NASA Public Affairs Chief
The television picture was fuzzy and colorless and absent of detail. It showed the outline of an astronaut, faceless behind a dark visor and moving stiffly in a bulky white spacesuit. In the background was a single shadow—that of the lunar module Eagle. It was cast onto a white-bright surface, and a slanting black horizon that fell quickly to the right—the camera was crooked.
Still, the broadcast, grainy as it was, recorded one of the most startling accomplishments in history: a human being's first steps on the moon. It allowed more than 700 million viewers around the world to share in the moment.
And the TV camera almost didn't make the trip.
Four months before Apollo 11 was to blast off, NASA scientists and engineers sneered at the idea of including a TV camera aboard Eagle. “They said the camera weighed too much—seven pounds, I think it was,” says Julian Scheer, NASA's public affairs chief during the moon missions and a former newspaper reporter. “And weight was a critical issue, no question about it. But I insisted, 'You're going to have to take something else off. That camera is going to be on that spacecraft.'
“They said, 'No, no, you don't understand. It'll interfere with flight qualifications.' And they said, 'Our job is to get the astronauts to the moon and back safely, and bring a “soil” sample back—not to appear on television.' I even got a note from “astronaut chief” Deke Slayton that said, 'We're not performers, we're flyers.' He said there was no guarantee that they were even going to land on the moon on Apollo 11. They might get up there and decide not to do it. He said, 'There's really no reason for you to get excited about this.'