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About this video

Moon Orbit Communications is a very short film, from 1970, about the Bell System’s involvement with Apollo 8, the first space mission to put men in an orbit around the moon. The Bell System subsidiary that worked with NASA on the Apollo missions was BellComm, which existed between 1962 and 1972 (See a film about BellComm).

Apollo 8 launched in December 1968, and was notable not just for its extreme long-distance communications, but also that the mission carried television broadcast signals, allowing the footage acquired via huge 26-meter tracking antennas around the world to later be seen on televisions. The main tracking stations were: Madrid, Spain; Honeysuckle Creek, near Canberra, Australia; and Goldstone in California’s Mojave Desert. These stations relayed information over to the main mission control at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

During the six-day Apollo 8 mission, six television broadcasts were transmitted from the capsule. These transmissions, when later broadcast to the rest of the world (there was no direct broadcast connection between the tracking stations and satellite network at this point), garnered an initial audience of over a billion people in 64 countries, and later broadcasts covered 30 additional countries. At the time, transmissions from Apollo 8 were the most-watched television programs ever in history. (And one of these broadcasts won an Emmy, to boot). All six transmissions on video.

(The following year, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. This film shows the phone call made by President Nixon to the astronauts on the lunar surface. )

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

Release date: 02/06/2014

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