A New Docuseries Uncovers SoCal’s Pioneering Role in the Nation’s Aerospace Industry

The series coincides with the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing.

A historical documentary produced in partnership with the Emmy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jones (Johnny Carson: King of Late Night and the Peabody Award®-winning Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times) arrives this weekend as part of the PBS “Summer of Space” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Blue Sky Metropolis is a 21st century story that looks at the past, present and future of aerospace in Southern California from multiple perspectives including science, culture, politics, race, business, labor, environment and gender. The miniseries will consist of four one-hour episodes and is narrated by Tony Goldwyn (Scandal, The Last Samurai, Ghost).

The documentary miniseries focuses on the people behind the aerospace movement and will feature many of the current major players in the aerospace industry in California, which is the hub of modern day aerospace engineering. The aerospace century unfolds through the lives and words of the men and women who created it: John Northrop, Glenn Martin, Donald Douglas, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, Walt Disney and Wernher Von Braun.

The Aerospace Century begins in 1910 with the Los Angeles International Air Meet—only the second public showcase of powered flight in the world. The series chronicles the epic mobilization during World War II—when two million workers assembled 300,000 aircraft. It traces the Cold War emergence of the “military-industrial complex” as a nation grappled with the threat of nuclear annihilation. Stories play out via radio recordings, newsreels, industrial films, and oral history excerpts. More than 60 people were interviewed for the series including writers, historians, corporate executives, members of the armed forces, astronauts, scientists, engineers and even the current Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. The series visits iconic locations representing the industry’s past, present and future—from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Griffith Observatory to Virgin Orbit, SpaceX and Relativity, a recent start-up founded by twenty-somethings who build rockets with 3-D printers.

Here’s a breakdown of the episodes:

“WINGS: Aviation Takes Flight in Early Los Angeles”

Sun., July 14 at 8 p.m.

Aviation takes flight in early Los Angeles, becoming an industry of dreamers, risk takers and entrepreneurs. The region is America’s “arsenal of democracy” during World War II, as two million workers build 300,000 aircraft. Critics see an unhealthy alliance developing between the federal government and aircraft manufacturers.

“THE BIG CHILL: The Cold War Fuels Business and Anxiety”

Sun., July 21 at 8 p.m.

The Cold War and Pentagon dollars fuels the explosive growth of modern Los Angeles and creates the military-industrial-complex. Entire suburbs are built in record time to house defense industry workers, but covenants restrict non-white races from living there. Fear of nuclear annihilation spawns a new genre for Hollywood as ‘science fiction’ movies become a box office goldmine.

“A SPACE ODYSSEY: Southern California Spearheads Mankind’s Greatest Achievement”

Sun., July 28 at 8 p.m.

The triumphant and tragic Space Race unfolds in first-hand accounts of those who pioneered the technology and built the hardware that made possible mankind’s greatest achievement. Meanwhile, the military-industrial-complex expands unchecked.

“BACK TO THE FUTURE: A New Space Age Dawns in Southern California”

Sun., Aug. 4 at 8 p.m.

The end of the Cold War brings massive layoffs but tech billionaires choose Southern California to launch their space companies. Though committed to the “democratization” of space, SpaceX and Virgin Orbit include the Pentagon as a major customer.

For a full schedule of Southern California’s SUMMER OF SPACE offering on KCET and PBS SoCal go to kcet.org/summerofspace and pbssocal.org/summerofspace.
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