“Without television, Apollo would have been just a mark in a history book,” says Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon during Apollo 17, when reflecting on the importance of television on board Apollo. “The thing that meant so much and brought so much prestige to this country is that every launch, every landing on the moon, and every walk on the moon was given freely to the world in real time. We didn’t doctor up the movie, didn’t edit anything out; what we said, was said.”
Looking back on the moon landing, it would seem almost unfathomable that NASA administrators would have missed the mark to use live television to capture that historic moment, but they nearly did. Unlike video, which had to be returned, developed, and shared after the fact, live television would allow viewers to watch in real-time. Many NASA engineers argued that live footage was a waste of valuable weight and crew focus and would require too much time and money to develop the technologies to broadcast live news feeds from the moon. Most of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and their bosses insisted, with good reason, that operating and performing for television cameras during their missions would unnecessarily detract from the important work at hand.
Embedded within NASA’s formative charter was a congressional mandate to report—freely and openly—the program’s activities and accomplishments to the world, unlike the secretive, closed military program in the Soviet Union at the time. «I insisted,» said Julian Scheer, the head of NASA Public Affairs during Apollo. He would not accept any dissent, either from the engineers or some of the astronauts. «They could never see the big picture. But they weren’t landing on the moon without that camera on board. I was going to make sure of that. One thing I kept emphasizing was, ‘We’re not the Soviets. Let’s do this thing the American way.'»
In Marketing the Moon, David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek tell the story of one of the most successful marketing and public relations campaigns in history: the selling of the Apollo program.