The White Hot Glare of Word Wide Publicity

The successes of Apollo would not have been possible, obviously, without the pioneering and daring efforts of both the Mercury and the Gemini space programs, which paved the way in technology, training, and development for Apollo. These missions also established the astronauts as heros within the popular culture, and set the tone within the press for future coverage...a tone which placed the astronauts not only at the vanguard of the Cold War, but also for press freedom.

The following video is from February 20, 1962, and it is the Universal International News Reel coverage of John Glenn's Mercury flight, in which Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth....a short while after the same was accomplished by Yuri Gagarin for the Soviet Union. It is a vintage news reel -- filled with dramatic music on par with the best of Hollywood productions, and the booming, authoritative voice of Ed Herlihy.  For those who watch vintage films of WWII or early space news reels, his voice will sound very familiar. Herlihy worked for Universal Newsreels in the 1940s, and he narrated news reels describing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Allies' early setbacks against the Axis powers, the turning of the tide of WWII, the death of President Roosevelt, and the detonation of the first atomic bombs. In the next decade, during the Cold War, he narrated the very first American newsreel on the launch of Sputnik. His is a voice of the era.

Today, people often forget that the US space program was born out of a time of war and conflict, and the global geopolitical tensions of the Cold War. An important aspect of the US program for many around the world was that it was conducted as an "open program" -- i.e., presented the news in a real-time fashion and did not cloak it in secrecy and allowed as much full access as possible given the time. In Marketing the Moon, we explore the internal policy struggles and the formation of this open program approach -- which, like so many things with the Apollo program, was developed as a work-in-progress.

Watch this vintage news reel and feel yourself transported back in time, to a moment, in the words of Ed Herlihy, "when the eyes of the world turn to Cape Canaveral" and when "the Russian orbits were in a thick fog of secrecy" and "The United States stands or falls on the white hot glare of world wide publicity."

Posted on February 23, 2014 .