Apollo 11 in popular culture

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The Washington Post on Monday, July 21, 1969, stating 'The Eagle Has Landed—Two Men Walk on the Moon'.

Apollo 11 was the first human spaceflight to land on the Moon. The 1969 mission's wide effect on popular culture has resulted in numerous portrayals of Apollo 11 and its crew, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

Public reception[edit]

The mission was extensively covered in the press. Over 53 million US households tuned in to watch the Apollo 11 mission across the two weeks it was on TV, making it the most watched TV programming up to that date. An estimated 650 million viewers worldwide watched the first steps on the Moon.[1][2][3]

Acknowledgments and monuments[edit]

The United States of America acknowledged the success of Apollo 11 with a national day of celebration on Monday, July 21, 1969. All but emergency and essential employees were allowed a paid day off from work, in both government and the private sector. The last time this had happened was the national day of mourning on Monday, November 25, 1963, to observe the state funeral of President John F. Kennedy, who had set the political goal to put a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s.

A replica of the footprint left by Neil Armstrong is located at Tranquillity Park in Houston, Texas. The park was dedicated in 1979, a decade after the first Moon landing. In 2019 Buzz Aldrin's well-known photograph of his own footprint was depicted on the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coins.

The Apollo 11 Cave in Namibia was named after the flight upon its successful return to Earth.

Portrayal in media[edit]

Films and television[edit]

  • On September 16, 1962, the date Neil Armstrong's selection as an astronaut was announced, his parents were flown to New York to appear on the television game show I've Got a Secret. After their secret was guessed, host Garry Moore commented "Wouldn't it be something if your son were the first man on the Moon?" The episode has been shown on Game Show Network although Armstrong himself never saw it until his biographer brought him a copy of the tape.
  • The 1969 documentary film, Footprints on the Moon by Bill Gibson and Barry Coe, is about the Apollo 11 mission.[4]
  • The 1971 documentary Moonwalk One is a film by Theo Kamecke.[5]
  • Footage of the landing famously introduced viewers to MTV in 1981, and served as its top and bottom of the hour identifier during the cable channel's early years. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage to associate MTV with the most famous moment in worldwide television history.[6] MTV also pays tribute to the classic ID by handing out astronaut statuettes (or "Moonmen") at its annual Video Music Awards.
  • In the 1993 American animated television series Exosquad, the Able Squad briefly visits Tranquility Base during and after the Battle for the Moon.[7]
  • In the 1995 film Apollo 13, based on the real mission, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, Fred Haise, Ken Mattingly, Pete Conrad, and Marilyn Lovell gather in the Lovell household to watch Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 moonwalk. Later in the film, as the crew pass around the Moon, Haise points out that they're passing over the Mare Tranquillitatis and refers to it as "Neil and Buzz's old neighborhood". Armstrong and Aldrin talk to and distract Lovell's mother as she watches news reports of her son's endangered mission.
  • The 1996 television docudrama Apollo 11 filmed some of its scenes in the original Apollo Mission Control Center.
  • The opening scenes of the 1996 film Independence Day show an alien mothership passing low over the Apollo 11 landing site. The tidal forces of its passing erases the famous bootprint left on the soft lunar surface.
  • Portions of the Apollo 11 mission are dramatized in the 1998 HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon in the "Mare Tranquilitatis" episode. In the episode Michael Collins suggests to Armstrong what he should say upon stepping onto the lunar surface: "If you had any balls, you'd say 'Oh, my God, what is that thing?' then scream and cut your mic."
  • The Apollo 11 landing site is featured in the 1999 Futurama episode "The Series Has Landed", with Fry and Leela sheltering from the lunar night in the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (which, according to a plaque, has been returned there by the "Historical Sticklers Society").
  • The 2000 Australian film The Dish tells the slightly fictionalised story of how the images of the Moon-walk were received by the radio telescope at Parkes Observatory, New South Wales.
  • In the 2002 season of the British sitcom My Hero, George and Janet's newborn son chooses the name Apollo 11 (or Ollie for short) for himself because "It shows a link between two worlds," his father George being an alien on the show.
  • Man on the Moon, a 2006 television opera in one act by Jonathan Dove with a libretto by Nicholas Wright, relates the story of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the subsequent problems experienced by Buzz Aldrin.
  • The 2008 documentary miniseries When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions features Apollo 11 in episode three.
  • The 2008 computer animated film Fly Me to the Moon centers on a fictional story of three flies that stow away on the command module Columbia and the Lunar Module Eagle, repair a fictional electrical short during the lunar insertion burn, and manage to land on the Moon. The real Buzz Aldrin briefly discusses the film during the closing credits.
  • The 2009 television film Moonshot depicts the preparation for the Apollo 11 mission.
  • The Apollo 11 mission is used as part of the main story line in the 2011 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The movie described the mission and the main reason for the Apollo program's existence as a means to investigate a meteor crash on the dark side of the Moon. The object turns out to be the Ark, the space vessel carrying one of the Autobots, Sentinel Prime. Buzz Aldrin plays himself in a brief cameo in the film.
  • The Apollo 11 mission, and more specifically the moment Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon, plays a crucial role in the 2011 Doctor Who episode "Day of the Moon". The Doctor is shown altering wiring inside the Command Module Columbia on the launch pad, and video of the mission launch is also shown, the purpose being to put a short clip of a post-hypnotic suggestion into the most watched piece of footage in history to help the human race defend themselves from the Silence, 'memory-proof' aliens.
  • In the 2012 film Men in Black 3, Apollo 11 was used by Agent K to carry the Arc Net (a shield that protects Earth from Alien invasion) to space. The three astronauts see the Men in Black fighting the alien villain from the cockpit, but Buzz Aldrin realizes that if they report it over the radio to Mission Control the launch will be aborted and they might never be sent to the Moon. Armstrong nonchalantly responds to Aldrin that "I didn't see anything", and simply doesn't report it. Michael Collins apparently agreed as well.
  • In the 2011-2012 show in the Kamen Rider Series, Kamen Rider Fourze, the Apollo 11 landing plays a crucial role in the flashback of the series antagonist Mitsuaki Gamou as he resolved to become an astronaut and achieve his dream to meet the alien race called the Presenters.
  • The last episode of the 2015 television series The Astronaut Wives Club, "Landing", features the Apollo 11 mission.
  • In Ready Jet Go!'s 2016 episode, "Earth Mission to Moon", Jet, Sean, Sydney, Mindy, Celery, and Carrot, re-enact the Apollo 11 mission. Jet, Sean, and Sydney portray the Apollo 11 astronauts, and Carrot and Mindy depict the people at Mission Control. In this re-enactment, Sean plays Neil Armstrong.
  • The Apollo 11 mission appears in the 2016 season 1 episode "Space Race" of the NBC series Timeless. In the episode, Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus travel to the day of the mission, July 20, 1969, to stop Garcia Flynn from interfering with the mission. After Flynn's helper, Anthony Bruhl, launches a modern-day virus against NASA, which prevents the staff from communicating with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Rufus and Lucy get help from Mathematician Katherine Johnson to stop the virus and Flynn before it is too late.
  • The 2018 film First Man depicts Armstrong and Aldrin as they prepare for, and then accomplish, the Apollo 11 mission.
  • The 2019 documentary Apollo 11 is a film by Todd Douglas Miller with restored footage of the 1969 event.[8][9]
  • 1969, a 2019 documentary series, devotes its first episode, "Moon Shot", to the Apollo 11 mission.
  • "Moondust", the 2019 seventh episode of the third season of the Netflix series The Crown, includes extensive scenes of the British royal family watching the original BBC coverage of the Apollo 11 mission. It also includes a fictionalized portrayal of the private meeting of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with the Apollo 11 crew during their visit to Buckingham Palace, and the prince's admiration for the Apollo astronauts.
  • Chasing the Moon, a July 2019 PBS three-night six-hour documentary, directed by Robert Stone, examines the events leading up to the Apollo 11 mission,[10] the mission itself, and its legacy.


