For All Mankind Imagines an Alternate History for NASA

Apple wants to go to the moon. Its rocket: Apple TV+ . Its pilots: Maril Davis, Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert, and Ronald Moore, creative forces behind fan favorites like Fargo, Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander.In the team’s most recent creation, For All Mankind, Moore and company introduce audiences to a new history of the space program: One where the Russians made it to the moon first; where Ted Kennedy cancelled his party on Chappaquiddick; and where national heroes like Buzz Aldrin and Wernher von Braun become people, wracked with their own insecurities, flaws, and humanity.
What seems like a devastating premise actually yields a much richer alternate history for NASA. “The story of the space program in the ‘70s is kind of a sad one,” says Moore, speaking with WIRED’s Peter Rubin at the WIRED25 Conference on Saturday. The mission to Mars was scrapped, and budgets were slashed. NASA, which once had been synonymous with the future, was suddenly in decline. Instead, Moore gives us the space program we were promised in the 1960s: full of possibility and high stakes exploration.
Freed from the confines of history, For All Mankind also introduces new drama and stakes into decades-old stories. Suddenly, viewers are not so sure whether Armstrong will survive his moon landing or whether NASA’s space program will even continue. “We might kill these guys,” says Moore. “There’s jeopardy in these scenes.”To build this alternate reality, the show recreated NASA’s Mission Control down to the most minute historic detail, including the vintage Pepsi cups, old-school computer keyboards, and clouds of cigarette smoke. The show even had to figure out how to fashion moon dust that would poof accurately but would also still look good on camera. “All our shows are huge.” says Maril Davis, an executive producer who also worked with Moore on Deep Space Nine and Outlander. But this one was even more complicated than they expected. “You do want to literally shoot for the moon, and that’s what we’ve done,” Davis says.
Moore hopes that verisimilitude helps audiences connect with the characters who face very real dilemmas and challenges. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is make you feel something and think,” he says. For All Mankind, which has already been renewed for a second season, promises to take viewers on travels as unpredictable as the astronauts they watch.

Moore et al have already mapped out plot lines that stretch into the middle of the 1970s. He describes the show as an “intimate epic” that spans generations. Audiences will watch nations and cultures change. They'll see the characters grow and learn.

If all goes well, that transformation could also mirror the maturing of Apple's streaming service, as the company launches its contender into a field crowded with stars.
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