Apollo 11: One Giant Leap for Mankind

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to land a man on the Moon before the end of the decade, striking a responsive chord with the American people. The Apollo program was created to meet this goal, and on July 20, 1969, astronauts of the Apollo 11 Mission became the first humans to land and set foot on the Moon. 

Apollo 11 Mission image – Astronaut Edwin Aldrin walks near the Lunar Module. National Archives Identifier 16685140

The Moon landing was a stunning achievement that commanded world attention, and thanks to newly discovered film holdings at the National Archives and a digitization partnership with filmmakers, an enriched perspective of the Apollo 11 mission is shown in the recently released documentary, Apollo 11.

The documentary features previously unseen large format film footage and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings from the National Archives, allowing viewers to experience the perspectives of the astronauts, the Mission Control team, and the millions of spectators on the ground. The film showcases the days and hours in 1969 when American astronauts took “a giant leap for mankind” into the future.

National Archives staff in the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Branch and the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, as well as staff in various other offices across the agency, were critical in enabling the access and digitization of these holdings. 

As part of our recent Archivist’s Achievement Awards ceremony, Todd Douglas Miller, director of the Apollo 11 documentary film, offered his thanks to National Archives staff for making this film possible:

My kudos extend to Dan Rooney, Chief of the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Branch, and our teams at the National Archives for locating, identifying, and sharing this astounding footage. Their contributions to the Apollo 11 documentary underscore the importance of our mission. By preserving and making accessible these film reels, they have given the world an unprecedented and breathtaking glimpse of this historic milestone.

Learn more about the newly uncovered Apollo 11 holdings at the National Archives and how the partnership project enabled the digitization, preservation, and access of the records in this video:

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