Video games[edit]

  • In the Moon mission of Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge (2001), there is an Apollo 11 Lunar Lander as well as a US flag in the eastern side of the map close to the Soviet starting area. The upper stage of the lunar lander is still attached.
  • In the backstory of the Touhou Project games, Apollo 11 was mistaken for an act of invasion by the Moon's resident Lunarians, leading to the Lunar War.
  • In Kerbal Space Program, there is a monument dedicated to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Mun (the game's analogue of the Moon) at the exact coordinates where Apollo 11 landed in 1969 as an easter egg.
  • In the Assassin's Creed universe Apollo 11 was a cover-up for Templar mission to find one of the Apples of Eden that got there during the failed attempt to prevent the First Catastrophe.
  • In the 2020 game The Last of Us Part II, the Command Module as well as the A7-L pressure suit are on display during a flashback. In a later scene during the sequence, the protagonists enter the CSM and listen to a recording of the CBS broadcast of the Apollo 11 launch with commentary from Walter Cronkite.



Soon after the mission a conspiracy theory arose that the landing was a hoax, a theory widely discounted by historians and scientists.[13][14][15] It may have gained more popularity after the 1978 film Capricorn One portrayed a fictional NASA attempt to fake a landing on Mars.[16]

An urban legend suggests that they were being 'watched' while on the Moon and had seen alien vehicles in space. This grew in popularity after the book Somebody Else Is on the Moon was published.[17] Aldrin did spot an unidentified object travelling relative to them late in the third day of the mission. After learning from Mission Control that it couldn't be the S-IVB stage, since that was 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km) away, they concluded that it was most likely one of four panels that had linked the spacecraft and the upper stage.[18] Later popular accounts often described this as a "UFO sighting" or claimed the widely reported incident had been "covered up."

