“It was the most surreal moment of my life,” says Tom McCourt, the founder and director of the nonprofit MoonWatch International.
“I remember going from Mars on the Apollo missions and seeing the Earth from my vantage point on the moon.
It was a truly momentous event.
I had no idea how much it would take to make the journey to the Moon.”
In the next decade, he would spend the better part of a dozen months aboard the moon’s surface.
During that time, he watched the lunar surface change from a frozen wasteland to a lush, green landscape.
The new landscape is depicted in a new documentary, MoonWatch: Three Days in the Life of the Moon.
“When we first went on the lunar lander, it looked like this frozen wasteland,” McCourt says.
“It’s almost like the Earth is frozen.”
McCourt’s mission to the lunar landing in December 1972, which involved a crew of about 70 people, included the first humans to touch the lunar poles.
The lunar landing was also the first time humans ventured into the Earth’s shadow for long periods of time, the first to reach the lunar equator and the first in space to orbit the Moon without using the Soyuz spacecraft.
McCourt recalls that, after his lunar landing, he had a sense of “we were on a mission.”
MoonWatch, which he founded in 2003, is a nonprofit organization that supports MoonWatch volunteers in their efforts to support MoonWatch’s mission and other programs that support the exploration of space.
The film, titled MoonWatch in Three Days, is based on a NASA documentary that McCourt created in the 1980s, The Lunar Landings: A Journey in Three Weeks, which is now available on YouTube.
MoonWatch began in 2012, when McCourt and other filmmakers approached NASA to help them document the lunar missions of the past three decades.
The project included the lunar landscape and a series of scientific instruments that would be used to assess the moon, such as the Lidar, a high-speed, laser-guided, camera-mounted radar that was used to spot objects in the night sky.
McCort, who has a Ph.
D. in meteorology from MIT, was able to use the Lidsar in his first mission, the Moon Express mission in 2002.
The Lidsars first mission included a solar sail, which provided the only visible indication of the lunar terrain.
But McCourt discovered that the Lidding spacecraft, which launched in the late 1970s, did not have a solar array.
The lack of solar array made it difficult to detect objects in deep shadow.
So he used a special telescope on the spacecraft that had been designed for the Liddell spacecraft to peer through the Earth and look for a source of illumination.
When he was able, he discovered a faint glow from the Moon’s surface and the LIDSARS was able spot the Losing Light, a piece of the surface that the spacecraft could not see.
Moon Express and the mission to Losing Lights provided a window into the lunar environment and led to the establishment of the International Lunar Environment Program.
Moon Watch also includes a documentary of the Apollo 12 mission, Moon Landing: A View from the Edge.
“The Moon is the most beautiful place in the universe,” says McCourt.
“We wanted to see it from the perspective of the astronauts, who were not astronauts, but were astronauts.”
In 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the filmmakers the 2018 James S. McDonnell Award, named for the late former NSF administrator for science, education and technology.
“To celebrate the achievements of the National Space Council, and to honor all the people who have contributed to the success of the agency and the Nation, we will be presenting the Moon Watch documentary in three different ways in 2019,” said Richard Schmitt, director of NSF’s division of planetary science and planetary exploration.
“In 2017, we presented the film in a three-part documentary series called The Mission Continues, and we will present the MoonWatch documentary in a one-hour program called MoonWatch In Three Days.
The documentary series will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and on the PBS channel.
The program will also be available for streaming on the NSF website and on PBS Digital Channel.”
The filmmakers hope to use their film to encourage other filmmakers to share their stories and the stories of their volunteers, who will contribute to MoonWatch through educational materials and the program.
“Our goal is to inspire people to take a stand and get out there and support the effort to explore the moon,” McCort said.
“You are not alone, you are not special, you’re not just any person.
This is not a mission to find a planet, but to discover the Earth, and all that it has to offer.”
The documentary will air on PBS on March 14 and will be available on the National Geographic channel on March 18.