It is almost 50 years to the day that humans set foot on the Moon. The event was transmitted to TV screens around the world, making Apollo 11 by far one of the biggest television events of the 20th century.
Television coverage of Apollo 11 was so important that NASA had to include an antenna on the Lunar Module so that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn’t have to wait for the tracking station to be in range before taking their first steps.
Engineer Stan Lebar is pictured holding two of the Apollo television cameras he helped construct. On the left is the Field-Sequential Colour Camera and on the right the Monochrome Lunar Surface Camera, the very camera that caught Armstrong’s first lunar steps on film. Credit: NASA
The planned live coverage of the Moon landing was almost a decade in the making and required a significant advancement in communication engineering to enable successful transmission through space.
Data size and transmission of various information channels were some of the biggest problems faced by NASA engineers. One of the solutions was the Unified S-Band (USB). This combined tracking, ranging, command, voice and television data all to a single antenna.
The grainy, line-riddled images broadcasted to the world were another by-product of the data saving strategy.
There wasn’t enough room on the Lunar Module communication system to support the bandwidth from the standard video camera of that time.
NASA’s solution was to reduce the bandwidth from the standard 525 scan lines of data at 30 frames per second at 5Mhz to a slow-scan camera which provided 320 scan lines at 10 frames per second at 500kHz.
However, the relatively poor video quality didn’t deter people from around the world tuning in.
A reproduction of the television image that was broadcast to the world on 20 July. Neil Armstrong is seen descending the Lunar Module ladder, ready to set foot on the surface of the Moon. The black bar across the centre of the image is caused by an anomaly in the TV Ground Data System at Goldstone Tracking Station. Credit: NASA
In the UK, the BBC alone covered 27 hours of footage over a ten-day period, with programmes titled Apollo 11. BBC1 segments were broadcast in black and white and BBC2 in colour.
On the night of the Moon landing, many records were set, including the first ever all-night broadcast on British television, as BBC1 and ITV remained on air for 11 hours.
The ample coverage of the Moon landing meant that wherever you were in the world at that time, there was an opportunity to witness one of mankind’s greatest achievements.
We asked you on Facebook what your memories of the Moon landing were, including where you were and what you were doing.Listed below are some of the many comments we had in response to our questions
Jack Dickinson, Senior Receiver Technician, pictured here fourth up from the bottom right corner. Here Jack is working as a signal receiver/exciter at the Honeysuckle wing at Tinbinbilla, busy preparing for the Moon landing (Photo taken February 1969). Photo via Stew Burton, scan and image processing by Colin Mackellar.
Children gather round a television set in America, circa 1960s. Similar scenes would have played out all around the world when people got together to watch the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts, Getty Images