At age 76, astronaut Buzz Aldrin said in a television documentary, "There was something out there, close enough to be observed, and what could it be?... Now, obviously the three of us weren't going to blurt out, 'Hey, Houston, we've got something moving alongside of us and we don't know what it is', you know?... We knew that those transmissions would be heard by all sorts of people and somebody might have demanded we turn back because of aliens or whatever the reason is."[19] They may have seen the Luna 15 spacecraft which the Soviet Union had launched at about the same time as Apollo 11.[20]

There is a humorous and ribald urban legend that when Armstrong was a child, the wife of a neighbor named Gorsky, when asked by her husband to perform oral sex, had ridiculed him by saying "...when the kid next door walks on the Moon!" and then decades later whilst walking on the Moon Armstrong supposedly said "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky". In 1995 Armstrong said he first heard the story in California when comedian Buddy Hackett told it as a joke.[21] It was humorously referenced in the opening scene of the 2009 film Watchmen. "Good Luck Mr Gorsky" is the title of a track on the 1996 album The It Girl by Britpop band Sleeper.

Anticipation in pre-Apollo media[edit]

The Jeff Hawke comic strip of November 21, 1959, depicts a plaque honoring the first human Moon landing, (August 4, 1969, instead of July 20)

Some fictional works anticipated some aspects of the Apollo program despite being published well in advance of it.

In Jules Vernes' 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, the vehicle was launched from Florida, as were the Apollo missions. The fictional launch cannon was named Columbiad, similar to the Apollo 11 spacecraft Columbia. The novel included other similarities, including the weight and materials of the spacecraft, a crew of three men, and the mission ending in a splashdown, with retrieval by a United States Navy vessel.[22] The similarities between Verne's fictional trip and that of Apollo 11 are noted in a historical marker in Titusville, Florida's Space View Park.[23]

In the British science-fiction comic strip Jeff Hawke, the final panel of the November 21, 1959 strip depicted a plaque commemorating the first landing of a human on the Moon on August 4, 1969. The date is only two weeks after Apollo 11 landed on July 20, 1969.[24]

In the 1963 science-fiction novel Apollo at Go, by Jeff Sutton, the plot involves a mission to land the first astronauts on the Moon. It correctly predicted that the US would be the first country to land on the Moon, that the Apollo program (established in 1961) would launch the mission with a Saturn V rocket, that the astronauts would land during July, 1969 (though on July 8 instead of July 20), and that the first mission would involve three astronauts, two to actually land on the Moon and one to pilot the command ship.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Apollo 11 Mission Overview". NASA. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  2. ^ "Television Obscurities – Apollo 11 Footage Missing".
  3. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, pg 50 – Apollo 11 turns out as biggest show on earth" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Moon Landing Film Coming to Theaters". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. September 1, 1969. p. 69 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Jones, Sam (May 25, 2009). "The moon shoot: film of Apollo mission on show again after 35 years in the can". The Guardian. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  6. ^ "The 100 Greatest Moments in Rock Music: The '80s". Entertainment Weekly. May 1999. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  7. ^ Danner, Patrick. "Exosquad episode 2.34 summary". The ExoSquad Universe. Archived from the original on 9 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
  8. ^ Kenny, Glenn (February 27, 2019). "'Apollo 11' Review: The 1969 Moon Mission Still Has the Power to Thrill". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  9. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (February 13, 2019). "'Apollo 11' Documentary Gets Exclusive Imax Release". Variety. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  10. ^ Foust, Jeff. "Review: Chasing the Moon". Space News. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  11. ^ Heller, Jason (July 20, 2019). "The Moon Landing Inspired Pink Floyd's Most Overlooked Song". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  12. ^ "Test Shot Starfish Break Down 'Music for Space' Album: Exclusive". Billboard. 2018-10-05. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  13. ^ Plait 2002, pp. 154–173
  14. ^ Neal-Jones, Nancy; Zubritsky, Elizabeth; Cole, Steve (September 6, 2011). Garner, Robert (ed.). "NASA Spacecraft Images Offer Sharper Views of Apollo Landing Sites". NASA. Goddard Release No. 11-058 (co-issued as NASA HQ Release No. 11-289). Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  15. ^ Robinson, Mark (July 27, 2012). "LRO slewed 19° down-Sun allowing the illuminated side of the still standing American flag to be captured at the Apollo 17 landing site. M113751661L" (Caption). LROC News System. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  16. ^ van Bakel, Rogier (September 1994). "The Wrong Stuff". Wired (2.09). New York: Condé Nast Publications. p. 5. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  17. ^ "Lunaranomalies.com".
  18. ^ "UFOs and Aliens in Space". - section 6.40
  19. ^ "Buzz had to fix Moon Lander with Biro".
  20. ^ "Apollo 11". Modern Marvels. The History Channel.
  21. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara & David P. "Good luck, Mr Gorsky!" at Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages.
  22. ^ Wade, Mark. "Jules Verne Moon Gun". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  23. ^ "Jules Verne vs. NASA's Apollo 11 Historical Marker". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  24. ^ Strachan, Graeme (June 15, 2019). "Tayside legacy of groundbreaking sci-fi comic strip which even predicted the year of the moon landings". The Courier. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  25. ^ https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/apollogo.html