[nobe-l] Newest Draft of Apollo 11 Narrative

Tina Hansen th404 at comcast.net
Mon Feb 25 06:22:43 UTC 2019

I have another draft of our Apollo 11 narrative ready for your feedback.


Before I paste it into this message, I should point out that if there's one
area I've been struggling with, it's the background section.


Anyway, here it is, with my comments about the section I'm struggling with
and other notes in parentheses.


Fifty years ago, three astronauts--Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael
Collins were on their way to the Moon. How did it happen? Why did we go to
the Moon?


(We'll add the launch sounds at the beginning.)


(Here's the start of the background section.)

The United States expected that they would be the first to do any great
thing. While they were trying, Russia was the first to send a man into
space. This worried the leaders of the United States. How could they still
be the best if Russia did it first?


Back in 1961, President John F. Kennedy had an idea. Let's put a man on the
Moon before 10 years have come and gone, and get him safely back to Earth.
He said, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to landing a man
on the moon and returning him safely before this decade is out." That meant
getting a man on the Moon before the end of 1969.


There wasn't much time and going to the moon was a huge challenge. The Moon
is about a quarter of a million miles away from us. That's almost 10 laps
around the entire planet Earth. How could we send a man to the Moon and get
him back safely? We'll find out in a moment, but first, let's do an


(I thought that would allow us to set some context before the size
comparison experiment.)


(Here's where I'm really struggling, since I know that younger audiences may
have a hard time with it. However, I can't completely drop it.)


We started by taking small steps to prepare. NASA is the space program and
they began making rockets to launch astronauts into space. They used a small
rocket for a program they called Mercury. With the Mercury program engineers
learned how to build rockets that could take astronauts in Earth orbit and
the astronauts got to see how it felt to fly in space. They ate space foods
that were in tubes like toothpaste tubes! Would you like to eat food from a
toothpaste tube?


Once we practiced sending one astronaut into orbit at a time, NASA wanted to
send  two astronauts in space at a time. They called this new program the
Gemini program after the constellation Gemini the twins, because they were
now sending two astronauts into orbit at the same time and using a larger
rocket. With the Gemini program, astronauts learned how to "walk in space"
by floating outside the spacecraft with a space suit. They floated like you
might float in a swimming pool. And they learned how to connect (or dock) ,
two spacecraft in orbit. Astronauts needed to know how to do these skills in
order to land on the moon.


During the Mercury program and Gemini programs, astronauts got really good
at riding rockets and working in their spacecraft while orbiting the Earth.
And remember, they learned how to connect two different spacecraft together
in space.  The next phase in the space program was going to be a big one.
Astronauts needed to leave Earth's orbit and actually travel a quarter of a
million miles to get to the Moon. The moon program was called Apollo and
this time, three astronauts would travel together in an even larger rocket.
Up to this point, astronauts had never left Earth's orbit before. Could we
get astronauts safely to the Moon?


Apollo 8 was the first mission where astronauts traveled all the way to the
Moon. They didn't land on the Moon but they orbited the Moon and came home
safely back to Earth. This mission proved that we could get astronauts
safely to the Moon and back and was a critical step before the Apollo 11
moon landing.


(That's the whole background section. I'm concerned that it may drag our
narrative down, especially if we have a younger audience, maybe in the 4-8
age group. If we're in the 8-12 age group, we should be OK, but in the 4-8
group, this could go over their heads. Also, if we have a mixed audience I'd
hate to talk down to the older students just to make the younger ones happy,
and vice versa.


I do like the analogies, but is that enough to hold their interest?


Bottom line: what do we do with this material? Can we simplify it without
dumbing down the narrative? I can't dumb down the narrative, but neither can
I drop this background material completely. I need to somehow leave it in
there so they get a realistic sense that going to the moon was no easy task;
it was hard. If I were to drop it, I'd give them the wrong impression, and I
can't do that.


I thought about giving the students a handout, but they'd likely throw it
away when they got home.)


(I now go into the mission itself. This part is pretty good, but I want to
ensure we don't fall into the boring lecture trap. We do plan to incorporate
the actual voices into our script, but I need to get the foundations right
before we do that.)


