EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic has assembled a team of award-winning documentary producers for Return To the Moon (working title), an event series that will follow NASA’s Artemis program.
The Artemis missions, named after Greek mythology’s goddess of the hunt and the moon, will land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface. They come half a century after the Apollo flights, named after the Greek god of the sun and light, made Neil Armstrong the first human to set foot on the moon.
The announcement of Return To the Moon comes on the eve of NASA’s astronaut selection announcement Wednesday. In April, NASA reported that more than 12,000 people had applied to join the agency’s next class of astronauts.
Filming over the next four years — from now until the lunar landing launch — and using National Geographic’s print and digital storytelling platforms, the series will give viewers an all-access pass to the group of astronauts and their colleagues, documenting their efforts, ambitions, personal sacrifices and breakthrough first steps. It will follow the full progress of the mission, through Artemis I’s orbit of the moon, Artemis II’s crewed flight around the Moon and ultimately Artemis III’s lunar landings and return to Earth.
Following the model of the National Geographic magazine’s iconic coverage of the early days of the Apollo program, Return To the Moon will report and photograph major milestones in the labs and in the field. The series is designed as an immersive, multimedia experience, featuring digital news stories, features and podcasts told along the way that will culminate in a special issue of the magazine once the mission is officially off the ground.
“For more than 130 years, National Geographic has created a legacy of bringing landmark stories and achievements to world audiences,” said Courteney Monroe, President, Content, National Geographic. “With extensive access to this history-making mission, we can once again inspire the world with a story of courage, imagination, passion and self-sacrifice through the eyes and the hearts of the Artemis team.”
Return To the Moon, produced for National Geographic by Lightbox, will shoot on 4k in prime lenses and blend NASA’s own recordings.
The series is executive produced by Lightbox co-founders, two-time Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man) and two-time Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn (American High, Whitney), together with Emmy-nominated producer Suzanne Lavery (Cajun Navy, The Traffickers). Sundance Award-winning filmmaker Jerry Rothwell (How to Change the World and The Reason I Jump) will serve as series director.
“Return To the Moon has an astonishing human drama at its heart: a new and diverse generation of astronauts preparing to embark on the most extraordinary journey of their lives,” said Simon and Jonathan Chinn. “By bringing our feature documentary background and sensibility to their stories, our focus will be on the intimate and often high-stakes emotional moments that no-one else will capture as the spotlight of the world falls on this pioneering endeavor, which will include the first woman stepping onto the lunar surface. We are thrilled to be working with NASA and National Geographic to bring this epic story to a global audience.”
Added Rothwell, “I hope that by following the journey of the first woman to step on the moon, more than 50 years after the first Apollo landing, this series will inspire a new generation of young people to dream without limits. We’re excited for the Artemis Generation.”
Using innovative technologies to explore more lunar surface than ever before, the Artemis missions seeks to establish a sustainable presence on the moon by the end of the decade and to lay the groundwork for humanity’s next giant leap: sending astronauts to Mars.
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