The BBC is marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a new 12-part podcast series exploring the final dramatic 13-minute descent during which communication was breaking down, technology was failing and fuel was running out.
Featuring theme music written by Grammy and Academy Award-winner Hans Zimmer for Bleeding Fingers Music, the series will culminate with a special episode recorded 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.
13 Minutes to the Moon promises to reveal 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’s production team has secured revealing, in-depth interviews with some of the key figures who made it happen.
Participants include Charlie Duke – in Mission Control, speaking directly to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the descent and landing on the moon’s surface, Michael Collins – the third astronaut tasked with the Apollo 11 mission, alongside Aldrin and Armstrong, Margaret Hamilton – a pioneer computer programmer for Apollo’s revolutionary on-board flight computer, working at MIT and Poppy Northcutt – the first female engineer in an operational support role in mission control, whose job was to get Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins back to Earth.
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 added: “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 13 May 2019, culminating with a final episode on the 20 July, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
Twenty six-minute episodes will also run on the BBC World Service radio from 15 May in weekly instalments, and can be listened to online on BBC Sounds.