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"After thousands of years of gazing up into the heavens and dreaming of this day, man is about to set foot on the moon. Across the world, people wait with bated breath. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a live signal. There he is! The shock across the nation at this event is just... indescribable. The Soviet cosmonaut has become the first to set foot on the moon."
Walter Cronkite
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For All Mankind is a live action Historical Fiction and Alternate History TV series on Apple TV+, created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi. It shows a fictional history of the Space Race where the Soviets landed on the moon before the Americans. NASA finds themselves scrambling to meet or exceed the Russians, including training female astronauts and creating a lunar base. Moore has reportedly planned out an entire seven season story arc in advance.

The series stars Joel Kinnaman as Edward Baldwin, Michael Dorman as Gordo Stevens, Wrenn Schmidt as Margo Madison, Sarah Jones as Tracy Stevens, Shantel VanSanten as Karen Baldwin, and Jodi Balfour as Ellen Waverly.

Previews: First Look Trailer, Official Trailer


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For All Mankind provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear:
    • After Patty's death, Ed is teaching his son how to ride a bike. The kid keeps falling down no matter how persistant Ed is in his training. When Ed is called away, he realizes that in the end he cannot prepare his son for every danger and something bad can happen to his child no matter how much he tries to prevent it. A few years later his son is riding his bike, is hit by a car and dies in the hospital.
    • Karen Baldwin arrives home and is greeted by two police officers who inform her that her son has been in an accident. He's rendered braindead, putting everyone on the ground in the horrific position of having to keep it secret from Ed so his grief won't further compromise the already precarious mission.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: After the destruction of Apollo 23, a technician bitterly notes that Gene Kranz is the only one of the twelve casualties whose name anyone will ever remember. Von Braun also stresses that he knew every member of the ground crew that was killed.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Mary Jo Kopechne survives past 1969, but still puts Ted Kennedy's political career in jeopardy when they're suspected of an affair.
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    • Alexei Leonov, the first person on the Moon in this timeline, also uses the phrase "one small step."
  • All There in the Manual: How and why the Soviets are able to make it to the moon first is never fully explained on screen, but series creator Ronald D. Moore says that Soviet rocket engineer Sergei Korolev survived the 1966 surgery which killed him in the real world, and subsequently was able to fix the previously fatal flaws in the N-1 rocket.
  • Alternate History:
    • What if the Soviets were the first to land on the moon?
    • Edward Baldwin was the commander of Apollo 10 rather than Thomas Stafford.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Danielle's pre-astronaut position at NASA of computer was actually a job title to describe a person.
    • When VHS was first introduced, studios were worried that home video recording would cut into ad revenues.
  • Anger Born of Worry: After Ed puts his NASA career in jeopardy, Karen gives him a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech. At first it seems that she is being selfish and is angry about losing social status and the perks of being an astronaut's wife but it soon becomes clear that she is worried about Ed. If he goes back to active duty with the Navy, he will most likely be posted to combat duty over Vietnam where he could be hurt and/or killed.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Von Braun correctly predicts that once the NASA administrator reads his report on the Apollo 23 disaster, he will order it covered up. At this point von Braun cannot directly benefit from this so he insists that he will only give the report to Margo. This will give Margo the blackmail material needed for her to get the promotion she deserves.
    • After Ed takes Mikhail prisoner, Mikhail tells him that the only way Ed can avoid any trouble over this is to kill Mikhail and Make It Look Like an Accident. That seems like the exactly wrong thing to say to a paranoid man who has tied you up but Mikhail knows that Ed is a deeply honorable man. Ed might kill a man in self defense or in the line of duty as a soldier but he would never murder someone simply to save his career. Mikhail plants the idea that killing him would be a selfish, dishonorable thing to do and thus assures that Ed will reject the idea of killing the cosmonaut.
  • The Beard: Ellen and Larry become this to each other since their careers would be over if NASA found out that they were gay. Because they hang out together so much people already assume that they are romantically involved which makes the ruse easier. When the FBI starts to investigate them, they have to get married to maintain their cover. Unfortunately this causes Pam to break up with Ellen, because even though the marriage is a sham she still sees it as taking Ellen away from her.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Deke Slayton was one of the original Mercury Seven but was prevented from going into space due to a heart condition. A decade later, he is finally medically cleared for space flight and gets himself assigned to a Apollo flight where he will walk on the moon. He ends up on the disaster-prone Apollo 24 mission. He dies from his injuries in orbit around the moon and is buried on it.
    • Margo blackmails NASA into getting the promotion she deserves. She ends up being Flight Director for the Apollo 24 mission.
  • Big Little Man: What appears to be an Apollo command module is sitting in the middle of the ocean. Then there's a countdown to blastoff and it's revealed to be just the tip of a huge Sea Dragon heavy lift rocket.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The season one finale shows that NASA survived the disastrous Apollo 22-25 missions and starts on a new stage of space exploration and colonization. However, to get there required enormous heroics and was tragically costly. 12 ground crew and 2 astronauts are dead and the Baldwins are shattered by the death of their son. Also Aleida is heartbroken as her father is deported back to Mexico.
  • Break the Haughty: Gordo starts the series extremely arrogant, cocky and entitled. His experience on Apollo 22 breaks him and he seeks help from a therapist.
