ARCHIVAL (NASA, AUDIO FROM APOLLO 11, 1969):NEIL ARMSTRONG: Houston, tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.
NARRATION: 50 years ago, the moon became a symbol of human progress.
ARCHIVAL (NASA, AUDIO FROM APOLLO 11, 1969):NASA: Okay Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.
ALEXANDRA LOSKE (CO-AUTHOR, MOON: ART, SCIENCE, CULTURE): That image of the footprint on the moon, what an image. Its almost as important as, of course, the first picture of earth rising seen from the moon.
NARRATION: But long before we could reach its surface, the moon held special meaning for humanity.
ALEXANDRA LOSKE: It is one of our primal instincts to connect with the moon, to just look at it and observe it. The moon is responsible for the tides. It influences the waters on this planet. And thus, it has influenced our culture and how we live. The moon is quite often a symbol of life and the cycle of life. On the other hand, we also see the moon as a symbol of death and fear and danger because the moon is associated with the night.
NARRATION: But the moon is more than just a symbol.
ALEXANDRA LOSKE: It is an anchor to our life. And it brings us together, everybody. And the whole world can see the moon.
JOSEPH JUPITER JOE MARTINEZ: People arent usually expecting to see something as beautiful as the moon, especially when they see it almost every day. But, once you start teaching them about craters, you start teaching about mountains and how the moon has a relationship to the Earth, then theyre, theyre more, you know, intrigued.
NARRATION: Today, telescopes show us the moon in astonishing detail, but that wasnt always the case.
ALEXANDRA LOSKE: For many, many years, centuries, millennia, we could see the moon and we could just about with a naked eye see that it has some, sort of, surface structure. But that was it. And things changed greatly in the early 17th century when a Dutch optician invented a very, very basic telescope. We pulled the moon towards us. With this very, very, very simple tool we could see the surface of the moon in greater detail.
NARRATION: As the moon came into focus, we began to imagine traveling there.
ALEXANDRA LOSKE: In the later 19th century Jules Verne publishes books about imagined journeys to the moon. And what he does is he makes space travel believable. And then as we enter into the 20th century, we see it in early film. And people are beginning to imagine the moons surface.
ARCHIVAL (NASA, APOLLO 12: PINPOINT FOR SCIENCE, 1969):ANNOUNCER: 2000 feet, 47 degrees
ALEXANDRA LOSKE: From the 1950s onwards, and, of course, culminating in 1969 with Apollo 11 actually landing on the moon and human setting foot on it, we saw what it really looked like. We have photography. We have close-up photography and then we had human accounts of what it was like to be on the moon.
ARCHIVAL (NASA, AUDIO FROM APOLLO 11, 1969):BUZZ ALDRIN: Wow, that looks beautiful from here, Neil.NEIL ARMSTRONG: It has a stark beauty all its own. Its much like the high desert of the United States.
NARRATION: Today, the moon continues to inspire in the night sky and in contemporary works of art like Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram.
ALEXANDRA LOSKE: He created a model of the moon which is about seven meters in diameter and its illuminated from the inside. He uses NASA images to create his moon models. And he hangs them in public spaces so they can be indoors or outdoors, in swimming pools, in parks, in museums.
People gather around it, under it. They look at it and it becomes an event. And I find that really moving because that is exactly what humans have been doing since time began. Weve looked at the moon. Weve been mesmerized by it.