. Largely based on Andrew Chaikin's book, A Man on the Moon, the series is known for its accurate telling of the story of Apollo and the outstanding special effects under visual director Ernest D. Farino.

The series takes its title from, but is not based upon, the famous Jules Verne science fiction novel From the Earth to the Moon. Hanks appears in every episode, introducing each of the first eleven. The last episode is represented in a pseudo-documentary format narrated by Blythe Danner, which is interspersed with a reenactment of the making of Georges Méliès' film Le Voyage dans la Lune. Hanks narrates and appears in these scenes as Méliès' assistant.

Cast[edit]

The miniseries has a fairly large cast, driven in part by the fact that it portrays 30 of the 32 astronauts who flew (or were preparing to fly) the 12 missions of the Apollo program. (The only two Apollo astronauts not portrayed by credited actors are Apollo 13 Command Module pilot Jack Swigert, and Apollo 17 Command Module pilot Ronald Evans, who had a brief appearance in the liftoff scene of Apollo 17 in the final episode.) Members of many of the astronauts' families, and other NASA and non-NASA personnel, are also portrayed.

Several fictional (or fictionalized) characters are also included, notably television newscaster Emmett Seaborn (Lane Smith) who appears in 9 of the 12 episodes.

Episodes[edit]

The twelve episodes, each directed by different individuals, use a variety of viewpoints and themes, while sequentially covering the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Lane Smith portrays Emmett Seaborn, a seasoned reporter for a fictional television network who covers the U.S. space program from its earliest days, providing continuity for most of the episodes.

Number Title Directed by Written by Original air date
01 "Can We Do This?" Tom Hanks Steven Katz April 5, 1998
Covers the early years of the United States' "space race" with the Soviet Union, including the creation of NASA and the decision to send men to the Moon. Provides an overview of the Mercury and Gemini programs, concentrating on reconstructions of Alan Shepard's pioneering Freedom 7 Mercury flight; Edward H. White's first US spacewalk on Gemini 4, the near-disastrous in-flight failure during Neil Armstrong's and David Scott's Gemini 8 mission; and the successful completion of Gemini with Buzz Aldrin's perfection of extravehicular activity on Gemini 12.
02 "Apollo One" David Frankel Graham Yost April 5, 1998
Portrays the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire from the perspective of its subsequent investigation by NASA and the US Congress. Its effects on key individuals are shown, including Harrison Storms of North American Aviation, Joseph Shea of NASA, astronaut Frank Borman charged with supporting NASA's investigation, and the widows of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.
03 "We Have Cleared the Tower" Lili Fini Zanuck Remi Aubuchon April 12, 1998
Portrays the Apollo program's recovery to manned flight after the Apollo One tragedy, from the perspective of a fictional documentary team covering the flight of Apollo 7. This flight is commanded by strong-willed Mercury veteran Wally Schirra, who is focused on safety after the death of his colleague Grissom. Pad Leader Guenter Wendt, another zealous guardian of astronaut safety, is featured by the documentary team.
04 "1968" David Frankel Al Reinert April 12, 1998
Depicts Apollo 8's historic first manned lunar flight, as the redemption of an otherwise strife-torn year filled with political assassinatons, war, and unrest. Documentary footage of the turbulent political events are interspersed with the drama, which is mostly filmed in black and white except for scenes aboard the spacecraft and some color newsreel footage. The fears of mission commander Frank Borman's wife Susan of the possibility of her husband dying in a spacecraft trapped in lunar orbit are highlighted. Includes the Apollo 8 Genesis reading.
05 "Spider" Graham Yost Andy Wolk April 19, 1998
Returns to 1961, and NASA engineer John Houbolt's lonely fight to convince management that the easiest way to land men on the Moon will be to use a separate landing craft. It then traces the design and development of the Lunar Module by a team led by Grumman engineer Tom Kelly. Covers the selection and training of the first crew selected to fly it, Jim McDivitt and Rusty Schweickart (along with Command Module pilot David Scott), and culminates with their first flight of Spider in Earth orbit on Apollo 9. The Apollo 10 lunar "dress rehearsal" is briefly mentioned.
06 "Mare Tranquilitatis" Frank Marshall Al Reinert
Graham Yost
Tom Hanks
April 19, 1998
A dramatization of the Apollo 11 first Moon landing in Mare Tranquilitatis ("Sea of Tranquility") is interspersed with flashback sequences of Emmett Seaborn's television interview with the crew of Neil Armstrong, Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin, and Command Module pilot Michael Collins.
07 "That's All There Is" Jon Turteltaub Paul McCudden
Erik Bork
Tom Hanks
April 26, 1998
The story of the Apollo 12 second lunar landing mission is told by Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean. Bean, the last member of NASA Astronaut Group 3 to fly in space, narrates his experience with the tightly-knit, all-Navy crew commanded by Gemini veteran Pete Conrad, and accepts with humor and grace his responsibility for the failure of the first color TV camera on the lunar surface, and for almost fracturing his own skull by failing to properly secure the Command Module's TV camera before splashdown.
08 "We Interrupt This Program" David Frankel Peter Osterland
Amy Brooke Baker
April 26, 1998
This episode covers the perilous flight of Apollo 13 entirely from the ground point of view; the astronauts are only heard on radio. Veteran TV spaceflight reporter Emmett Seaborn (Lane Smith) is summoned to broadcast the breaking news of the in-flight failure, as young reporter Brett Hutchings (Jay Mohr) is pulled off of sports to help with the coverage. As the crisis unfolds, Seaborn finds himself at odds with Hutchings' style of sensationalizing its impact on the astronauts' families, and criticizing NASA. Seaborn starts to feel he is being marginalized when the network decides to leave Hutchings on location in Houston, while sending him back to headquarters to provide only background coverage. The last straw falls when, after the successful recovery of the astronauts, Hutchings horns in on his traditional post-flight interview with flight controller Gene Kranz. Seaborn leaves dejectedly, not to be seen again until the flight of Apollo 17 in the final episode.
09 "For Miles and Miles" Gary Fleder Erik Bork May 3, 1998
In 1964, while riding high on his fame as America's first man in space and his expected command of the first Gemini mission, Alan Shepard is suddenly struck with Ménière's disease, characterized by vertigo and nausea. Flight operations director Deke Slayton must ground him, but offers him the job of chief astronaut, effectively making Shepard Slayton's assistant as supervisor of all the astronauts. A few years later, a surgeon tries an experimental surgery which cures Shepard's symptoms, and he is returned to the flight rotation, commanding Apollo 14 in early 1971, which accomplishes Apollo 13's failed Fra Mauro landing. Shepard smuggles a golf ball and six-iron club head on board, which he fastens to a soil-collecting tool handle and uses to hit the ball "for miles and miles".
10 "Galileo Was Right" David Carson Jeffrey Fiskin
Remi Aubuchon
May 3, 1998
Scientist astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, a geologist, persuades his mentor, professor Lee Silver, to train the Apollo astronauts in selecting appropriate rock samples to collect through field experience, rather than the boring classroom lectures NASA has been using. Silver takes the four Apollo 15 prime and backup landing crew members (David Scott, James Irwin, Richard F. Gordon, Jr., and Schmitt) to the southwestern desert, while lunar geologist Farouk El-Baz trains the Command Module pilots (Alfred Worden and Vance Brand) in high-altitude recognition of geological features using airplane flights over Hawaii. Schmitt is disappointed to learn his own Apollo 18 flight will be cancelled, but he still believes the training of the other astronauts is vital. It pays off when Scott and Irwin find the "Genesis Rock", originally believed to come from the Moon's primordial crust. The title refers to Scott's reproduction of an experiment proving Galileo's hypothesis that gravity will cause bodies of differing masses to fall at the same rate in a vacuum, by dropping a hammer and a feather.
11 "The Original Wives' Club" Sally Field Karen Janszen
Tom Hanks
Erik Bork
May 10, 1998
Shows the Apollo program from the point of view of the nine wives of NASA's second group of astronauts, from 1962 beyond the end of the program. The burdens placed on them include maintaining a home while presenting a positive image to the news media, shielding their husbands from any family concerns which could affect their position in the flight rotation or ability to return to Earth safely, and comforting each other in the face of tragedy as Elliot See and Ed White are killed. The episode is anchored by the Apollo 16 mission, during which recently married Ken Mattingly loses his wedding ring in the Command Module, and Lunar Module pilot Charles Duke finds it while Mattingly is performing a walk in deep space.
12 "Le Voyage dans la Lune" Jonathan Mostow Tom Hanks May 10, 1998
The story of the final lunar mission, Apollo 17, is told as a pseudo-documentary set several decades after the fact. Simulated interviews of various characters such as Emmett Seaborn and flight director Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., in old-age makeup, are included. The documentary is interspersed with the story of early French film maker Georges Méliès' creation of his vision of a trip to the Moon, the 1902 Le Voyage dans la Lune. Scenes from the original film are merged with the recreation of its filming.

