NASA Helps Bring Story of Historic Moon Landing, Neil Armstrong to Younger Generations

(Left) The crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, led by mission Commander Neil Armstrong, leave the Kennedy Space Center’s Manned Spacecraft Operations Building during the prelaunch countdown on July 16, 1969. Armstrong is followed by crewmates Michael Collins, command module pilot, and Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot. (Right) A still image from the 2018 Universal Pictures movie First Man, filmed at the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, depicts this scene with actor Ryan Gosling portraying Armstrong. (Credits: NASA/Universal Pictures)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first steps on the Moon – fueled by a national will to excel – marked a turning point for America and humanity as a whole. At the core of that historic moment, however, lay the story of one man whose strength, perseverance and personal conviction brought him to the moment his foot would leave the indelible and iconic imprint on the lunar surface.

The movie First Man tells the story of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 moon landing, one of NASA’s most notable figures and one of the agency’s crowning achievements, is the foundation of NASA’s legacy of monumental achievements in exploration and discovery.

NASA first began collaborating with the film’s screenwriter, Josh Singer, in December 2014. Since then, NASA provided technical expertise and access to agency facilities for research and filming in order to lend more accuracy and authenticity to the film. Some scenes were shot at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at historic sites like the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Operations and Checkout Building.

The First Man cast and production team also made several visits to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, to learn about Armstrong’s career as a test pilot, his role in the early days of human spaceflight, and NASA’s bold and determined efforts to put an American on the Moon.

NASA provided tours of facilities such as Mission Control Center and the Lunar Curation Facility at Johnson, where they learned about Moon rocks, and how they were collected and maintained. While at Johnson, they also tried on space suits and experienced weightlessness on the Active Response Gravity Offload System.

The production team spent time learning the historical aspects through one-on-one discussions with historians at Johnson and Armstrong, and NASA Chief Historian Bill Barry, as well as Apollo flight directors and current NASA employees and staff. Both the cast and production team had the chance to interact with current and former astronauts who were able to provide first-hand accounts of their experiences in space.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I just watched this tonight. It’s Gemini and Apollo for the ADHD crowd. It’s good overall, worth it.

    What I liked:
    * Excellent Gemini interior shots (except the cockpit was too dirty.)
    * Excellent Apollo and LEM interior shots.
    * Great pre-flight suit up sequence.
    * Lack of audio in the lunar sequence.
    * Good ascent from the Moon.
    * Captured the pre-launch apprehension of an X-15 from the B-52. Not that I’d know, but the quiet seconds that pass just before the tow plane guns its engines as I mentally check that I’ve done my check list properly, pre-set my rudder and elevator inputs per the winds, and consider what’s going to transpire in the first minute of the flight until I reach a safe altitude, are captured very well. I assume much the same was felt by pilots of something like an X-15 just before release. The opening sequence of this movie just about had me reaching for the controls and looking at my instrument settings. I thought it was really well done. Except the sounds from ’52 sounded a bit like the prop audio overlay of the jet used in “Airplane!”.

    What I disliked:
    * Really sparse dialog. This movie is just begging to actually develop the relationship
    between Armstrong and his wife. It happens in pantomime only.

    * Did not portray 1960’s aerospace scene accurately. This movie failed about as much as “From the Earth to the Moon” succeeded.

    * Flight sequences/ascent to orbit totally wrong.
    * Totally overdramatized flight sequences.
    * Scenes were too short.
    * Everybody except Armstrong was hollow and had no depth.

    The use of the US flag is proportionate. In the pan shot of Tranquillity Base, the flag is planted. You get the sense of historical drift starting with this movie. As each generation comes along and tells a story, the depth seems to be taken away.