  • Broken Pedestal: With Wernher von Braun no longer protected by successfully getting the first person on the moon, Nixon has the full extent of his Nazi affiliations dug up to drum him out of NASA. Margo takes this particularly hard as she looked to him as a mentor (and it's implied a Parental Substitute for her distant father). She refuses to talk to him until von Braun forces the issue.
  • Cabin Fever: The Apollo 22 crew (Baldwin, Stevens, and Poole) gradually grow stir-crazy while stranded on the Jamestown Base. Gordo has the worst of it, regularly defying orders and becoming obsessed with The Bob Newhart Show.
  • Call-Back:
    • Tracy finds out that Gordo is cheating on her because his mistress flushes the toilet while he is on the phone with Tracy. Two episodes later, Gordo calls up Tracy in her motel room and tries to guilt trip her so she flushes the toilet to make him think that there is someone else in the room. She then smiles and acts like nothing is going on.
    • After taking Ed's place as the sole occupant of Jamestown base, Ellen sees one of the ants that Gordo was obsessed over crawling around.
  • Camp Straight: Molly Cobb is one of the fairly rare distaff versions. She avoids a lot of the features that code for femininity in the period, and there are apparently rumors that she's a lesbian — but she turns out to be happily married.
  • Career-Building Blunder: Ed's unauthorized interview with a reporter in the first episode almost ends his career as an astronaut. However, he perseveres through his punishment and refuses to bad mouth NASA during the congressional hearing. This impresses a lot of people and he is subsequently put back in command of the Apollo 15 mission. The success of that mission is rewarded by giving him command of the important Apollo 22 mission.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Ed experiences this during Apollo 22 when Gordo Stevens has a mental breakdown. Keeping a mentally unstable astronaut on the moon puts the entire crew in danger but sending him back will end his career as an astronaut which he will never recover from mentally. In addition, the US moon base cannot be left unattended due to Soviet presence in the area so someone has to stay behind, trapped alone on the moon till a relief mission arrives sometime in the next few weeks. Ed is eager to get home and his own sanity is strained but he is in command so he volunteers to stay behind. When the relief finally arrives, he initially refuses to leave and has to be told that he fulfilled his mission and is now officially relieved of command.
  • Classified Information: The Pentagon wants a military base on the moon as soon as possible. When NASA asks what exactly these soldiers on the Moon will be doing (a basic requisite for planning such a base) the Pentagon refuses to say. Likewise when Ed is interrogating Mikhail about what the Soviets are up to on their base, he refuses to talk either. The irony is that both sides are still learning how to survive for long periods on the Moon, so neither side is in a position to set up any kind of useful military installation.
  • Cold Equation:
    • In space your life expectation is measured by how much oxygen you have and whether you have enough fuel and/or velocity to get somewhere where you can get more oxygen. When the Apollo 24/25 repair mission goes wrong, an astronaut is left floating in space without a way to get back to the flight capsule. The astronaut will run out of oxygen unless the flight capsule can intercept in time. However, the flight capsule might not have enough fuel to both make the randevous and then safely land back on Earth. Flight Control has to decide if they are going risk two lives in order to save one that might already be mathematically lost. Margo orders the crew to abort the rescue operation but Tracy disobeys and manages to get to Molly with just enough fuel left to land safely.
    • When Apollo 24 is about to shoot past the moon and into deep space a rescue mission is launched but there is only a small window to save them and if the operation takes too long, the rescuer might be killed along with them.
  • Coming in Hot: Happens to Apollo 11 even worse than the real version, after which NASA spends several agonizing hours trying to reestablish contact. Luckily, they did survive and are able to return.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Just like Nixon's real life successor Gerald Ford, Ted Kennedy gives him a pardon for the Watergate Scandal upon becoming President. Nixon is rather less appreciative getting it from a Democrat.
  • Cool Car: As in real history, Chevrolet was savvy enough to make a deal to give Corvettes to all the astronauts, knowing everyone would want to drive the same car as them.
  • Cool Rocketship: The Stinger for the Season Finale has a Sea Dragon super-heavy launch vehicle taking off from the ocean.
  • Creator Provincialism: The series focuses entirely on the American space program while the Soviets are simply a vague, unknowable force. This handily means they didn't have to spend any effort on an explanation of exactly what differences to real history allowed them to get to the moon first and could simply present the act itself as the point of departure.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • This is concluded to be the likely cause of Patty's fatal Lunar Landing Training Vehicle crash. Being primarily a helicopter pilot, she wasn't accustomed to being able to eject when that should have been her first reaction, like what saved Neil Armstrong from a similar crash in real life.
    • When training on the moon rover Ed warns Molly that pilots have a tendency to treat it like a plane rather than the wheeled ground vehicle it is. They look at their controls and check behind and to the sides rather than looking straight ahead which can be dangerous when driving over rocky moon terrain.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Ed knocks out cosmonaut Mikhail and ties him to a chair to interrogate him about what the Soviets are up to. Mikhail points out that now Ed's only options are to release him and have Mikhail tell everyone he was assaulted, or kill him and Make It Look Like an Accident. Fortunately a Conflict Killer intervenes when Apollo 24 needs rescuing.
