Apple TV+ has dropped the trailer for the second season of For All Mankind, its science fiction drama about an alternate history where the space race never ended. The series was the linchpin of the Apple TV+ launch in 2019, and proved popular enough with viewers to warrant a second season.
(Some spoilers for the first season below.)
Series creator Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) has made a point of trying to keep the show reasonably close to reality, despite the science fiction concept, often consulting the original NASA plans for guidance, and incorporating archival footage throughout the season. Moore said the following during a 2019 panel Q&A after an IMAX screening of the first two S1 episodes at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC:
Our production designer, Dan Fisher, who designed all the sets of the show, recreated Mission Control in such exacting detail that even the ceiling tiles [are] the same as the ceiling tiles in the original mission control. When we were on set, we had technical consultants and former astronauts who were actually there, who would walk the cast through how to operate the command module and the lunar module. We had people that would talk to the background players in Mission Control, so that people weren’t just randomly pushing buttons—they knew exactly what the console did and who they were talking to on those headsets, and that permeated the entire production.
The first season centered on an astronaut named Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman), standing in for Thomas Stafford, the Apollo 10 commander in our real-world timeline. His foil is fellow astronaut Gordo Stevens (Michael Dorman), the stereotypical hard-drinking, womanizing fighter pilot to Baldwin’s All-American “right stuff” persona. As Ars Tech Policy reporter Kate Cox noted in her S1 review, Apollo 10 was the “dress rehearsal” for the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.
But in this alternate timeline, the decision not to land on the moon with Apollo 10 meant the USSR beat America to the punch. Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history instead. (The real Leonov made his own mark in our timeline: he was part of the Voskhod 2 mission, and was the first man to perform a 12-minute spacewalk on March 18, 1965.) The US must then work to catch up in the space race, with an eye toward establishing a lunar base.
With the Soviets now the world leaders in space, America struggles to catch up, even recruiting a team of female astronauts after the first female cosmonaut lands on the moon. Over the course of the season, both countries find water on the moon and America sets up the first moon base in 1974, followed shortly thereafter by a Soviet lunar base eight miles away. There was a lot of interpersonal drama on both Earth and the Moon in S1, and a couple of tragic losses. The season ended with a complicated two-part episode involving a desperate launch of Apollo 25 to conduct an Apollo 24 relief and rescue mission. A post-credits scene et in 1983 featured a sea launch of large rocket with a plutonium payload for the US Jamestown colony on the moon.
The second season picks up that same year. Per the official premise:
It’s the height of the Cold War and tensions between the United States and the USSR are at their peak. Ronald Reagan is president and the greater ambitions of science and space exploration are at threat of being squandered as the US and Soviets go head-to-head to control sites rich in resources on the moon. The Department of Defense has moved into Mission Control, and the militarization of NASA becomes central to several characters’ stories: some fight it, some use it as an opportunity to advance their own interests, and some find themselves at the height of a conflict that may lead to nuclear war.
The trailer opens with the ominous news that the Soviets might be trying to develop a new weapon as a fresh class of candidate astronauts is introduced. The US can’t let that slide, because “it would set a dangerous precedent.” Also, that weapon would be able to drop munitions pretty much anywhere on Earth, so it’s a big threat to national security. As the Eurythmics play in the background, we meet Pathfinder, a new, more powerful space shuttle, and it looks like Kinnaman’s Ed Baldwin will be tapped for its first mission. Will war break out on the moon, or will the US live up to its declaration that it came in peace, “for all mankind”?
For All Mankind returns to Apple TV+ on February 19, 2021.
Listing image by Apple TV+