Platform Communications Views

One small step for man, one giant leap for Television

By Megan Kicks

50 years ago, the universe felt slightly smaller.  The eagle had landed, bridging the gap between Earth and the nearest celestial object in our sky.

The moon landing of July 20, 1969 was not just an accomplishment for NASA, but for the entire human race – and it was a feat that was witnessed by more than 600 million television viewers worldwide. The 31 hours of continuous coverage was dubbed ‘The World’s Greatest Single Broadcast’ – and given that it was the most watched TV event of all time (then) it’s easy to see why! In the UK, the moon landing was first all-night British broadcast, having been on-air for 11 continuous hours from 11.30pm on July 20 to 10.30am the following morning across three channels.

And our recollections of the event could have been very, very different had Neil Armstrong (commander) and Buzz Aldrin (lunar module pilot) slept the extra few hours NASA had planned for them! Their excitement at exiting the lunar module meant that Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in Australia was the first to relay the moon landing broadcast. NASA quickly switched from Goldstone Observatory in California to Honeysuckle – and suddenly the feed became a global live event. Indeed, all three of the largest broadcasting stations in the United States-CBS, NBC and ABC-covered the Apollo 11 mission.

Today’s conversations around Apollo 11 usually surround science, engineering or Armstrong’s first steps. But for fans of TV media and entertainment, it represented a huge next step in the live broadcast television experience; a glimpse into the future of technology.

Apollo 11 will forever be remembered as one of the most important and ground-breaking live televised events in history; it was the first television coverage ever broadcast in Alaska. As a result, broadcasting in 2019 would not be the same without the giant leap NASA took in 1969.

As we look ahead to the future, when we find out if there is life on Mars, there will surely be another groundbreaking moment in live TV history. But, don’t forget that the moon landing was not just Neil Armstrong taking the first step for mankind, but paving the way for the future of live stream television and broadcasting.