"'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 it means for the future to look like the Marxist-Leninist 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 you we are not stopping there. We'll go to Mars, Saturn, the asteroids, the stars, deep space, the galaxy. And then, then we're gettin' 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 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."
On July 16, before the launch of Apollo 11, he gives a speech ending in "Failure is not an option".
In real life the phrase "Failure is not an option" is often associated with the Apollo 13 accident. Gene Kranz didn't say it at the time, though.
After a month since the Soviet landing, Apollo 11 kept training until it was finally time for the departure. Flight director Gene Kranz was giving final instructions and gave his famous "Failure is not an option" speech.
The two started approaching the moon's surface, but could not find a good place to land, also with little fuel left. Asking Gene if they should abort, the director said it was up to Neil now. As they neared the surface, the crew became worried that they would hit something. As one of them warned, telemetric connection, as well as all other means of contact were lost.
NASA tried contacting them, but they were not reaching the crew. As time went by, NASA was still unable to reach Apollo 11. Von Braun concluded it was likely they had crashed. Since the Eagle had such thin "skin", Gene mentioned you could punch a hole in it with a screwdriver. They could have survived, as they had their suits on, but Deke mentioned there was no contingency plan, and von Braun mentioned it was impossible to perform a rescue on the lunar surface.
Deke went to von Braun and told them there was a problem since Michael Collins was refusing to return alone. All of a sudden, they received a transmission from Neil, who let them know that they had landed successfully. Everybody cheered, and Gene mentioned they would now focus on bringing them home again.
Gene does not feel confident about Neil Armstrong turning the Eagle to a vertical position as it would cost them a lot of fuel. He tells this to Wernher von Braun, but the latter is confident. Neil and Buzz Aldrin are authorized to turn the Eagle over, which they do by detaching the top part. They manage to fly again and reach Michael Collins, who was still waiting for them.
At her interview with Gene, Margo is asked how she can be sure she will not wilt at the first sign of pressure. She mentions she is different, and when asked how she knew von Braun, she tells Gene that her father used to teach at the University of Huntsville, and von Braun would come over for dinner and while she had never left Huntsville, he helped her believe that anything was possible and was the reason she became an engineer. Afterwards, Gene asked if she would like to have a family, which Margo denied for the time being. Gene replied by saying that not every woman was cut out to be a mother.
On the day of the Apollo 12 launch, the USA neared peace with Vietnam as well as a lunar base on the moon. Gene led the exploit, asking everyone their status as von Braun left the building. Apollo 12 lifted off successfully. During the mission, the Soviets were now on the moon again, revealing that a woman, Anastasia Belikova had now landed on the moon, which now qualified as a historic moment for women across the world, since she was the first woman on the moon.
Gene and Deke Slayton tell a general from the Pentagon that they were converting the third stage of the Saturn V into an orbiting workshop, also mentioning that von Braun called it Skylab. The construction was already underway in Huntsville, but it was early enough to change the trajectory of the process. The general asks Gene how many people could fit inside it, since it did not look big, and Deke replies that three astronauts could do it at a time for the first stages until there could be further expansions. However, Apollo missions were now being reassigned to survey potential sites for the military base.
Thomas walks into the room, and speaks to Deke and Gene alone, telling them that the president now wanted to land a woman on the moon. Gene finds this to be an issue, however, since NASA did not have female astronauts. Deke also adds that he can not just choose a random woman, they would have to be trained to be astronauts, and not all of them would pass his tests. However, Thomas does not want Deke to train them properly, which he opposes.
Apollo 15 reaches the moon after 4 days, 3 hours, and 46 minutes, while Deke Slayton and Margo Madison work at mission control. Molly Cobb is told she is live on all networks. Shane asks Karen why everything is about her, and Karen tells him that she is the first woman astronaut, but Shane reminds him that Ed is her boss.
When asked what she thought about being near the moon, Molly mentions it is humbling and Deke reads a letter from a fan to her. After they were off air, the Apollo 15 crew was told that ice had been located on the moon, but the data would be used for later missions, since the ice was nowhere near their landing site at Mare Frigoris. Ed told them to land them at Shackleton Crater, but Gene refused since it was too big a risk, and they did not have the gear for that kind of exploration.
Thomas called Deke and Gene and told them the CIA was worried that the Soviets would place military assets on the moon, and told them that if they could get Apollo 15 to Shackleton, they should do it. Deke told Thomas that the crew would decide and left.
On day 3 of being on the moon, which was the last day, Thomas was confident Molly and Ed would find ice, but was surprised to hear the best bet was to send Apollo 16 with climbing gear. However, Thomas has having none of it since the Russians would beat them again. Gene stated they should waste time, and told mission control to get them inside, but Deke mentioned it was three times deeper than The Grand Canyon.
On August 24, 1974, Apollo 23 was almost ready to launch. Gene, the new director of Johnson Space Center, wished the crew good luck. The commander was Michael Collins, who told Gene he would land better than Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had. Later, Gene was told that there was a bad actuator, but he mentioned he had nowhere to be.
After a fix on the rocket Gene was working on, he walks away, mentioning he is hungry before a huge explosion engulfs him and 11 other ground crew members, killing them all instantly.