2019 Audio - Silver

In three episodes of a 12-part podcast and radio series about the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, the BBC team used archival materials and extensive new interviews to explain the technology and engineering advances that made the mission a success. They described in exquisite detail the design and development of the “fourth astronaut,” the 70-pound onboard flight computer that made everything possible and which also presented some daunting last-minute challenges for mission controllers and pilot Neil Armstrong as the Eagle lander rapidly approached the lunar surface. The producers described the crucial work of Margaret Hamilton in making sure the computer’s core memory was “absolutely bulletproof robust,” an obsession from which emerged a new discipline called software engineering that Hamilton is credited with inventing. “I began to get fascinated by errors because there were no tools for finding them,” Hamilton told the BBC producers. “We’d try to understand the errors and find new ways not to let them ever happen again.” The episode on the lander’s descent to the moon captures the drama as computer alarms sounded, connections between the orbiting lunar module, the Eagle lander and mission control dropped out, the Eagle was found to be moving faster than expected, and fuel was running low. Judge Naomi Starobin, radio general manager for WHYY in Philadelphia, praised the “great use of archival audio to recreate the drama and the technical details of the event.” Presenter Kevin Fong said: “We felt it was important to be able to tell that story definitively, through the witness accounts of the scientists and engineers who are now mostly in their 80s. Those contributors were very generous with their time and gifted story tellers in their own right; we are delighted on their behalf to have gained this recognition for our joint endeavour.”