Integration with existing films[edit]

The miniseries, concentrating on the Apollo space program, was produced with an intent not to repeat other dramatic portrayals of events of the space race.

Project Mercury, which was portrayed in the film The Right Stuff, was briefly summarized in the first episode. Miniseries producers Hanks, Howard and Grazer, who had previously produced Apollo 13, deliberately shot the episode We Interrupt This Program from the perspective of the media covering that flight, as the film had already covered the story from the point of view of the crew and the mission control team.

Production information[edit]

  • Many of the actors had opportunity to interact and form friendships with the real life astronauts they were portraying. Brett Cullen, who played Apollo 9 Command Module pilot and Apollo 15 commander David Scott, was invited to the Scott family home each time an episode he appeared in was first televised.
  • Two short clips from the final scenes of Apollo 13 were used in "That's All There Is"; a splashdown sequence, and a view of the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima (portrayed by USS New Orleans).
  • The original series was shot in 1.33:1 aspect ratio, intended to be viewed on standard television sets. The series was released on DVD as a 4-disc set. With the proliferation of widescreen flat-panel TV sets the series was remastered in 1.78:1 aspect ratio and rereleased in 2005 as a 5-disc DVD box set. New framing causes loss of top and bottom parts of the frames from the original movie. This is not always noticeable because of careful transfer process, but in some scenes important details are lost. For example, in Disc 1, when the Gemini 8 / Agena assembly is tumbling around the sky with a stuck thruster, the thruster is not visible in the new widescreen version as it is cut off by the top of the frame. Some captions have also been compromised.[1]
  • To simulate lunar surface gravity, weather balloons filled with helium were attached to the backs of the actors playing the astronauts in the lunar extra-vehicular activity scenes, effectively reducing their Earth-bound weights to one-sixth.
  • The score of "Spider" prominently features an imitation of the main title theme from the 1963 World War II movie The Great Escape, and Tom Kelly jokes about having a crew digging a tunnel out of the Grumman plant. The episode also featured a real Lunar Module (LM-13), which had been built for the Apollo 18 mission but was never used due to budget cuts.
  • Scenes of the moonwalks were shot inside the blimp hangars on the former Marine base in Tustin, California. Approximately half the area inside was converted to the Moon's surface, with the remainder used to hold production trailers.

Awards[edit]

The series won 3 Emmy awards for Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries or a Movie and Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. a 1999 Golden Globe Award for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV.

References[edit]

External links[edit]