NARRATION: On the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, we remember the science and engineering that first put a man on the moon.
ARCHIVAL (APOLLO 11 LIFT OFF, 7-16-19):
NASA ANNOUNCER: We have lift off!
NARRATION: But there was also another story….
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: I believe the marketing aspect of Apollo was as important as the spacecraft. I absolutely do.
ARCHIVAL (PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S SPEECH TO CONGRESS, 5-25-61):
PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT (CO-AUTHOR, “MARKETING THE MOON”): The ability for us to communicate how important this is and how amazing it is and how freaking cool it is was absolutely essential for us to have been able to do that program. The idea that we want to go to the moon is so audacious. It’s also so expensive to be able to do that. And we had to get the public behind it.
NARRATION: But public support wasn’t a guarantee, so NASA set out to… market the moon.
ARCHIVAL (NEWSREEL ON GEMINI PROGRAM):
ANNOUNCER: The U.S. launches its two-man project Gemini program at Cape Kennedy, and once again the event is reported fully, openly, from pre-launch to recovery.
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: The amount of detail that NASA provided was incredible, the photographs that were taken by NASA, whether they were on the ground or by the astronauts in the spacecraft, were all freely available to the public. They insisted on television cameras in the Apollo spacecraft.
ARCHIVAL (NASA, APOLLO 10, 1969):
EUGENE CERNAN (ASTRONAUT): Hello there from the men on the moon!
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: Creating the kind of content that both journalists and the public would be interested in, that would help to grow interest in the space program.
ARCHIVAL (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2-28-66):
VOICEOVER: This is Apollo, this first of a family of spacecraft designed to transport Americans to the moon before 1970.
NASA OFFICIAL: Here at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama we are static testing the fourth of the booster stages of the Saturn 1b.
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: There was a almost 300 page press kit for Apollo 11. This massive document allowed different types of media to figure out an angle that, that they wanted to talk about. Did they want to focus on the spacecraft? Did they want to focus on the biography of the astronauts? Did they want to focus on something mundane, as like, how do they go to the bathroom? How do they eat?
ARCHIVAL (MIT SCIENCE REPORTER, “FOOD FOR SPACE TRAVELERS,“1966):
VOICEOVER: Here the astronaut is opening a packet of bitesize items. These may be either freeze dried or compressed foods.
NARRATION: NASA also encouraged consumer companies to amplify the excitement.
ARCHIVAL (POST CEREAL COMMERCIAL):
COMMERCIAL: And there’s a new way to keep you in shape for the space age. New Post Count off. Post Count Off is made with nutritious oats. You can count on it!
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: Fisher Pens, they made the pens that the astronauts use in the spacecraft, or Omega watches. Tang is probably one of the most famous examples of a product that was used by the astronauts.
ARCHIVAL (TANG COMMERCIAL, 1979):
COMMERCIAL: Have a blast. Have some Tang!
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: It got people to be very supportive of the space program. We wouldn’t have just been able to say, “Okay. We want to spend billions of dollars. We want to spend, you know, 4% of our national budget to go to the moon for the next 10 years.” Now that doesn’t mean everyone supported it, but the public support was, was pretty essential.
NARRATION: Public opinion polls from the 1960s show that the majority of Americans approved of project Apollo, but the nation was deeply divided over the cost of the program.
MATT TRIBBE (AUTHOR, “NO REQUIEM FOR THE SPACE AGE”): There are some polls at the exact moment of the moon landing, right when the country is watching it and people are excited about it that suggest that a very small majority of Americans at that point thought it was worth it.
NARRATION: But holding the public’s interest after Apollo 11 was difficult.
MATT TRIBBE: I think we cast a nostalgic glow on it because even at the time people were looking for something hopeful, something optimistic. But it doesn’t begin a true space age where we’re actually settling in space.
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: NASA did a fabulous job of pointing people towards this audacious goal. But once that goal was achieved, it was less popular a program to just do it again.
MATT TRIBBE: What many Americans don’t remember is that the last three planned Apollo missions were actually cancelled.
NARRATION: Today, NASA is using new tools to communicate its mission to the public. And private companies are now marketing their own plans for space exploration.
ARCHIVAL (JEFF BEZOS, BLUE ORIGIN PRESENTATION, 5-9-19):
JEFF BEZOS: Let me show you something. This is Blue Moon, an incredible vehicle and it’s going to the Moon.
MATT TRIBBE: I don’t know if going back to the Moon is going to garner much excitement. I don’t know if ultimately sending people to Mars is going to garner enough excitement to fund it unless there is that question of, can we truly learn something about ourselves from Mars? Not about the Earth. Not about the geology of Mars. Can we truly learn something about life and where we fit into the bigger picture?
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: It’s always about storytelling. The best marketers on the planet are able to tell stories. And that’s what’s important for space travel going forward is, you need to rekindle our imagination.