New BBC podcast tells the story of the people behind the Apollo 11 moon landing
PRESS RELEASE — April 30, 2019
London, UK—On 13 May 2019, the BBC will be launching 13 Minutes to the Moon, a 12-part series covering the Apollo programme through the final dramatic 13-minute descent of the Apollo 11 mission, when everything came close to going badly wrong. Communication was breaking down, technology was failing and fuel was running out.
The BBC World Service has been making a major impact on the world of podcasting and this new series tells the story of the scientists, engineers, programmers and astronauts whose work during those tense minutes - and for years beforehand – prevented failure. The theme music written by Grammy and Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer for Bleeding Fingers Music, is the first that the composer has ever written for podcast.
The final episode will be recorded live at Houston’s Rice University, where U.S. President John F. Kennedy made his speech in 1962, famously announcing his ambition to take humankind to the moon. It will be released on the exact 50th anniversary of the moon landing, 20 July 2019.
13 Minutes to the Moon is the full story of how a predominantly young workforce was mobilised to make JFK’s vision a reality, despite having no idea at the start how to do it. The podcast has secured revealing, in-depth interviews with some of the key figures who made it happen. Audiences will hear what happened between 1961 and 1969 to create what was one of humanity’s greatest triumphs.
By the end of the series, listeners will know in detail the dramatic sequence of events of those final 13 minutes to the moon. Episode 11 will be the 13 minutes in real time.
The show is hosted by Dr. Kevin Fong, who wanted to be an astronaut, holding degrees in astrophysics, medicine and space engineering. He grew up inspired by stories of the Apollo programme, and wanted to take the listener along with him on a deep dive into a subject of lifelong fascination. As he says in the first episode, it isn’t a spoiler to say we know they got there, “this podcast is about trying to understand how that happened”.
Those we hear from during the series include:
Charlie Duke – he was in Mission Control for the landing, speaking directly to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the descent and landing on the moon’s surface. In a subsequent mission, he walked on the moon himself.
Michael Collins – he was the third astronaut tasked with the Apollo 11 mission, alongside Aldrin and Armstrong. He was the command module pilot, orbiting the moon in solitude whilst Aldrin and Armstrong set foot on it. He speaks candidly about what it was like working with Neil Armstrong.
Margaret Hamilton – she was a pioneer computer programmer for Apollo’s revolutionary on-board flight computer, working at MIT.
Jim Lovell – he was on the very first mission that flew to the moon and went into orbit around it, before Apollo 11. He was also the Commander on the near fatal Apollo 13 mission.
Poppy Northcutt – she was the first female engineer in an operational support role in Mission Control. She worked on the firing of the rocket engine that got Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins safely back to Earth.
Don Eyles – one of the MIT programmers who wrote the software for Apollo 11’s landing.
John Aaron - Flight Controller in Mission Control.
Stephen Bales - Flight Controller in Mission Control.
Gerry Griffin - Mission Control Flight Director.
Elaine Denniston - Computer Punch Card Operator at MIT.
Alan Contessa – Thermal Insulation Technician on the Lunar Module.
Kevin Fong, presenter of 13 Minutes to the Moon said:
“It was an incredible privilege to talk with some of the last surviving Apollo astronauts who flew to the Moon, among them the likes of Jim Lovell, Michael Collins and Charlie Duke. But just as revealing were the stories of lesser known figures without whom the whole Apollo programme would have been impossible. Unravelling the question of precisely how this cast of thousands got us to the moon over the course of one short decade, and realising how very close we came to never making it, has been a thing of joy and fascination for me.”
Mary Hockaday, Controller, BBC World Service English said:
“I’m very excited for the launch of 13 Minutes to the Moon which truly showcases the scope of what the BBC World Service can offer to the world of podcasts. With in-depth, thought-provoking interviews with astronauts and engineers who tested the limits of space science, and a stunning immersive theme music written for us by Hans Zimmer, I hope the series will expose our listeners around the world to new stories from a well-known moment in history, and bring home just how remarkable it is that humans made it to the moon.”
The first episode of 13 Minutes to the Moon will be available for download on 13th May 2019, culminating with a final episode on the 20th July, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. A new episode will be released once a week on Mondays, available on most podcast apps around the world and the BBC Sounds app in the UK.
26 minute episodes will also run on the BBC World Service radio from 15th May in weekly instalments and can be listened to online on BBC Sounds.
About Dr Kevin FongKevin’s day job is as a consultant anaesthetist in a major London hospital. He always wanted to be an astronaut and has studied in the areas of astrophysics, astronautics and space engineering. Even as a doctor, he has a special interest in space medicine. He has also worked at a researcher at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre – where the astronauts are trained and home of Mission Control. Kevin has also done a lot of TV work; he has presented several episodes of BBC Horizon and also wrote and presented Space Shuttle: The Final Mission for the BBC in July 2011, an hour-long documentary following the final mission of the Space Shuttle.
BBC World Service PodcastsBuilding on a worldwide reputation for high quality radio, BBC World Service is now a key player in the podcast market. The Global News Podcast is the BBC’s most downloaded podcast. Death in Ice Valley, produced in collaboration with Norway’s NRK, became a worldwide hit, topping podcast charts in several countries. Other notable recent podcasts have included Fall of the Shah, 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter, The Hurricane Tapes, The Assassination, Parentland and Kalki Presents: My Indian Life. A wide range of BBC World Service podcasts can be downloaded on leading platforms around the globe and on BBC Sounds.
About BBC World ServiceBBC World Service delivers news content around the world in English and 41 other language services, on radio, TV and digital, reaching a weekly audience of 279 million. As part of BBC World Service, BBC Learning English teaches English to global audiences. For more information, visit bbc.com/worldservice. The BBC attracts a weekly global audience of 347 million people to its international news services including BBC World Service, BBC World News television channel and bbc.com/news.
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|13 Minutes to the Moon|
By BBC World Service
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