  • Dirty Business: Passing the Equal Rights Amendment required a lot of under-the-table political deals and NASA was not immune. This results in 12 men dying because the manufacturing of a key part was moved to Illinois in order to buy the governor's support.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The launch of Apollo 24 is plagued by breakdowns and delays. Fixing one issue, results in something else breaking down which causes another launch window to be missed. By the time of the next launch window, something else breaks down. The constant delays have a bad effect on the crew of Apollo 22 who are waiting for Apollo 24 to relieve them on the moon. This culminates in the tragedies of Gordo having a mental breakdown and Ed being stuck on the moon while his son dies in an accident. And it doesn’t stop there, as Apollo 24 suffers a booster failure requiring Apollo 25 to be re-tasked to install a new flight computer. And then the booster turns back on the second it’s installed, resulting in Molly almost being lost if not for a near-suicidally desperate maneuver by Tracy, and 24 helplessly going right past the moon into deep space. Harrison Liu is killed instantly by the booster ignition and Deke Slayton is critically injured and dies in orbit around the moon.
  • Double Standard:
    • An angry Margo who thinks Molly isn't taking Apollo 15 seriously enough says that she can't just be good, she has to be perfect, because of this.
    • Ellen Waverly confesses to Deke Slayton that she's homosexual. Deke responds with outrage and accuses Ellen of jeopardizing the space program. Though he apologises afterwards, Deke advises Ellen to never tell anyone else, because that's all people will see about her.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: The engine on Apollo 24 accidentally ignites while Apollo 25 is still tethered to it. Its commander Molly Cobb is forced to Cut The Safety Line to save her ship, leaving her adrift in space. With the help of her husband back in Mission Control, Tracey Stevens is able to find her again despite Molly orbiting through the dark side of the Earth when her flashlight goes out. Unlike some other fictional examples, orbital mechanics and fuel are important factors; Apollo 25 doesn't have the fuel to do the intercept and is at first ordered to return to Earth instead, only for Tracey to exercise her command authority now Molly is off the ship.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • The astronauts all head to the bar after the Soviet moon landing...which causes Ed to spill his guts to a reporter about how he thinks NASA lost its balls after the Apollo 1 disaster.
    • On being told his son is brain-dead, a fact that everyone on Earth kept from him, Ed Baldwin turns off all his equipment, sits in a Corner of Woe with a bottle and gets drunk.
    • Subverted with Gordo after he returns from the moon. He is troubled, depressed and contemplating doing something career-ending so he is found in a bar in the middle of the day... completely sober and drinking ginger ale.
  • Easily Forgiven: Molly holds nothing against Margo for ordering her to be abandoned floating helplessly in space, and indeed had given the rest of the crew the same order herself, neither of them anticipating Tracy could pull off the insane move that was able to save her.
  • Epic Fail: One of the female astronaut candidates starts landing her plane way too fast, and bounces off the runway before being forced to take off again (known by pilots as "porpoising"). Amazingly, it takes her a bit longer to get cut.
  • Every Man Has His Price:
    • Once Margo sees that von Braun's report on the Apollo 23 disaster is going to be covered up she decides that she does not want to be a whistle-blower and instead trades her cooperation for a promotion.
    • Averted with Edward Baldwin; giving the chance to salvage his career if he criticizes von Braun at a Senate committee hearing, he instead admits that he also shares the responsibility for the US not being first to land on the Moon.
  • The Faceless: Because In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face is averted, there's a tense moment when Ed finds a cosmonaut retrieving the Soviet's damaged camera from the American ice mining site. All Ed can see is his own face reflected in the man's visor, adding an air of menace to the scene.
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • The Soviet moon landing results in cancelling the Chappaquiddick party where in real life Ted Kennedy had a car accident that killed his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, ending his hopes of becoming President despite his avoiding jail time.
      • Because Kennedy becomes President in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment passes in 1974. However, this required an under-the-table deal with the governor of Illinois, which unwittingly led to the Apollo 23 disaster.
      • Kennedy has an affair with Mary Jo Kopechne, bringing her to the White House as a staffer.note  The affair comes out as a scandal in 1974.
    • It's implied that this caused Apollo 11's landing to be much rougher than in real life.
    • Apollo 12 is not struck by lightning during launch. The Soviet landing led to the launch's timetable being pushed up, which meant it didn't launch during a storm.
    • Neither is any mention made of the Apollo 13 disaster, which would have taken place during the female astronauts' training. In the Season 1 finale, a risky plan involving a LEM is discussed as if there's no frame of reference for taking it so far outside its intended purpose like happened on 13.
  • Gender Is No Object: No one voices any problems per se with women being astronauts, and ERA protestors are shown with signs and buttons saying "A woman's place is in space". Objections tend to be raised more towards flying experience, and in Tracy's case, going from stay-at-home mother to astronaut. It is then revealed that the program was always meant to be a publicity stunt and the White House was waiting for a politically convenient time to scrap it.
    • Though this is brought about after a female trainee is killed, and public opinion then turns against the idea of women risking their lives as astronauts.
  • Generation Xerox: Just as von Braun took Margo under his wing to train her in engineering, she does the same with Aleida Rosales.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Gordo eventually loses it when the Apollo 22 crew gets stranded at the moon base, becoming obsessed with ants that escaped a broken farm even long after Danielle recaptured them all, and forcing the others to recreate the episode of The Bob Newhart Show that was their only entertainment after the Betamax gets wrecked. Eventually he has to be evacuated back to Earth, but because Danielle has to accompany him, and the US can't afford to abandon the Moonbase, Ed has to stay behind alone on the Moon. Ed in turn becomes increasingly paranoid about what the Soviets on the nearby moonbase are up to. He ends taking prisoner a cosmonaut who turned up at the Moonbase seeking help because he was Almost Out of Oxygen.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: After the U.S. loses the race to put a human on the Moon, Wehrner von Braun is brought before a congressional committee which brings up his past association with Nazi Germany to remove him from NASA.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • The United States (and implied the entire Western world) has one when the Soviets land on the moon.