Remember back in 1961 President Kennedy wanted the United States to land a
man on the moon and return him safely to Earth? The time had now come. Three
brave explorers were going to the Moon and two of them were going to land on
the Moon. They called their command ship Columbia, and the Lunar landing
craft Eagle. 


Let's stop here so you can "get in touch," with the spacecraft.


(I wanted to have the students look at the models we'll have.)


Apollo 11 was an eight-day mission.  The astronauts on Apollo 11 were Neil
Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. They launched from Earth on July
16, 1969.


On July 20, the Columbia and Eagle spacecraft separated while orbiting the
moon.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traveled in the Eagle Lunar Lander
spacecraft to land on the moon. Mike Collins stayed in the Columbia command
spacecraft and remained in orbit around the Moon.


After hours and hours of practicing, Neil and Buzz headed toward the moon's
surface. This was very exciting! People all over the world were watching on


Sometimes computers have unexpected problems. Has that ever happened to you?


Imagine you're in the spacecraft, headed to the Moon, when suddenly your
computer's alarm goes off. What would you do? That happened to Neil and


As the Eagle Lunar Lander came nearer to the moon, alarms were sounding in
the cabin! The astronauts asked Mission Control in Houston what to do.


Computers were really huge back then! Some were even as big as this room! In
fact, the average smart phone today is more powerful than the computers used
during the Apollo 11 mission.


As it turned out, the computer on the Eagle spacecraft was trying to do too
many things at once and that's why alarms were going off. Mission control
told Neil and Buzz that it was OK to keep going.


But Neil and Buzz  soon realized that their computer was taking them to a
dangerous rocky area. If they landed on rocks, their spacecraft might tip
over. If that happened, they'd be stuck on the Moon, not able to get home.
They needed to land in a smooth area so Neil took over flying the Eagle by
himself, without the computer's help. It was good that he practiced doing
this too!


Just imagine how scary this must have been!


Mission Control in Houston warned them that they were getting very low on
fuel and started counting down the seconds of fuel left.10,9,8... There were
no re-fueling stations in space. They had only one shot to land. If they ran
out of fuel, they'd never see their families again. They had to land fast!


With only seconds of fuel left, Neil safely landed the Eagle. Then he said
"Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Everyone was very relieved
and happy, but this was only the beginning!


Six hours later, the astronauts got ready to explore the moon's surface.
Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the Eagle and looked down at the ground.
He didn't know if the ground would be soft or hard or slippery. He didn't
know if he would sink,  but he climbed down the stairs and bravely stepped
onto the surface of the Moon. He didn't sink. The ground was hard. Then he
said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." 


Twenty minutes later, Buzz came out of Eagle, climbed down the stairs and
also stepped foot on the Moon. Neil and Buzz set up a special camera so
everyone on Earth could see them walking on the Moon.  People all over the
world stopped what they were doing and watched the astronauts on TV. It was
an incredible moment.


While both astronauts were on the Moon, they observed that the ground was
very dusty, like powder and there were small rocks and large and small holes
(called craters) on the ground. The sky was black because the Moon has no
air like on Earth, so no blue sky, rainbows or clouds.


(I hope to replace or enhance this section with actual quotes, but I'm not
doing that until I get this right.)


Their surface exploration lasted for two and a half hours, but then it was
time to get back inside the Eagle Lunar Lander. They needed to rest before
leaving the Moon.


Remember how the Gemini astronauts practiced docking two spacecraft together
while orbiting Earth? Well, the next day, Neil and Buzz lifted off the Moon
in the Eagle and docked with the Columbia spacecraft, with astronaut Michael
Collins. Remember, Michael Collins was orbiting the Moon all by himself the
entire time Neil and Buzz were on the surface.  Once all three astronauts
were back together, they started their trip back home. Three days later, the
three astronauts returned safely to Earth, and the first Moon landing came
to a successful end.

It was an amazing mission and we did land astronauts on the Moon before the
end of 1969, just as President Kennedy wanted.


