How the Astronauts Contributed Footage to the 'Apollo 11' Documentary

John Hogan
Preview NASA/Newsmakers/GETTY IMAGES

"There's a reason Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins are American Society of Cinematography members," says filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller, director of the exhaustively researched documentary Apollo 11. "They shot the most iconic pieces of cinema in history."

For their 1969 mission to the moon, the three men were trained not only as astronauts, but also as filmmakers.

"Buzz Aldrin filmed the lunar module landing sequence with a 16mm camera pointed outside the left window," Miller says. "It's exhilarating."

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He and his team had unprecedented access to NASA and National Archives footage to create the film, which spans several days before, during, and after the historic moon landing. Cameras capture moments small (like close-up views as the men don their suits for launch) and grand — the serene majesty of the moon as the Eagle module lands is breathtaking.

And back on Earth, the movie presents the excitement as the curious public flocked to watch the launch at Cape Kennedy, Florida (look for Johnny Carson in the crowd along with politicians like President Lyndon B. Johnson). 

While the July 1969 event may have been one of the crowning moments of the American century, Miller notes it has an even wider impact now. "What's really struck me has been the international response [to the film]," he says. "I'd always been told this was an American story. But it was an international human story."

Apollo 11, Documentary, Saturday, July 20, Hulu