    • Ed and Karen Baldwin both break down after their son Shane is rendered comatose in an accident.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: After Gordo becomes dangerously unstable while stranded at the moon base, Danielle breaks her arm for an excuse to bring him back in the lifeboat, likely seriously impacting her career, so that the extent of his breakdown won't become public knowledge and result in him permanently losing his flight status.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Many real-life NASA officials and astronauts appear, including Deke Slayton, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Pete Conrad, John Glenn, Gene Kranz, and Wernher von Braun.
    • Richard Nixon appears through stock photos and a soundalike on the Nixon tapes. At one point he's heard speaking about the space program with Henry Kissinger.
    • Alexei Leonov, the first cosmonaut to land on the moon, was also a real-life cosmonaut who performed the first-ever spacewalk.
    • Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters appear delivering Practical Voice Overs.
  • Historical In-Joke: In real life, Leonov helped end the space race with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, where he met Deke Slayton and the commander of Apollo 10.note  Here, Leonov landing on the moon first keeps the space race going.
  • Hope Spot: With the crew of Apollo 22 stuck in the moon base while their relief suffers delay after delay, Gordo becomes unstable. Ed is able to talk him down and takes him on a moon walk so they can get away from the claustrophobic moon base. Gordo seems better and opens up to Ed about what is bothering him. Just as it seems that the crisis is over, Gordo thinks that he sees one of the escaped ants in his space suit and freaks out. Ed calms him down but one or both of them could have been killed as a result. Ed realizes that they need to get Gordo back to Earth before he gets them all killed.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!:
    • Ed is convinced that he could have successfully landed the Apollo 10 lander on the moon thus beating the Soviets to the moon. He initially blames von Braun for being too cautious but he ultimately acknowledges that the decision not to land was his own and was probably the correct one.
    • Molly could have been one one of the original Mercury astronauts and is quite bitter about getting removed from the program just because she was a woman. As such she is extremely pessimistic about the new female astronaut program and does not believe that she will ever be allowed to go to the Moon.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: The Sea Dragon launched in 1983 carries plutonium as part of the expansion of the Jamestown Base, presumably as part of a reactor similar to the proposed SP-100.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink
    • When watching Leonov's first words from the moon, Baldwin reaches behind the bar to grab a bottle and pour it into his glass. The next day, Slayton tells the entire astronaut corps first thing in the morning to leave NASA and go blow off steam over the weekend. They all decide to go back to the same bar.
    • Averted when Molly Cobb does a high risk landing on the Moon with a lot of pressure to succeed as the first woman in space, she says that she needs a cigarette. Likewise when Karen Baldwin is unable to keep up her Stepford Smiler façade, she goes over to Wayne Cobb's house and shares a joint with him, despite never having touched drugs before.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • The Watergate scandal still happened, even though Nixon lost to Ted Kennedy in 1972. Kennedy pardoned Nixon just as Ford did in real life.
    • Deke Slayton is brought back to flight status and assigned to Apollo 24, as he was to the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.
    • Ted Kennedy becomes President, but the string of NASA disasters is blamed on him and he ends up losing to Ronald Reagan.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Gordo is a lousy husband but he is right when he tells Tracy that she will not become an astronaut by complaining about how hard the training is. Likewise, Molly was needlessly cruel when chewing her out, but she is correct that Tracy can't let being tired affect her performance if she wants to be an astronaut.
    • Tracy is insulted when Deke Slayton suggests that she voluntarily withdraw from the program since the next stage will be really dangerous and unforgiving for someone with her lack of experience. Tracy sees that Deke's concerns were valid when the much more experienced Patty is killed during training.
    • The female astronauts are patronized all the time by the male astronauts and thus can miss when the same men genuinely give them valid information. When training on the moon rover, Molly thinks that Ed is implying that she cannot drive a car but he is actually warning her not to fall into a bad habit of operating it like it was an airborne plane rather than a wheeled ground vehicle.
    • Von Braun correctly points out that the "soft skill" of playing well with a team has passed Margo by and this swayed the NASA brass away from promoting her to Flight Director.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Deke Slayton is opposed to having female astronauts and he mercilessly culls the candidates from the program. However, once the remaining women have proven themselves, he will not scrap the program just because the political winds have shifted. He risks his career to give them a chance to succeed or fail on their own merits.
  • Jump Scare: The explosion of Apollo 23 comes completely out of nowhere, in the middle of what had seemed to be just a regular conversation scene.
  • The Lad-ette: Molly Cobb, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, haggard member of the abortive Mercury 13 program who's pressed back into service when Nixon demands an American woman on the moon. Deke has to fight for her to be included as the government wants someone more attractive to get the job.
  • Lighter and Softer: The show rather surprisingly takes the view that a world where the Soviets won the race to the moon would be better than what really happened in several ways, with American women getting to be astronauts a decade earlier, space travel continuing to be a viable prospect past the actual landing, and Ted Kennedy still being a viable presidential candidate against Nixon.
