Fifty years after the Apollo space flights, a new generation at NASA is suiting up for a historic return to the moon. Named after Greek mythology’s goddess of the moon, the Artemis program has trailblazing ambitions: a woman will step on the lunar surface for the first time. In a long-term collaboration with NASA, National Geographic gives viewers an all-access pass to this group of intrepid astronauts and their colleagues, documenting their efforts, ambitions, sacrifices and breakthrough first steps in the special event series Return to the Moon.
Co-Founders of Lightbox, two-time Academy Award-winning producer Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man, LA 92) and two-time Emmy Award-winning producer Jonathan Chinn (LA 92, American High, Whitney), together with Emmy Award-nominated producer Suzanne Lavery (Cajun Navy, The Traffickers) join as executive producers. 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 will premiere from National Geographic around the world.
More than just a television series, National Geographic will offer a comprehensive look at this mission, using all of its print and digital storytelling platforms to invest in extensive, multiyear coverage of NASA’s journey. Following the model of the magazine’s iconic coverage of the early days of the Apollo program, National Geographic will report and photograph in the labs and in the field for major milestones. The brand’s latest digital and social media innovations will be utilized to provide audiences with an immersive, multimedia experience, giving them a unique behind-the-scenes look at this groundbreaking endeavor. The digital news stories, features and podcasts told along the way 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.”
The premium series will track the Artemis program right up to the moment NASA lands the first woman and the next man on the moon. Viewers will get a rare look \ behind the scenes, bringing them on a once-in-a-generation journey and introducing them to Artemis’ key players. Shooting across four years, from now until the lunar landing launch, Return to the Moon 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. Audiences will not only travel with the astronauts to the stratosphere but also witness personal moments: possibly hearing from those closest to the astronauts through the duration of the missions and hearing how it feels when your loved one is 238,000 miles away.
Return to the Moon will shoot on 4k in prime lenses and blend NASA’s own recordings to immerse viewers in the action. With a ringside seat on the action, audiences will get to see the full scope of a NASA mission through the experiences of the astronauts and the crew striving to take them to the moon, as well as the emotional impact it has on them, and what it means for everyone back on Earth.
“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 Chinn 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.”
Jerry Rothwell added, “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. The program ushers in a new era of human exploration in deep space, building upon the extensive knowledge gained since the last time earthlings journeyed to the moon. Fifty years ago, during the Apollo missions, there were no women in NASA’s Astronaut Corps. Today, 16 female astronauts are part of NASA’s 48-strong active Astronaut Corps, and women are represented across the Artemis Generation at the highest level. The series will represent the breadth of individuals involved in sending the first woman to the moon, following the astronauts who are candidates for the missions, as well as the architects, launch directors, designers and more.
Return to the Moon is produced for National Geographic by Lightbox. For Lightbox, Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn and Suzanne Lavery are executive producers, with Jerry Rothwell as series director. For National Geographic, Simon Raikes is executive producer.