- Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program by David Meerman Scott, Richard Jurek
By David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014. Pp. xiv + 130. $39.95.
In this beautifully illustrated, large-format book, David Scott and Richard Jurek, marketing professionals and avid space memorabilia collectors, argue that the Apollo lunar landing program represented not only a technological feat and a cold war triumph but also “the largest . . . marketing and public relations case study in history” (p. ix). They aim to provide analysis from two perspectives: from the inside out, by looking at how public affairs officers handled events at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and from the outside in, examining how Apollo program contractors advertised their participation in the lunar landing missions. There is more of the former than the latter, resulting in an insider’s look at selling spaceflight.
In the first three chapters, illustrated (as is the entire book) with glossy photographs and illuminated with topical sidebars, Scott and Jurek offer as background three topics that could each also stand alone. The first chapter traces public interest in spaceflight from its roots in art and literature, including Jules Verne’s fiction, to the more realistic speculative visions promoted by the Collier’s magazine series and Disney’s “Man in Space” television program in the 1950s. Scott and Jurek add some intriguing tales to the known stories: for instance, the anecdote of Buzz Aldrin explaining 2001: A Space Odyssey around the water cooler at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, or the sidebar on Pavel Klushantsev’s Soviet film Road to the Stars (1957). In the second chapter, the authors argue that NASA pioneered “brand journalism”: having public affairs officers operate in sync with journalists without attempting to spin the content, and offering information to hungry media. Marketing the Moon offers an inside history of the personalities and policy within NASA, including the Mercury [End Page 777] astronauts’ contract with Life magazine. The third chapter adds the story of private contractors who created press materials and commercial advertisements based on their connections to the Apollo program.
An extended discussion of the Apollo lunar missions forms the heart of Marketing the Moon. Chapter 4 describes how the technology of television transmission improved over the course of the missions, as live TV transmitted from space went from something actively resisted by the astronauts to a concerted campaign orchestrated by NASA to maximize ratings (and garner public support). Apollo 11 unites chapter five, a discussion of how CBS News used its space coverage to raise the profile of its news division and how local affiliates and specific newspapers covered the first lunar landing.
Chapter 6 offers insider stories about how the astronauts managed their celebrity. The post-flight fifty-state tour of the Apollo 11 command module Columbia and the international display of Moon rocks make up chapter seven. Scott and Jurek end with reconsideration of the social and political contexts of the 1960s space flights.
The analysis sometimes seems a bit too much in thrall of the space program as depicted by the press kits and advertisements. The authors argue, for instance, that the Apollo 11 landing resulted from “unprecedented cooperation between the government and the private sector” (p. 35), a statement that forgets precedents set during World War II. Or, even as they explain how world events overshadowed the later Apollo missions, they lament that “the failure of the television networks and the American public to fully appreciate the later Apollo missions is difficult to understand” (p. 60). The introduction suggests that the Apollo program’s marketing can serve as a material lesson for NASA, stating, “In our analysis, the reason humans have not been to Mars is, essentially, the result of a marketing failure,” likening NASA to a company “caught in an identity and brand crisis” (p. xiii). In sum, the broad arguments sometime lack scholarly distance and qualification.
Marketing the Moon offers the most to scholars of science and technology, however, when examined alongside books such as Howard McCurdy’s Space and...