    • But it also has its Darker and Edgier moments, especially with the death of a female astronaut candidate, the ground crew of Apollo 23, Ed and Karen's son, and some of the crew of Apollo 24.
  • Lima Syndrome: Despite nearly killing Vasilievich, Ed eventually warms up to him and trusts him enough to help get the extra fuel enough to help rescue Apollo 24, and then allows him to repair the Soviet rover, so he can return to Zvezda, despite the risk of an international incident and the end of Baldwin's career.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Deke Slayton consistently wears a dark blue polo shirt and black pants.
  • MacGyvering: Ed and Molly cannibalize their rover to make a rappelling harness to search a deep crater for ice. Molly has to put her trust in the cable being able to hold her, with no way to test it.
  • Married to the Job: Our introduction to Margo Madison shows her sleeping in her own office, not just because she was working late, but because she has a bed and toiletry facilities set up there. This makes it difficult for her to understand Aleida who as a teenage girl has the distractions of boyfriends and family. She gets quite flustered when Aleida asks to stay with Margot when her father is deported to Mexico, even though Aleida has nowhere else to stay.
  • Moon Base: NASA plans a permanent lunar base called Moonlab, as a Historical In-Joke based on the Skylab space station; this is later renamed to Jamestown Base and landed at Shackleton Crater where water ice can be found in the shadows. The Soviet Union also builds Zvezda Base at the same crater.
  • Moving the Goalposts: After the Soviets land on the moon first, NASA changes the goal of the Space Race, training female astronauts and planning lunar colonies and manned interplanetary exploration.
  • My Greatest Failure: Ed is horribly guilt-ridden after Patty's death in a LEM test he was administering, convinced he overlooked some instruction that would have avoided the crash. This leads him to be unhelpfully aggressive while teaching his son to ride a bike.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman:
    • Margo finds herself being put down as "Wernher's girl" regardless of her actual talent.
    • This trope is actually the case with Tracy Stevens, who is only invited onto the female astronaut program because she and Gordo being the First Couple In Space is good publicity. It takes her some time to gain the respect of people like Molly Cobb, who are there entirely on merit.
  • Never My Fault: Von Braun runs through every excuse possible as to why he's not complicit in and responsible for many horrors of WWII, from "I'm just an engineer" to "I didn't know" to "I would have been killed if I spoke up". Only after Margo repeatedly questions him about whether he knew that his rockets were being built using concentration camp slave labor does he even come close to admitting he did anything wrong. Even then, his idea of "admitting" it is saying that important scientific work requires sacrifice.
  • Never Say "Die": Deke and Ellen can't bring themselves to say the words "die" or "death" when it looks like Apollo 24 is hurtling to deep space. Even after Deke dies, Weisner doesn't use the word when informing his wife Marge.
  • No Respect Guy
    • Ed finds himself being overshadowed by all the media attention paid to Molly Cobb, including being ignored in a phone call from President Nixon to the Moon.
    • When Danielle deliberately injures herself so Gordo can return to Earth for psychiatric treatment, Gordo is treated as the hero while her injury is used as another reason why women shouldn't be in space. But when Gordo wants to confess the truth, Danielle bluntly tells him to keep his mouth shut as it would end both their careers.
  • Noble Demon: The show pulls no punches about Von Braun’s culpability in the Nazis’ atrocities, but he’s sincerely devoted to advancing the American space program and keeping it as safe as possible. If he’d still been around, there’s no way the destruction of Apollo 23 would have happened.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted
    • NASA realizes the piss tube on the lunar module has only been made for men. When they suggest that Molly Cobb wear a diaper the entire trip, Ed is not impressed and orders them to come up with a better idea. "You're NASA, you're rocket scientists. Figure it out."
    • Among the other stresses of the Jamestown moonbase is the fact that the toilets don't work properly.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Molly isn't interested in being a feminist icon or challenging gender roles, she just wants to fly. However, when she finally gets chosen to go into space, an angry lecture from Margo and the admiration of the other women at NASA change her attitude somewhat.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: During the survival course, Tracy encounters Ellen with a Twisted Ankle, and even though she risks failing the course, she helps Ellen to the finish area. This earns her the respect of both Deke and Molly, even though neither think she's qualified enough to become an astronaut. Tracy later refuses to leave Molly behind when she's cast adrift in space, despite Molly ordering her to.
  • Not So Different:
    • Molly points out to Ed that they are not as different as they think they are. Just like many other pioneers and explorers they are selfish and egotistical. They go out to further human knowledge and get glory, and the people they leave behind get sick from worry.
    • Ed plants a surveillance camera to keep an eye on what the Soviets are up to. He's then outraged to find the Soviets have planted their own camera to watch his mining operation.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Apollo 23 had a launch escape system which let the command module and crew survive the explosion of the Saturn V. Unfortunately, unlike the Soyuz, Apollo's command module is designed to splashdown, not land, and the CM hits the beach instead of the ocean. The crew survives but is severely injured, still recovering two months later.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Donald Kent Slayton is addressed by everyone by his nickname "Deke".
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Lampshaded by Slayton when he tells the Apollo astronauts just how disappointing and angry the Mercury astronauts were when the Soviets beat them to sending the first man into space. Things were so bad that John Glenn said "fuck". Everyone in NASA knew that Glenn never swears.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • Harry Weisner, the NASA administrator under Ted Kennedy. He wants to bury von Braun's report about the political cause behind Apollo 23's explosion, and allows himself to be blackmailed by Madison to keep it under wraps.
