Documentary details Charleston’s account of historical moon landing

Austen Brown, Staff Reporter

“To The Moon and Back: An Oral History on the Lunar Landing,” a documentary produced in collaboration between the History Department, Booth Library and WEIU-TV, explains Charleston’s account of the moon landing.

History graduate student Jonathan Williams and reference librarian Andy Cougill were chief producers of the documentary that made its debut Jan. 24 alongside Booth Library’s “On the Shoulders of Giants” exhibition.

Williams said putting Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon gave the United States the upper hand against the Russians, with whom tensions were high at the time.

“The Cold War really was the catalyst for driving the space program forward because the Russians had a very strong program,” Williams said. “They sent the first dog to space, the first human to space, so (America was) falling behind and our public image was hurting.”

Williams said that President John F. Kennedy made it his goal to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, which seemed impossible at the time, making the moon landing a much more “monumental event.”

Such a concept was a pillar for science fiction buffs, even inspiring the “Star Wars” trilogy, Williams said.

Williams went in detail explaining the process of the making of the documentary, which he said had been in the works for quite a while.

“It started out of a brainstorming session,” Williams said. “Andy Cougill and I met in the library (to discuss the exhibit) early last fall.”

Williams said at first they did not plan to make a documentary and that he was initially contacted to help with the exhibit and nothing more.

When Williams and Cougill began work on the documentary, he said they also had the help of WEIU’s Rameen Karbassioon to assist with the editing.

Cougill said it was no easy task to put together a documentary of this calibre.

(Karbassioon, Williams and I) invested a lot of time into the documentary over the fall semester,” Cougill said. “Between developing the questions, deciding what format this was (going to) take, on to the interviews and then to the editing process, and then to the final output and the polishing that was done, there were a lot of hours invested.”

The documentary took the form of an oral history report and highlighted several recounts of people who watched the moon landing air live, he said.

The crew interviewed about 10 people, and the interviewees consisted of nursing home residents in Charleston to Eastern’s own history professors—these interviewees were considered “content experts,” Cougill said.

One thing Williams said his interviewees remembered well was how much people talked about Tang, which was a fruit flavored drink that was sold in powdered form which astronauts put in their water to make it taste better.

“Kids were obsessed with (Tang) because that’s what the astronauts drank, but then when they remember back on it, it really tasted quite awful,” Williams said.

Cougill and Williams agreed that editing the film they had gathered was the most fun part of the production.

“I’d never done anything like (the editing process) before, and to work with somebody like Rameen over at WEIU … the guy knows his way around the editing booth,” Cougill said.

Austen Brown can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].