Nine. Ignition sequence start. Six, five, four….
NARRATION: 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 (CO-AUTHOR, “MARKETING THE MOON”): 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: 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: NASA did have one thing in its corner — fear. In the decade before, Americans had watched with horror as the Soviets stormed into space.
ARCHIVAL (“REDS LAUNCH FIRST SPACE SATELLITE,” 1957):
ANNOUNCER: Today a new moon is in the sky. A 23-inch metal sphere placed in orbit by a Russian rocket.
NARRAT: Rocketing not just the first satellite, or the first canine cosmonauts…
ANNOUNCER: Surviving the shock of takeoff acceleration, both animals, free form gravity’s pull, adjust themselves to the frightening feeling of floating weightless in space.
NARRATION:…the Soviet Communists also sent the first human safely into orbit.
ANNOUNCER: It was the propaganda coup of the year!
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: I think when Sputnik went up it was a rude awakening when it wasn’t us who got there first. They were the first to launch a woman into space. They were the first to do a spacewalk. It was, like, oh my gosh, you know, these guys are beating us every single time.
STEVE MIRMINA (SENIOR ATTORNEY, NASA): And there was essentially panic across the world, certainly across the United States.
NARRATION: Because of this, the U.S. government wasn’t about to lose the race to the moon.
But public support wasn’t a guarantee, so NASA set out to market the space race.
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: In the beginning, NASA public relations people actually came from the military. And they were incredibly secretive. And they said, “We’re not going to tell you newspaper reporters and television reporters, we’re not going to tell you anything.” But very quickly, people like Julian Scheer and others at NASA realized that that wasn’t the best approach.
ARCHIVAL (NEWSREEL ON GEMINI PROGRAM):
ANNOUNCER: The United States 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: So one of the things that NASA did was they in many ways pioneered this concept of content marketing, of creating the kind of content that both journalists and the public would be interested in.
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. That was a radical thing for part of the government to do.
ARCHIVAL (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2-28-66):
VOICEOVER: This is Apollo, the 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 an 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.
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: Contrast that with the Russian program, which was incredibly secretive. And often you wouldn’t know what was going on with the Russian program until the spacecraft had actually landed.
NARRATION: NASA also encouraged consumer companies to amplify the excitement.
ARCHIVAL (POST CEREAL COMMERCIAL):
COMMERCIAL: New Post Count off. Post Count Off is made with nutritious oats. You can count on it!
DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT: Fisher pens. 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, four percent of our national budget to go to the moon for the next 10 years.
ANNOUNCER: This is launch control.
NARRATION: But holding the public’s interest after Apollo 11 was difficult.
MATT TRIBBE (AUTHOR, “NO REQUIEM FOR THE SPACE RACE”): There’s so much invested in it in terms of it being a Cold War victory, many Americans see it as an end point rather than a beginning.
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: Apollo was of a certain moment, a Cold War moment. We don’t have that impetus again. And it’s possible it’s because we haven’t had a ‘Sputnik moment’. A Sputnik moment meaning a moment of national panic where we say we have to come together and we have to beat this or that competitor or enemy. We just don’t have that kick in the butt that they had in the 1960’s to do it again.