    • The Nixon administration isn't any better; first the Moon race gives way to a Moonbase, which is then to be adapted to military use, then that's put aside for the female astronauts program, which is then ordered dropped when the White House decides getting the Moon base has priority because they're worried the Soviets will beat them again.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The decision is made not to tell Ed that his son has been in a traffic accident. Unfortunately the story gets out to the press and the cosmonauts on the Soviet Moonbase send a message of condolence, causing Ed to think they're trying to Mind Screw him, so he smashes up their equipment in a rage.
    • After Ed captures and ties up a cosmonaut he stops communicating with NASA while he figures out what to do. This means that he does not know what happened to Apollo 24 and that his help is vital to the rescue operation. Gordo and Danielle have to remotely control the base's lights to send him a Morse Code message.
  • Propaganda Machine: Leonov, like Neil Armstrong in real life, used the phrase "one small step" when landing on the moon. The context is, ahem, slightly different:
    Alexei Leonov: I take this step for my country, for my people, and for the Marxist-Leninst way of life. Knowing that today is but one small step on a journey that someday will take us all to the stars.
  • Punny Headlines: The Houston Sentinel on the day after the Soviet moon landing uses the headline "Red Moon."
  • Rank Up: For his actions during Apollo 22, Ed is promoted to captain.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • After Red Moon, Slayton gives the astronauts the day off so they can indulge in Drowning My Sorrows and vent their anger in a way that will not impact their work. It is a good idea but it also means that you have a bunch of inebriated, pissed off astronauts who might not be careful about what they say to a reporter in a bar.
    • Astronaut training is dangerous and the female candidates lack the extra experience the men had. This results in Patty being killed in a training accident.
    • The US military leaders are extremely eager to have bases on the moon and then the engineers present them with the reality of the situation. It will take at least two years to have a bare bones base that could be placed on the moon and it will have to be mainly a test site for figuring out how humans can survive on the moon for long periods of time. Having a significant military presence on the moon is not realistic for a long time.
    • The Soviets try to beat the Americans to being the first to establish a base on the moon but appear to push their program beyond its limits and crash the lander.
    • Most of the male astronauts come from the military so their wives had to previously deal with the fact that their husband might not come back alive from a mission. To further deal with the stress of being an astronaut's spouse, the wives have developed a support network where they watch out for each other and give constant emotional support to each other. Molly's husband Wayne has no experience dealing with such stresses and as a man is treated as an outsider to the wives' support network. It's no wonder that when Molly goes into space, Wayne is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and is suffering from horrible nightmares.
    • NASA administrators are political appointees and the massive NASA budget is ripe for political maneuvering. So lucrative contracts might be awarded for political reasons even if the recipient of the contract is not up to the job. The manufacturing of a key valve component is moved to an Illinois plant to secure the governor's support of the Equal Rights Amendment. A defective valve causes Apollo 23 to blow up.
    • NASA astronauts are given rigorous psychological tests to make sure that they can perform under extreme stresses. However, being stuck on the moon for months in a cramped moon base provides its own set of unique stresses. Someone with a temperament that makes him an excellent combat and test pilot might not be best suited to a long period of boredom combined with the low level but constant stress of living in the hostile moon environment.
    • Astronauts brave extreme danger to go into space where any mistake can kill you. This makes it easy to forget that life for the people left on Earth can also be dangerous. A mistake on the moon can kill you in seconds but so can a distracted driver a block from your home.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Tracy repeatedly messes up a flight sim, Molly snaps at her that being tired isn't an excuse and tells her that she is only there because having an astronaut couple is good PR for Nixon, and that if she weren't Gordo's wife she would already have been cut.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After Ed tells a reporter how he really feels about NASA and von Braun, he is removed from Apollo 15 and assigned to Apollo Applications. When it appears that his days as an astronaut are finished, Ed prepares to quit NASA and return to active duty in the Navy.
    • This may have happened to Alan Shepard, the first American in space, who has not yet appeared.
  • Reentry Scare: An atmosphereless version when the Apollo 11 mission has apparently failed when the radio and telemetry are cut off from the Eagle on landing, indicating a catastrophic crashlanding which would end not only the astronauts lives but also the US space program. The silence goes on for hours and everyone has given up hope, when Neil Armstrong is finally able to reestablish contact. It turns out the lander had a rough landing impacting with some boulders and now rests at an 45 degree angle with partial crumpled landing legs. Fortunately, the lander is otherwise undamaged and is able to launch and reunite with Collins in the Command Module with some careful calculations.
  • Refuge in Audacity: After getting orders from the White House to scrap the female astronaut program, Deke calls a press conference announcing the four remaining women as the next astronauts, making it impossible for anyone to order them expelled without serious political fallout.
