The Planets (2017) s01e04 Episode Script


Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.
Here, on the 12th of September 1959, the rocketeers of the Soviet space programme prepared to launch a probe called Lunik 2.
Its destination was the Moon.
If it reached its goal, this would be the first time man had touched another world.
Forty years ago, little was known about the Moon.
What was it made of? Did it harbour life? How did it come to be formed? The answers came from the hostility of the Cold War.
The race to the Moon was a showdown between two superpowers.
It became the greatest voyage of scientific discovery in history.
It began with Lunik 2.
The Soviets had the technical know-how to build the probe.
To score the propaganda coup of reaching the Moon first, they lacked one thing - a means of tracking Lunik all the way.
They couldn't prove they'd got there.
This challenge faced one of Lunik's engineers, Boris Chertok.
The Soviets sent a message to Jodrell Bank, near Manchester, the only place which could track a probe so far away in space.
Its director was Bernard Lovell.
'To my astonishment, 'I found on the telex a long message from Moscow,' giving complete details, transmission frequencies, and its position, calculated for the latitude and longitude of Jodrell Bank - a clear indication we were meant to do something about it.
So we sprang into action.
(Man speaking Russian ) 'We found the Lunik's "bleep bleep" in the stated position.
'This indicated Lunik was destined for the Moon.
' The impact was 2 minutes, 23 seconds past ten o'clock, 'when Lunik hit the Moon and the signals ceased.
' (Bleeping) (Bleeping fades) (Bleeping stops ) 'The press was in uproar' because it was realised the Russians had achieved a remarkable degree of technological expertise.
(Man speaks Russian ) The timing was perfect.
A week later Khrushchev became the first Soviet premier to visit America.
He took a replica of the Lunik probe.
'My father was so excited, 'that he even told his assistant: '"What if we present the American president '"with a copy of the probe at the first meeting?" 'They said: "Mr Khrushchev,' "he will not be very happy.
"Maybe it won't be polite on the first visit.
" 'My father told: "I will do it in the White House.
" 'When he visited the White House, he said: "Mr President, '"I give you my best gift - '"the copy of the probe we sent to the Moon.
' "I want you to have a copy,' "because you still didn't do it.
" The Soviets had already shocked the world with Sputnik, the first-ever satellite.
Now they had reached the Moon.
The next probe, Lunik 3, flew around it and sent back the first pictures of the dark side, the side that always faces away from Earth.
On April 12th 1961, the Soviets put their supremacy beyond doubt.
Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.
Enough was enough.
America's new president needed to make his own grand gesture.
'The eyes of the world' now look into space, to the Moon and to the planets beyond.
We have vowed we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, 'but by a banner of freedom and peace.
' We choose to go to the Moon.
We choose to go to the Moon.
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things.
Not because they're easy, but because they're hard.
Khrushchev had to decide whether to race America to the Moon.
He summoned his generals to a meeting in Georgia.
The meeting was filmed by his son, Sergei, himself a rocket scientist.
'As I was Khrushchev's son, nobody would tell me: '"Don't film this meeting.
" 'But when I began to film the report of the Navy Commander, 'all the military chiefs looked so negative that I stopped.
'Khrushchev supported the space achievement, but he was not ready to spend too much money.
'So it was long discussion, 'and at last Khrushchev told: "Yes, let's go.
"' The race was on.
Both sides began training their top pilots to go to the Moon.
For the scientists recruited, this was a unique chance to understand another world.
Among them was geologist Farouk El-Baz.
'I came to the United States, looking for a job,' writing application letters my wife would type.
We'd sort about 120 letters.
I saw an ad.
I wrote to it.
She said: "What's this about?" "Something on the Moon with NASA.
" "You know nothing about it.
" "One more letter won't hurt.
" I convinced her to write it.
'That was number 121, from which I got the first response.
' To scientists on both sides, the Moon suddenly seemed closer.
Geologists like Alexander Basilevsky had a new sense of purpose.
'Our group was selecting landing sites on the Moon.
' It was very intensive work.
We looked on images, we counted craters and rocks.
'Engineers grabbed data from us.
'They used this data for design, 'for computer simulation of landing and so on.
' It was a beautiful time.
It was the first time in my life when something which I was doing was necessary to other people.
