Story

The documentary In the Shadow of the Moon focuses on the achievements of the men involved in Apollo space missions between 1968 and 1972. In this time, nine Apollo space craft visited the moon and 12 men walked on its surface.

The film’s story is told via the personal stories and reminiscences of the remaining Apollo astronauts. They include Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Eugene Cernan, Michael Collins, Jim Lovell, Edgar D Mitchell, Harrison Schmitt, Dave Scott and John Young. The documentary opens by discussing the space race between the Americans and the Russians. It notes that in the early stages of the Apollo program, failure was more common than success. For example, rockets blowing up on the launch pad was almost a daily occurrence. The film depicts how the various engineers and astronauts designed, developed and constructed the Apollo technology and training program.

The Apollo astronauts talk about their roles as test pilots and explorers. They also discuss how the experience became more exciting as it became higher, faster and more dangerous. The astronauts talk about the guilt they suffer in relation to the Apollo 1 disaster, in which fire killed the three-man crew. They reflect on the Vietnam War, and the guilt they felt when friends were shot down while they remained safe. They discuss their fears and concerns, their devotion to the program and their perseverance. The near disastrous mission of Apollo 13 is discussed and depicted. And the Apollo astronauts talk about what they gained and learned from their experiences. For example, they refect on how the Apollo missions changed their perspectives on life, humanity and the universe.

Themes

Risk taking; death; war; life-changing experiences

Violence

In the Shadow of the Moon contains some archival footage that depicts violence, talk about violence, and accidental harm. For example:

  • Early rocket attempts explode in flames either on the launch pad or in flight.
  • American warplanes drop bombs and bomb Vietnam fields and countryside with the fields exploding in balls of flames.
  • A brief image of a man is shown holding his finger to his head as if shooting himself in the head.
  • Images of the coffins of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King being carried are shown. These images are accompanied by commentary on their assassinations.
  • We hear about the Apollo 1 disaster, and how the three men were burnt alive because of bad wiring (the burnt-out remains of the Apollo 1 capsule are shown).
  • There are images of Neil Armstrong ejecting from a flying machine used to simulate lunar landings. He parachutes to the ground seconds before the flying machine explodes into flames.
  • We hear the astronauts talk about their fears and concern, and the real-life dangers they faced. One astronaut talks about how, ‘If something happened to that motor, they were dead men’.  
  • We see brief images of soldiers holding and pointing rifles, and images of baton-wielding riot police clashing with the American public.
  • We hear astronauts talking about the Vietnam war, their friends being shot down over Vietnam and their associated feelings of guilt.
  • We hear about an explosion and the loss of oxygen reserves aboard Apollo 13 (we see the actual images of oxygen being vented) and how this jeopardised lives of the astronauts aboard Apollo 13.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

Some of the violent scenes listed above could disturb children in this age group.

From 8-13

Some children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the content described above.

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Sexual references

None

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

There is some brief use of substances in this movie. For example:

  • There are brief images of people handing out and smoking cigars
  • One astronaut talks about giving up smoking his pipe and drinking alcohol.
  • One astronaut mentions going out and getting roaring drunk.

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Product placement

None

Coarse language 

This movie contains infrequent mild coarse language.  

Ideas to discuss with your children

This documentary tells the story of the Apollo space missions from 1968 to 1972. The story is told through interviews with the actual Apollo astronauts and digitally remastered archival film. The documentary is a reminder of just how awe inspiring and life changing the achievements and experiences of the Apollo missions were. 

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Humanity is not a single unconnected entity, but part of a dynamic interconnected universe. There is a feeling of connection or oneness with the universe, and there is something out there that is much larger than us.
  • We need to cherish and protect our environment.
  • Things that seem impossible can be accomplished if people put their minds to it. 

You could talk to your child about these messages and also about the values of perseverance through adversity, courage and the spirit of exploration presented in this movie. You could also discuss some of the following issues:

  • The achievements and successes of the Apollo missions were viewed as an achievement by the whole of humanity rather than just America. Could this attitude assist humanity to overcome the effects of global warming?
  • The Apollo missions were life changing. What was it about the experience that caused the astronauts to gain a greater perspective of life, earth and the universe?