  • Rousing Speech: Kranz gives one to Mission Control prior to the launch of Apollo 11:
    Gene Kranz: Till a few weeks ago, I thought I knew what today was all about. I thought it was about being first. Turns out the stakes are much bigger than that. Today is about the future of our country. The future of the world. Because if we fail in our mission today, the United States will turn away from space, turn away from the future. Bogged down by war, poverty, hatred. And the future? Well, the future will belong to the Soviet Union. They will be the ones reaching into space for all of mankind. Now, I want you all to think about that for a moment. What that means for the future, to look like "the Marxist-Leninst way of life." But if we succeed, if we succeed in putting Apollo 11 on the moon, we're still in this thing. Still in the race. The future will be ours to fight for and to win. We put a man on the moon today, I guarantee we are not stopping there. We're going to Mars, Saturn, the asteroids, the stars, deep space, the galaxy. And then, then we're getting answers to the big questions. Are we alone? Is there life out there? I am proud to be a member of this team, and I know that we will succeed today in our mission... in putting two Americans on the moon. Because in this room, in this agency, in this country... failure is not an option.
  • Satellite Character: Aleida, the daughter of a NASA janitor who becomes fascinated by the space program, eventually becomes Margo’s protege but still has yet to do anything significant by the end of Season 1. This is perhaps the clearest sign of Ron Moore planning out the entire story in advance.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Karen refuses to accept that her son is braindead so insists on a second opinion. As there's divided opinion over whether Ed should be told, given that he's alone on the Moonbase, Karen is consulted over whether to do so. Karen refuses to allow this until the neurologist has examined her son, thinking he will come up with better news. This means that everyone lies to Ed and he ends up getting the news from the Soviets and suffering a Heroic BSoD.
  • Sex Sells: When the Soviets put the first woman on the Moon, the Nixon administration insists that NASA put their own woman up there, preferably someone pretty and blonde. They're not happy when Molly Cobb is selected, despite her being the best candidate.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Once the female astronauts have proven themselves, Deke is not going to cut them from the program just because it is now politically convenient to do so. He risks his career and directly disobeys Nixon to make sure that they are given a chance.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Gene Kranz says that failure is not an option, which he never said in real life but did in Apollo 13.
    • As you'd expect from Ron Moore there's the inevitable Star Trek reference when Gordo complains that they're babysitting the Moon base instead of Boldly Going Where No Man Has Gone Before. There's also a mention of Bob Fiedler (Emil in the The Bob Newhart Show) also playing Hengist in the TOS episode "Wolf in the Fold".
  • Show Within a Show: VHS tapes of The Bob Newhart Show are given to the Jamestown Base to watch.
  • Silent Credits: Happens at the end of the episode "Rupture" in which Ed and Karen's son Shane, is rendered braindead.
  • Slave to PR:
    • Without the popularity bump of landing the first man on the moon, NASA and the White House scramble for any good publicity they can get. This means that female astronaut project is fast-tracked despite Deke Slayton's objections but also means that the White House cannot completely side step Slayton since his resignation would be a PR nightmare.
    • Ellen Waverly is regarded as the perfect face of the female astronaut program — beautiful, talented, at ease with the media, with a commanding presence that earns respect. As a result she can never tell anyone that she's gay as the adverse publicity would destroy everything she's worked for.
  • Sole Survivor: Ellen Wilson is the sole survivor of Apollo 24, with Liu killed instantly in the accidental engine burn, and Deke slowly bled out.
  • So Proud of You: After Tracy return back to Earth Gordo preempts the official award ceremony and gives her his own gold space wings to indicate how proud of her he is.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Margo Madison, flight dynamics officer from Sweet Home Alabama, with the accent to match.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Invoked by Mikhail as a form of Loophole Abuse. International law treats space as it would an ocean. With an American ship in distress, Mikhail is legally obligated to help out no matter what the political situation is.
    Mikhail: We are on a dark ocean, together.
  • Stay in the Kitchen
    • When the news is announced that Tracy Stevens is going to become an astronaut, Ed takes it in stride whereas his wife is the one who is furious.
    • The female astronaut program becomes a rallying cry for supporters of Women's Rights, and T-shirts bearing the slogan "A woman's place is in space" become popular.
  • Stepford Smiler: Karen Baldwin, because it's expected of an astronaut's wife. It finally becomes too much when her son is struck by a car and she ends up hiding in her bedroom rather than keep up her façade.
  • The Stoner: Molly and her husband Wayne are into marijuana. When Molly is chosen for Apollo 15, Wayne hits it even harder in a desperate attempt to stop his constant worrying that she won’t come back.
  • Stunned Silence: Mission Control falls silent as the people working there realize that Apollo 23 has just exploded on the launch pad.
  • Take That!: The show's crew clearly greatly enjoys taking real life Karma Houdini Wernher von Braun down a few pegs, even punctuating it with a clip of the Tom Lehrer song.
  • Tap on the Head: Sean Baldwin is hit by a car and sustains a head injury. He is taken to hospital but the damage is too severe and he never wakes up. A top neurosurgeon is flown in but all he can do is confirm that the patient is brain dead.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Apollo 15 crew during training. Ed isn't happy that Gordo has been replaced by Cobb, while Cobb is hardly a team player and doesn't like how the men are patronizing her even though she's been flying for longer than they have.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "Hi Bob" takes place around Thanksgiving in 1974, and was released Thanksgiving Day in 2019.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Apollo 23 exploded within minutes of the ERA passing. Illinois passed the amendment in time in part due to a NASA contract delivered to an aerospace company in Illinois; that company's manufacturing defects led to the explosion.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted. NASA has plenty of psychologists on staff but going to see one could be career ending for an astronaut. When Gordo decides that he needs to see a therapist, he picks one at random from the phone book and relies on doctor-patient confidentiality to keep it secret from NASA.
