On 25 May 1961 John F Kennedy pledged that America would achieve the first manned landing on the moon by 1970. At the time his vision seemed an unrealistic, unobtainable goal, but the President's words galvanised Nasa into action.
As JFK spoke, Neil Armstrong was a test pilot for a military space plane project. Little did he know that just over eight years later he would, indeed, be the first man on the moon, uttering the immortal line, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
So what led up to those extraordinary events on 20 July 1969 and the lunar missions that followed? This fascinating and informative documentary does a splendid job at filling in the back story of the great space race, before exploring the fact-finding early Apollo missions, taking us step-by-step through the first lunar landing and catching up with the 12 men who, to date, are the only humans to have walked on another planet.
While focusing strongly on Apollo 11, it also shows the subsequent lunar missions, including the nightmare of Apollo 13 and the joy when Jim Lovell and co returned safely to Earth. The footage - especially of some of the later lunar missions where the astronauts became bolder, travelling around the moon on a lunar buggy - is tremendous. Carefully edited and nicely paced, the programme builds well and has a strong finish, showing Apollo 11's splashdown and the enormity of what the mission achieved.
What's particularly strong here are the memories of the astronauts, including Apollo 11' s Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, Apollo 13's Jim Lovell and the last man on the moon, Apollo 17's Gene Cernan. The dozen men have undoubtedly been overwhelmed by their journeys, and it's humbled them forever. Apollo 11's Mike Collins sums much of it up when he says "Maybe some of our terrestrial squabbles don't seem as important after having flown to the moon as they did before."
"We learnt a lot about the moon," says Apollo 13's Jim Lovell, "but what we really learnt was about the Earth... and how insignificant we really all are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here, amongst the beauty of the Earth itself."
Sadly there are no direct comments from the reclusive Neil Armstrong. That aside, it's well worth catching.