It was crucial for them.
What we then knew of the Moon was fragmentary but tantalising.
Telescopes had revealed bright highlands, called mountains, and dark basins, called seas.
There were round craters that looked like volcano tops.
Its age, what it was made of, how it came to be, all this remained a mystery.
Scientists hoped samples of rock brought from the Moon would provide the answers.
One of them was William Hartmann.
'There were three theories' about where the Moon came from.
First, that the Earth and the Moon had grown side by side, close together the whole time.
'Another theory was the Moon had formed in a very different place 'and came in and got captured into orbit around Earth.
' The third theory said the Earth was spinning so fast that it spun the Moon off.
The Moon flew off like a drop of water off a spinning ball.
Discovering the Moon's origin became the goal of the American lunar programme.
The first fresh insights came from the missions to look for landing sites.
The Ranger probes were dispatched kamikaze-style, sending back close-up pictures as they smashed into the Moon.
'The first images showed something no one expected.
'At every scale,' the Moon was covered with craters - big ones astronomers had seen and thought were volcanoes, 'but smaller craters everywhere, 'craters that couldn't be volcanic.
'The only thing that could make craters of those sizes 'was meteors falling on the surface, leaving their scars.
' Ranger transformed ideas about the Moon.
This was a cold, lifeless world, battered by meteorites.
It wasn't clear what it was made of, or if it was hard enough to walk on.
Then came the next Soviet triumph.
Luna 9 touched down safely on firm ground.
It had another surprise in store.
'When Luna 9 hit the Moon,' the signals ceased abruptly.
We thought that was the end of it.
'To our astonishment the signals reappeared.
'This was facsimile transmission,' which was used for transmitting photographs by newspapers.
We had no facsimile machine.
'It was the Daily Express who responded 'and sent out the necessary equipment.
'To our amazement,' we saw before our eyes rocks of the Moon appearing.
'These were the first pictures transmitted from the Moon.
' The pictures were rushed to press.
The scoop of the century nearly caused an international incident.
'Next day was a big scandal' in our newspapers.
They say, "Englishmen have stolen our pictures, our data.
'"This British scientist grabbed our data.
'"British media published our pictures before we did.
" 'I was very angry.
' The pictures showed in detail a surface of shattered rock a dead world.
Farouk El-Baz was training the first astronauts who would walk on this world.
'They were fighter pilots, with no training in geology,' so to get them to think and behave like geologists, we had to train them well.
In the volcanic mountains of Arizona, a piece of the Moon was recreated on Earth.
This crater field, seen from the air, precisely matches a view of the Moon's Sea of Tranquillity.
'I had to teach them how to make observations from orbit.
' At this crater site, we'd bring them to the field to see it, then make them fly close to the ground, to see what they can see from orbit.
'We'd take them in a T-38, at 25,000 feet.
'It simulates the exact speed of the spacecraft over the Moon.
' 'We became very close friends with the astronauts.
'They called me "King", as my name is Farouk 'and I'm from Egypt, where King Farouk had ruled.
'That became the nickname during the mission.
' They'd say: "Tell the king this or that".
It was nice.
Basilevsky never worked so closely with the Soviet cosmonauts.
Their training was done in the utmost secrecy.
But every month he'd travel to a base in the Crimea, to work on another lunar project.
The engineers were testing an eight-wheeled vehicle, called Lunokhod, that could be driven remotely on the Moon.
It's 30 years since Basilevsky first came here.
'First time I came here,' this area looked very different.
There was no grass, it was just sand and rocks.
Everything mimics lunar surface.
This was so-called Lunadrome.
The crew spent here hours and hours, to train themselves how to drive along lunar surface.
(Voices speaking in Russian ) 'They used to learn 'how to stop, how to move, 'how to drive along the craters, like this one.
'All this experience' was very helpful for them 'when they started to work on the Moon.
' (Metallic-sounding melody ) Next came Luna 10, the first probe to orbit the Moon.
It beamed the Internationale to the Party Congress.
(Man speaking Russian ) The Americans feared the next craft would carry a cosmonaut.
But the Soviets were more cautious than they seemed.
I had frequently asked my Soviet contacts when they intended to send a human being to the Moon.
Their response was always: "When we're certain of getting them back alive.