    • He has good reason to be worried; Ellen finds herself being interrogated by an FBI agent who is casually reading her supposedly confidential NASA psychiatric report.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Baldwin has one so often it's practically his default expression. Justified in that as a Navy test pilot and astronaut, he's trained to be The Stoic.
  • Time Skip:
    • After the conclusion of the Apollo 15 mission, the story skips forward two years to the landing of the Jamestown Moonbase
    • After the events of the Apollo 22-25 missions, the season one finale jumps to 1983.
  • Title Drop: The phrase "for all mankind" comes from the lunar plaque which was (in reality) left on the moon by Apollo 11. There's debate over what to be done with the plaque, now that the phrase "first set foot" no longer applies.
  • Token Minority: Subverted. Danielle is claimed to be one when her name first comes up as a prospective candidate, but her science background, work at NASA, and piloting experience make her a qualified candidate.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Gordo Stevens starts the series as selfish jerk but undergoes Character Development and by the end of season one, he turns into a really nice guy. Molly Cobb also tunes down her acerbic nature after becoming First Woman in Space and realising women look up to her.
  • Training from Hell: The astronaut training is unforgiving with candidates being constantly tested and ranked with those at the bottom of the ranking regularly cut from the program. Only ten female candidates make it to the desert survival test and only five make it to day 200 when the really difficult and dangerous training begins. Justified by the fact that outer space is an extremely unforgiving environment where the slightest error can kill you.
  • Traitor Shot: Ed accuses Soviet cosmonaut Mikhail of spying on him. After they work together to get the LSAM launched, there's a final shot of Mikhail turning to look at Jamestown Base, implying he did in fact do some snooping while it was abandoned.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • When everyone thinks that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin died landing on the moon, Michael Collins refuses to leave lunar orbit.
    CAPCOM: Mike, I think we all understand how you feel, but...
    Collins: All due respect, Houston, I don't think you do understand. I decided a long time ago that if something like this were to happen, that I wasn't coming home alone. I'm staying right where I am. Columbia, out.
    • After Molly fixes Apollo 24’s booster, it immediately turns on, leaving her desperately clinging to the module while her tether drags Apollo 25 behind them. She cuts 25 free and shortly afterward loses her grip, and urges 25 to just leave her as they’ll barely be able to get back to Earth as it is. On the ground, Margo grudgingly agrees and gives the order, but Tracy refuses to leave her, and just barely manages to get her back on board.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Upon becoming President, Ted Kennedy cuts a deal to change the lucrative contract for building Saturn rockets to a company in Illinois to get a Republican senator from the state to change sides and get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. The new company promptly cuts a few corners and causes Apollo 23 to be an even worse disaster than Apollo 1, exploding during maintenance and killing twelve people including Gene Kranz, plus leaving the previous crew stuck at the moon base much longer than intended.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Seeing a cosmonaut on the moon planting a Soviet flag.
    • The second episode ends with footage from the second Soviet mission revealing that one of the cosmonauts is a woman.
    • Gordo sees a massive smoke plume at the training ground, right after Tracy started training with the LEM and Ed reminds them of Neil Armstrong’s (real life) narrow escape from a fiery crash on this same test. This is actually just tricky editing, and it was Patty who was killed.
    • During a routine preflight prep when no-one is expecting trouble, Apollo 23 suddenly explodes on the launch pad, killing Gene Krantz and eleven ground crew.
    • Ed lets a cosmonaut in distress into the airlock of the Moonbase, then once the man has removed his spacesuit he pumps air out of the airlock.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: No one says anything, but the sentiment is all over the faces of the rest of Mission Control when Margo orders Molly to be abandoned to her death helplessly floating in space.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: A member of Mission Control vents to Margo how there's been little publicity given to the ground crew killed in the Apollo 23 disaster, as opposed to the months of publicity given to the Apollo One astronauts.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: After Ed talks to a reporter without permission he is offered a chance to denounce the contents of the article as false. Ed is too honorable to do so since the reporter truthfully reported what Ed told him. Later Ed is given a chance to testify against von Braun in front of a congressional hearing and tell them that it was von Braun's fault that Apollo 10 did not land on the moon. In the last moment Ed concludes that he made the decision not to land on his own and he refuses to lie and place the blame on von Braun. Earlier, Karen lampshaded the fact that Ed is not the type of person to lie to save his own hide.
  • Witch Hunt:
    • After Apollo 23 blows up, the FBI starts an investigation into possible Soviet infiltration of NASA. Larry fears that if they do not find real spies, they will instead use the investigation to expose and persecute NASA's gay employees.
    • Aleida's father gets arrested because he's using a fake ID as an illegal immigrant and is found with pictures of the Saturn V rocket that he was bringing his daughter. It doesn't help that he's reluctant to say this for fear of ruining her chances. In the end he's only deported, but that means Aleida has no-one to look after her.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Danielle breaks her own arm in a fake accident so they will have an excuse to take a mentally unfit Gordo back to Earth without destroying his career.
  • You Are Grounded:
    • Occurs twice, once in Episode 6, and again in Episode 7, when Edward's son Shane becomes a much more unruly child, especially in his father's absence. This culminates in a blow-out argument between Shane and his mother, with her slapping him in the face, and him running away and getting involved in an accident.
    • When Aleida Rosales accuses her father of not knowing how things work in America, he proves otherwise by evoking this trope.
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