Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo

Hosted by the Department of International History

Zoom, United Kingdom


Dr Teasel Muir-Harmony

Dr Teasel Muir-Harmony


Dr Thomas Ellis

Dr Thomas Ellis

Book Talk

On July 20th, 1969, over half of the world’s population tuned in to watch Neil Armstrong become the first human being to set foot on the Moon. While Armstrong’s iconic ‘small step’ is often remembered as a scientific triumph and a stunning victory for America in its space race with the Soviet Union, there is more to the Apollo story than meets the eye.

As well as signalling to the Soviets and the American public that US science and technology was second to none, Project Apollo was also about drawing newly independent nations into the American Cold War camp. For President John F. Kennedy, this meant using a bold commitment to space exploration as a way to demonstrate American excellence. For his successor, President Richard Nixon, it meant using the Apollo programme to sell a hopeful vision of planetary unity in a world that was both increasingly connected and evermore divided.

Using firsthand accounts by Apollo astronauts as well as unseen US government documents, Smithsonian curator Teasel Muir-Harmony’s Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo weaves together a story of politics and propaganda; diplomacy and spaceflight; decolonisation and globalisation to detail the political forces that brought Americans to the Moon in 1969 and the reasons why the US hasn’t returned to it since 1972.

Meet our speaker and chair

Dr Teasel Muir-Harmony (@TeaselMuir) is curator of the Project Apollo collection at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Dr Thomas Ellis (@tomsomol) is LSE Teaching Fellow in the Department of International History at LSE. He works on US Foreign Relations, Aerospace History and Technological Utopianism.

More about this event

The Department of International History (@lsehistory) teaches and conducts research on the international history of Britain, Europe and the world from the early modern era up to the present day.

Sponsored by the department's The Americas in World History and Contemporary International History and the Global Cold War research clusters.


This public event is available as a podcast - listen here. Podcasts are normally available within a week after the event. Podcasts and videos of other past events can be found in our website.

Image used in promotion of this event: ©US National Archives