June 26, 1969: Around the world, people gather to watch live television coverage of the first moon landing carried out by human beings from Earth. The coverage is of particular interest to those at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, where Mission Control is packed with engineers and Apollo astronauts, watching as Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov becomes the first man to set foot on the surface of the moon.
Everyone from the American public to President Nixon demands answers – what happened to NASA’s commanding lead in the race for the moon? Chief astronaut Deke Slayton and Wernher von Braun, the architect of NASA’s Saturn V rocket, find themselves facing the questions of the press. Apollo 10 astronaut Ed Baldwin, like many of the rest of his fellow astronauts, spend the following weekend drowning their sorrows and frustrations at the bar…but Baldwin makes the mistake of opening up to a reporter about how timid and risk-averse he feels NASA has become. When his comments make headlines, Baldwin is pulled from the flight rotation, losing his seat aboard Apollo 15…assuming there is an Apollo 15 following both the Soviets’ surprise victory. NASA and the rest of America continue to pin their hopes on the upcoming Apollo 11 mission, though any talk of ramping up that mission’s schedule is squelched by the need for the crew to not land in total darkness. If, for any reason, Apollo 11 fails, the American space program will likely fail with it.
teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
story by Ronald D. Moore & Matt Wolpert & Ben Nedivi
directed by Seth Gordon
music by Jeff Russo
Cast: Joel Kinnaman (Edward Baldwin), Michael Dorman (Gordo Stevens), Sarah Jones (Tracy Stevens), Shantel VanSanten (Karen Baldwin), Jodi Balfour (Ellen Waverly), Wrenn Schmidt (Margo Madison), Chris Bauer (Deke Slayton), Colm Feore (Wernher von Braun), Eric Ladin (Gene Kranz), Michael J. Harney (Jack Broadstreet), Dan Donohue (Thomas Paine), Arturo Del Puerto (Octavio Rosales), Olivia Trujillo (Aleida Rosales), Ben Begley (Charlie Duke), Rebecca Wisocky (Marge Slayton), Meghan Leathers (Pam Horton), Jeff Branson (Neil Armstrong), Chris Agos (Buzz Aldrin), Ryan Kennedy (Michael Collins), Noah Harpster (Bill Strausser), Nick Toren (Tim “Bird Dog” McKiernan), Daniel Scott Robbins (Hank Poppen), Deniz Akdeniz (Paul Santoro), Brandon Bales (Winston Blake), Dave Power (Frank Sedgewick), Nick Wechsler (Fred), Steven Pritchard (Pete Conrad), Spencer Garrett (Roger Scott), Teddy Blum (young Shane Baldwin), Tony Lewellen (Coop), Jason Scott David (young Daniel Stevens), William Lee Holler (young Jimmy Stevens), Graciana Rosales (Vanessa Lyon), Jeffrey Muller (Del), Max Barsness (Tommy), Christopher Wallinger (Harvey), Paolo Cesar (Guide), Christopher Kohls (Control Officer), Curtis Fortier (Reporter #1), Brian Houtz (Reporter #2), Laura Patalano (Teresa), Frank Gallegos (Angel), Margarita Reyes (Elena), Colton Castaneda (Jim)
Notes: Best described as an alternate history of what would have unfolded following surprise Soviet steps on the lunar surface, For All Mankind is an exercise in total speculation and facts that have come to light since the real Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, who had already made history as the first human spacewalker, was indeed the Soviets’ choice to command their first lunar mission, though repeated spectacular failures of the real N-1 rocket kept the Soviets from ever putting cosmonauts in lunar orbit, let alone landing there (launch attempts were made in February 1969, as noted in this episode’s dialogue, July 1969, June 1971, and November 1972). Additionally, Nixon’s speech – written for him in the event of the death of the Apollo 11 crew – was indeed real, written by White House speechwriter Bill Safire; the original document, repeated word-for-word in this episode, can be seen online in the National Archives.
Replaced by fictional alternates for dramatic purposes in this story were the actual crew of Apollo 10, astronauts Thomas Stafford, Gene Cernan, and John Young; of the three, only Stafford was still alive at the time this episode aired. Gene Kranz was indeed the lead flight controller on duty for the Apollo 11 landing, though he would become more famous for his relentless push to get the men of the doomed Apollo 13 mission home in 1970, which is the actual source of his quote, “Failure is not an option.” The Apollo Applications Program was a real program as well, and while it perhaps wasn’t as “sexy” as landing on the moon, it wasn’t viewed as “Siberia”, as it would beget such real missions as the Skylab space station program and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Apollo Applications was simply a typically dry name for a program that would have put the Apollo technology originally developed for the moon landings to use for practical applications both closer to Earth, and further away, including long-duration lunar missions and even an audacious crewed orbital mission to Venus in an uprated Apollo command/service module, a mission which never left the drawing board; in real life, Apollo Applications would fall victim to President Nixon’s aggressive push for what was hoped would be a more cost-effective, reusable vehicle called the Space Shuttle.
Co-created by Star Trek: The Next Generation and Battlestar Galactica writer Ronald D. Moore, For All Mankind is staffed behind the scenes with a considerable number of alumni from both series, including writer/producers Naren Shankar, David Weddle, and Bradley Thompson, producer Steve Oster, technical consultant Michael Okuda, and casting director Junie Lowry-Johnson.
LogBook entry by Earl Green