" They did not believe the Americans would do this, and it's clear the Americans did take considerable risk.
'This transmission comes to you 'halfway between Moon and Earth.
' America cut short their test flights and took a gamble.
On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 carried the first men around the Moon.
'All systems are go, Apollo 8.
' 'OK, Apollo 8 is go.
' 'You're riding the best bird.
' 'See you on the other side.
' Disappearing behind its edge, they lost all contact with Earth.
Never before had humans been so isolated.
'Apollo 8, HoustonApollo 8, HoustonApollo 8, Houston.
' 'Apollo 8, over.
' 'Hello, Apollo 8, loud and clear.
' 'Roger.
Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.
' 'Affirmative.
You're the best ones to know.
' It seemed a manned landing was just a step away.
America had taken the initiative in the race to the Moon.
(Man speaking Russian ) Sergei Khrushchev can reveal the race need not have been hostile.
'Kennedy twice approached my father 'with the idea to join efforts.
'First time was in June, 1961, in Vienna.
'My father rejected.
'He thought it could hurt our military security.
' The second time was in autumn 1963.
My father was ready to accept this invitation.
He said it was important, we'll save money, we will maybe gain politically and technically.
It was possible there will be one American astronaut, like Neil Armstrong, on the Moon, and second Yuri Gagarin.
'But soon the American president was assassinated, 'and the new one never repeated the invitation to the Moon.
' Shortly after, Khrushchev himself was ousted.
The leaders who'd begun the race would play no part in the final drive for the Moon.
The Soviets had one final hope of upstaging their rivals.
They prepared Luna 15, a robot that could land on the Moon scoop up soil, and return it to Earth automatically.
Perhaps they could solve the mysteries without risking any lives.
The Soviets saw the opportunity of a coup, getting the rock without endangering lives.
'If America lost lives at that stage, 'the repercussions would be tremendous.
' 'Apollo Saturn launch control.
Countdown for Apollo 11, 'to land the first man on the Moon.
' In July 1969, both sides prepared for lift-off.
(Man speaks Russian ) Luna 15 was launched first.
'We have lift-off.
' Just three days later, Apollo 11 joined the chase.
'Tower clear at 13 seconds.
' Jodrell Bank was listening.
'We were tracking Luna 15.
'To our surprise, the signals abruptly ceased,' and it became clear this Lunik had crashed onto the lunar surface.
'I'm going to step off the LEM now.
' 'That's one small step for man 'one giant leap for mankind.
' 'Tell me if you've got a picture, Houston.
' 'You're going too fast on the panorama sweeps.
' 'That's the first picture on the panorama.
' 'When Luna 15 crashed, 'and we knew Apollo 11 landed safely,' and they are bringing samples, it was a mixture of jealousy and disappointment.
'But we still were very strong, 'and we understand we can do it the second and third time.
'But we're not the first.
' 'Beautiful.
Ain't that something?' 'Magnificent desolation.
' The astronauts began gathering samples of moon rock.
'That looks beautiful from here, Neil.
' 'We'll get to the details of what's here.
'It looks like a collection of every variety 'of shape, angularity, granularity, 'and every variety of rock you could find.
' In the Soviet Union, the inquest into the Luna 15 failure began.
With most of the team away from Moscow, one of the few left was a scientist who'd made maps of the lunar surface, Natalya Bobina.
Three men and their cargo of moon rock had returned to Earth.
'Apollo 11, this is Hornet, over.
' Scientists couldn't wait to get their hands on the samples.
Geologist Harrison Schmitt was more impatient than most.
He was one of six scientists selected for astronaut training.
Their hopes of flying to the Moon weren't high.
Schmitt had made understanding lunar geology his own personal crusade.
'It was an excruciating period, 'waiting to get your hands on the rocks.
' We felt joy, having accomplished our goal, and anticipation at having something to work on, to begin understanding the Moon, how it had formed and what it meant to Earth.
The rock was almost identical to the most basic kind of rock on Earth - basalt - which forms when molten rock from inside a planet seeps through the surface, then cools and solidifies.
'The first rocks were 3.
9 billion years old, 'older than most people suspected.
' As we went through these spectacular rocks, we were learning all about the Moon.
The Soviet's second attempt at a moon-scooper brought back soil from a different part of the Moon.