(From the mission onward, it's not bad, but I wonder if we need to fine tune


Remember, we're writing for the ear, not the eye. I'm wondering: Is there a
different writing style if you're writing for the ear as opposed to for the


Please pardon my questions, but this is the first time I've really done


In order to get the narrative right and stay in our time limit of 10
minutes, we're recording it in advance instead of doing it live. Given that
we have no rehearsal time with students before we actually work with them,
we can't do it live. Also, recording it allows for better coordinating the
narrative and any music and sound effects we want to use. Live, it wouldn't
come off the same. Trying to just record sound effects and a background
music track and do live narration could result in the instructor possibly
getting ahead of or behind the track. If we only recorded the quotes while
keeping the narrative live, without music or sound effects, I'd have to
coordinate with the instructor, but it would feel awkward and sound rather
bland. In theory, I could pull it off, but in practice, it would sound
awkward and not very professional. It wouldn't surprise me if there was too
much dead time between the live narration and the recorded quote. Since we
have no rehearsal time, I'm rather not risk it, no matter how good our
instructor is.


Not only that, recording the narrative in advance gives the instructor a
break. If the instructor needed to narrate the story while monitoring the
students and/or passing out things for the experiments, it could be
confusing. My team and I will be there, and we'll be leading the lesson, but
I'd hate to overload the instructor.


Plus, our program doesn't usually get a big turnout. We've usually had maybe
5 students at the most.


Therefore, we've decided to have the narrative recorded in advance. We have
two actors in our area who have agreed to donate their time to the project.
Both of them remember the moon landing. One of them also happens to have the
equipment to pull off a professional-quality narrative, and he also happens
to be a retired special education teacher.


But before I do anything, I need to get this right.


Since we don't yet know the exact ages of our students, we've decided to aim
for that area in the middle of our age range, maybe around ages 8 or 9, or
grades 3-5.


Incidentally, this is why one of our team members argued for doing the
narrative live. It would let us make modifications on the spot. But since we
have no rehearsal time, we feel recording the narrative in advance is the
best course we can take.


That's why I'm struggling with the background part of it. I can't drop that
material, but I also don't want it going over their heads. Yet we need to
record the narrative in order to get it right.


Also, we have an hour and a half to work with. Our lesson plan calls for
doing 3 experiments, each lasting up to 20 minutes. One of them involves
comparing the sizes of the earth and the moon with balls. Another involves
having the students make a moon crater with rocks and sand, and the last is
on lunar gravity. We also have 15 minutes built in for them to look at props
and 5 minutes to introduce the lesson. That leaves 10 minutes for the
narrative. Yet I can't let our team fall into a trap of going too
superficial or going too overly technical. I also don't want to rely on
gimmicks if they have nothing to do with the narrative. If something is just
tacked on with no purpose, everyone will sens it.


Bottom line: I feel like I'm walking a tightrope here.


I realize we can't control the reaction of our audience on the day of our
presentation, but we want to ensure they stay engaged. I'd really like to
reduce the chances of our audience nodding off, and if there's one section
where that could happen, the background is it.


I know that if anyone from the Hamilton team were around, they'd write us a
rap, but none of us are qualified.


Also, as I have discussed before, we don't want to take liberties with the
narrative, such as adding fictional characters or in any way fictionalizing
the story. We feel we need to stay true to the historical events as they
happened. This isn't Hollywood, but a group of volunteers who want to
inspire a group of students.


We can add sound to make it more dramatic or theatrical, but we must stay
faithful to the historic events.


Finally, we don't want to use visual cues, since we know the students will
be partially or totally blind. A totally blind student would miss visual
cues, such as on-screen text, and while a partially blind student may see
any visual cues, they could also missthose cues. So we've been serious about
relying on sound only from the beginning. Plus, adding visuals would just
make it more complicated. We've decided to complement the narrative with
touch, which I believe can give the students a good feel for what the rocket
looks like. We do have a model of the Saturn 5 rocket.


I realize some people feel that there is no substitute for sight, but I
disagree. I believe sound and touch work well together, so we're taking
advantage of those senses. If a student does have some sight, they might
like the colors on our model, but since they all can touch it, everyone
feels included.


Please pardon my vent fest, but I feel I need to get this right.


So there it is. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

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