AAPB Launches the To the Moon Special Collection from NOVA

A note from WGBH Archivist, Miranda Villesvik:

The To the Moon Interview Collection is near and dear to my heart because it is the first collection that I digitized, created metadata, and ingested into the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB). The interviews had been stored on Betacam tapes in our vault until it was suggested that they be digitized in honor of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, which took place on July 20, 1969. In Spring of 2019 I began digitizing the tapes, which required finding the tapes, watching them in their entirety to catch the content and record it in our metadata, then put the digitized content onto the AAPB for public access, and write a special collection.

Knowing the collection as well as I did, I faced a conundrum of who to feature in our “Featured Items” section. The interviews were broad in highlighting various roles within NASA’s space program, and I thought it was important to include some of the unsung heroes who worked behind-the-scenes to make these historical moments happen, and ended up including two astronauts, a flight director, a geologist and astronaut-trainer, a lunar scientist, and an astrophysicist (I’ll leave you to figure out who did what). I also decided to feature interviews with Farouk El-Baz and Robin Canup, two of three interviewees who were not white men, to show that the sciences have always included a diverse array of people.

In summary, digitizing the To the Moon interviews taught me invaluable lessons, not just in digitization, but also in space flight, lunar science, and American history. Getting to know the collection as I did helped me better determine who I wanted to feature, and it was great to learn about the process of digitization and it was amazing to listen to the first-hand accounts of the people involved in NASA’s efforts to put people on the moon.

Collection Summary

The To the Moon Interview Collection contains 146 raw interviews from To the Moon, a two-hour NOVA documentary that originally aired in 1999. The interviews, filmed in 1998, provide insights into the personal experiences of those who worked on NASA’s Apollo program that took humankind to the moon. The documentary tells the story of the space race between the US and the Soviet Union starting in the mid-1950s and focuses on major events in the race to reach the moon, including the launch of Sputnik, President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 announcement at Rice University that the US would reach the moon before the end of the decade, the fire on the Apollo 1 spacecraft, the moon landing, and contemporary research on the moon. The collection includes interviews with astronauts, engineers, flight directors, geologists, and lunar scientists, including Buzz Aldrin, astronaut on the Apollo 11 moon landing; Jim Lovell, astronaut and commander of the Apollo 13 mission; Gene Kranz, former NASA flight director; Robin M. Canup, astrophysicist; Farouk El-Baz, lunar scientist who worked on the Apollo program; and Dr. Gordon Swann, geologist with the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Principal Investigator of Lunar Geology during Apollo 14 and 15. Subjects include the moon; the Cold War; the origins of the moon and Earth; the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs; terrestrial and lunar geology; President John F. Kennedy; and NASA.

Visit the collection online at https://americanarchive.org/special_collections/to-the-moon

Collection Background

The To the Moon interviews were conducted by NOVA in 1998 for the two-hour documentary of the same name, which aired in 1999. Materials were digitized and contributed to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) in 2019.

Featured Items

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