The early missions provided the first evidence for scientists trying to understand how the Moon had formed.
Had it grown alongside Earth, or been spun off by the young planet? Had it formed elsewhere and been captured by Earth's gravity? 'When we got the rocks,' we saw that the isotopes of oxygen in the lunar rocks were the same as on Earth.
Meteorites from other parts of the solar system all have a different composition of oxygen isotopes - ratio of one type to the other.
The Moon has the same as Earth.
So the Moon seemed not to have formed far away.
'It made it more plausible 'that the Moon was made of the same material as Earth.
' If so, there were still puzzling differences.
Jay Melosh was one scientist struggling to make sense of it.
'The most prominent thing' about the lunar rocks is they are so dry.
Not one molecule of water as far as we know.
'That supported the idea the Moon came from someplace else.
'If spun out early or grown with the Earth, 'you'd expect water.
'Other facts suggested it could not come from somewhere else.
' That conflict among facts confused scientists about the origin of the Moon.
All the rocks returned so far were basalt - rock that had once been molten and flowed through cracks in the Moon's surface.
No one had found a piece of the original surface, primordial moon rock that might cast new light on the formation.
If ever a geologist was needed on the Moon, it was now.
Apollo 15 was "the big science mission".
'I was in a back-up crew for Apollo 15.
' I might have a chance to go to the Moon.
Then missions began to be cancelled.
Apollo 20, 19 'Then Apollo 18 was cancelled.
'The chances were getting small.
'My anticipation of flying a mission was not very great.
' Apollo 15's goal was to find a piece of the original surface.
Scientists predicted it would be paler than the basalt.
'Oh, boy, it's beautiful here! 'Look at that rille.
'A beautiful geology out here.
' Hadley Rille - a gigantic canyon a mile wide.
'Jim, why don't you hop on? 'Let me get your seat-belt.
' 'Look at this baby climb the hill.
' 'Boy, this is travelling!' Scott and Irwin travelled farther afield than anyone else.
'I can't believe we came over those mountains.
' 'We did.
This is a beautiful little valley.
' 'Those are pretty big mountains to fly over.
' They set to their task of finding a piece of the Moon's original surface.
'Look at the glint! 'I can almost see twinning in there.
'We think we just found what we came for.
'Crystalline rock.
Yes, sir! It's a goldmine.
'There might be diamonds next.
' They had found a rock sparkling with mineral crystals.
'I'll get a picture.
' It was as old as the Earth, 4.
5 billion years.
It came to be known as the Genesis Rock.
It was not basalt, but anorthosite, a much more complex rock.
Geologists knew this rock could only have formed if the Moon had once been completely molten.
But a body as small and cold as our moon should never have been that hot.
The Moon's birth grew ever more puzzling.
But another discovery almost overshadowed the Genesis Rock.
From orbit, Al Worden spotted what looked like cinder cones - the tops of volcanoes.
'I'm looking at a very interesting thing.
'Looks like a whole field of cinder cones.
' 'He had absorbed my instruction and the training.
He said: "Tell the king I see a whole field of cinder cones.
" 'His observations from orbit 'resulted in the selection of the Apollo 17 site,' proof that observations by an astronaut can make a difference.
If these were fresh volcanoes, could it be that the Moon was still an active world? Apollo 17 was the final mission.
On board was Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist ever to fly to the Moon.
'Challenger, go for landing.
' 'Feel is good.
Stand by for touchdown.
'Down in two Feels good.
'Twenty feet.
'Going down in two.
Ten feet.
'Ten feet.
Got contact.
' He landed in the Taurus Littrow Valley, the site of the cinder cones spotted from Apollo 15.
'The beauty there wasn't lost on me.
'But you slip into the mode of being a field geologist.
' It's your profession.
You got three days to practise it.
So you go at it.
On their second field trip, Schmitt and Cernan went to the crater Shorty.
It was 5km from base, and they were running short of time.
'We don't have that much time.
' 'I know, Bob, I know.
' 'We knew it was going to be a short stop.
'Half an hour only, because of our oxygen supply.
' That's 29 minutes, but they left a little bit late.
'We'd anticipated we might see something exciting, 'if it was a volcanic crater.
'I went to the crater's edge.
