A more-than-pleasant surprise
I’ll be bluntly honest in that I didn’t expect much when I started — part of that was because after John sent me the link, I first looked at the “Decode Mission Control” segment and immediately spotted a few technical flaws that, while irrelevant to most people, raised an eyebrow. Then, when I started listening to the first segment and repeatedly heard the narrators pronounce Gene Kranz’s last name as “Krantz” … well I was almost ready to bail out. I am VERY VERY happy, though, that I kept listening, because I was proven wrong (even though I still cringed every time they said “Krantz”).
Their attention to detail and breaking of that previously mentioned annoying podcast formula of never really telling you the “BIG THING” they said was about to be discussed. This team (Kevin Fong, Andrew Luck-Baker, and the rest of the production crew) end up telling very tightly-written and well-paced episodes that give an excellent recap of the “final 13 minutes” of the Apollo 11 landing while touching on VERY specific space-geek-loving details!
Yes, we all know about the “1202 alarm” and yes we know about the “we’re go on that”, but it was excellent to hear the actual Mission Control voice loops and the actual Flight Controller’s words and pitch of everything going on around them at the time. Hearing a recount of the MCC team later in life as they reflected during some of the JSC Oral History project and blending that with the real-time recordings was excellently done.
Season 1 Episode 2 jumped RIGHT into that. Titled “Kids in Control”, it focused on the “unsung heroes” of Mission Control who really were that young and who were really that responsible for the success or failure of most spaceflight missions. It was recently that another documentary “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo” was able to take a similar concept and showcase a few MCC Flight Controllers (some replicated in this podcast series) talking about the program as a whole. I talked about that documentary at length here.
Season 1 didn’t only focus on the “13 minutes”. It gave great discussion to the computer system that flew onboard Apollo – primitive technology by today’s standards, but incredibly robust and cutting-edge for the day. The challenges they faced and subsequently overcome drove spinoffs into the private industry that would have taken much much longer to come about organically without the need of the Apollo program. I was also a huge fan of the focus on Michael Collins … sometimes Apollo 11’s “forgotten” crew member by most pedestrian examinations of the mission. This podcast gave him tremendous attention and allowed his own words to speak – rather than trying to fluff them up with some over-dramatic interpretations or reshaping of historical fact.