Chasing the Moon 20 November 2021: Saturday on BBC Four

A Place Beyond the Sky – Part 1 – Series 1 Episode 1 of 6 – On 4 October 1957, Soviet scientists launched Sputnik 1 – a beach ball-sized, radio-transmitting aluminium alloy sphere – into orbit. The satellite caused a sensation. Amid Cold War tensions, the Soviet Union’s accomplishment signalled a dramatic technological advantage and American felt it had little choice but to join the Space Race.

Then on 12 April 1961, the Soviets sealed their advantage when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth. John F Kennedy, the newly elected president, was faced with the issue of how to respond. Two days later, he called a meeting to find an American space programme that would promise equally dramatic results. Rocket manufacturer, and former Nazi, Wernher von Braun, convinced Kennedy that the Americans could beat the Russians to the Moon before the decade was out and the Saturn programme was born.

A Place Beyond the Sky – Part 2 – Series 1 Episode 2 of 6 – Under von Braun’s leadership, America’s technology finally seemed to be catching up with the Soviet Union’s. On 5 May 1961, von Braun’s Redstone rocket successfully launched American navy test pilot Alan Shepard 116 vertical miles up into space. The American space programme grew rapidly.

On 20 February 1962, a marine colonel named John Glenn successfully orbited the Earth. Nasa and Wernher von Braun were at last delivering real results. Sputnik’s challenge and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s groundbreaking feat had been equalled. But the young president would never live to see man walk on the moon. On 22 November 1963 in Dallas, Texas, Kennedy was assassinated and Cape Canaveral, home to US space exploration, was quickly renamed Cape Kennedy, in honour of the fallen visionary.

About Chasing the Moon

The story of the race to the Moon, from the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 to Apollo 11, and the first man to set foot on the Moon, in 1969.

This show is broadcast on BBC Four, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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About BBC Four

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