'On the way I scuffed up some orange-looking material, 'and the excitement started.
' 'There's orange soil! It's all over! 'That's a volcanic vent! 'I can see it from here.
It's orange.
' It looked like evidence of recent volcanic activity.
It could challenge everything earlier missions had discovered.
'I got to dig a trench.
' 'Fantastic, sports fans.
'It's trench time.
' In half an hour, they gathered as much soil as they could.
'How can there be orange soil here?' They've got to leave.
There isn't enough time.
However you want it, we need more time.
You better make it clear they have to pull out.
'We'd like you to leave immediately.
' 'OK.
My golly, time goes fast.
' 'Ninety-nine, proceeded.
Three, two, one, ignition.
' 'We're on our way, Houston.
' These were the last men to walk on the Moon.
'3-0-8 is the number.
1,500 feet.
Looks good.
' 'The Moon was nearly full, 'receding quickly from us, but still with several hours 'that one could look back and think of where we had been.
'That was the most emotional time for me.
'I felt choked up about that.
' The orange soil did indeed turn out to be a volcanic jet.
But it was ancient.
It seemed that the Moon had been inactive for billions of years.
Lunar exploration was not quite over, for, a year after the Americans, a Soviet Lunokhod rover was roaming the surface, revealing landscapes never seen by man.
(Man speaks Russian ) Finally it started to overheat.
'I told to bosses:' "OK, tomorrow Lunokhod will die.
"Let's die, as we say in Russia, with music.
"Let's go, not along the smooth surface, "but to nearby mountains.
" We were afraid to go there 'because of this very dangerous surface.
But I was rejected.
'"No, no, we should not risk.
" 'So, we died without music.
' No mission had given a blueprint for the Moon's formation.
No mission had given a blueprint for the Moon's formation.
But they had shown it was as old as Earth.
It was made of the same rock, but had no water.
And it had once been completely molten.
What could explain all these facts together? By the 1970s, fresh ideas were emerging about the origins of all the planets.
The early solar system was thought of as violent, with many bodies growing rapidly and competing for space.
These new theories led William Hartmann to look again at the missions' evidence.
He came up with an intriguing idea for the Moon's origin.
'When the Earth was forming, 'it wasn't the only object at that distance from the sun.
'The second biggest object got very big,' and late in the process, when the Earth was partly grown, crashed into the Earth, blowing a lot out of it.
'So the Moon grew from that debris around the Earth.
' Hartmann suggested that, in its early history, Earth had collided with a world the size of Mars.
Somehow, Earth survived the collision.
The swirling mass of debris coalesced to form the Moon.
To many scientists, Hartmann's ideas seemed too far-fetched.
'When I heard about this theory Bill Hartmann had put forward, 'my first reaction was almost shock.
' I was sure that in the weekend I could do a few calculations, and show what they had proposed simply couldn't work.
'In fact, it took work with the biggest military computers, 'to fill out the holes in this theory, 'and begin to realise it could work.
' The more people considered it, the more Hartmann's theory seemed to fit the known facts.
If it came from the Earth, its rock would be the same.
The heat of the collision explained the once-molten moon, and why any water in its rocks had vaporised.
It's a quarter of a century since we left the Moon.
Since then, probes have flown to the edges of the solar system, to the giant planets and their moons.
They showed that not only our moon had a violent birth.
At Uranus, Miranda's bizarre patchwork surface suggests this little moon was once blasted apart, then reformed and settled back into orbit around the planet.
Perhaps Saturn's rings were once a moon, which collided with another body, the debris remaining suspended as an array of rings.
Evidence of violent origins was everywhere in the solar system.
'You get a system of planets with fairly regular properties.
' But superimposed on those regular properties are strange properties.
One has a big ring system, another a big satellite, because of big impacts through the sequence of formation.
The journey to the Moon revealed the turbulent past of Earth and its companion world.
It also transformed our view of the planets beyond.
'Going to the Moon has lifted us.
'It lifted humanity out of the bounds of Earth.
' We realised human beings can leave the Earth, and explore other planetary bodies.
What we learned about the Moon, 'we took to Mars, Venus, Jupiter and the other planets.
'It was the stepping stone for human beings, 'to follow their vision and imagination, 'and begin to explore the whole universe.