‘For All Mankind’ Season 1: Ending, Explained – Was Apollo 24 A Success? Did Baldwin Return To Earth?


“For All Mankind” builds on the idea of an alternative history had the space race continued. The series focuses on the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States to be the first on the lunar missions. While we all know that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, in this series, the first man to land on the moon is a Soviet cosmonaut. Every American family was glued to their television sets, hoping for their enemy to fail, but what they instead witnessed was the creation of history or what was described as the “Red Moon.” What starts with a competition to be the first man on the moon gradually escalates to building space stations and mining for ice. “For All Mankind,” with brilliant writing and a focus on history, is a promising science-fiction series. From women’s struggle to build their space in science to how queers had to conceal their sexuality to protect their jobs, the series emphasizes the important issues that were relevant during the time.

Spoilers Ahead

‘For All Mankind’ Season 1: Plot Summary

After the news of a Russian man walking on the surface of the moon reaches the world, the astronauts at NASA, particularly Edward Baldwin, express their discontent with the organization. A reporter entered the outpost bar hoping to learn about the honest feelings of the astronauts at NASA. Most tried to conceal their true feelings by describing their trust in the organization and how a journey to the moon was not as simple as one thought it to be. But Edward Baldwin shared a little too much of his personal feelings in a drunken state of mind. He spoke about how he could have been the first man on the moon if NASA had allowed Apollo 10 to land on the surface. He believed that the organization had lost its guts and was playing it too safe, resulting in their losing the chance to be the first man on the moon. This report was published, and Baldwin lost his chance at flying to the moon anytime soon. He was frustrated by what had unfolded and planned to take his job back as a pilot in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Neil Armstrong was sent on the Apollo 11 mission, and he managed to land on the moon safely. He had to take a risk before landing, but it was ultimately his call to land, knowing the risks. When Neil shared this detail with Baldwin, Baldwin realized that no matter whom he blamed, it was ultimately he who had to take the chances. President Nixon wanted to develop a military base on the moon and be the first to use it, but the idea was rejected by Wernher von Braun. He believed that a military base would result in another war, and it was not something for which they had been researching for so long. Their purpose was to always learn more about the universe and not to contribute to war. Government officials started to look into Wernher’s history, and they asked Baldwin to express the discontent that he had before in front of Congress. Baldwin chose to not blame von Braun, and he instead discussed the details that worked against them and the fact that Apollo 10 was never meant to land on the moon. It was a trial. And he believed that if he wanted to land, he should have taken the risk, which he did not. Even though Baldwin’s testimony was of no use, Wernher’s past association resulted in his immediate extermination. He was a Nazi scientist who was aware of how men were treated at the concentration camps, and yet he chose to make them work for his scientific achievements. Even though he responded by saying that he could not change the world, no one could ever work with a scientist who was involved in brutality.

While the United States sent their man to the moon, the Soviets again became the first to send a woman to the moon. The pressure was to send American women to the moon now, but there were hardly any women who were flying. Mercury 13 was a program where women pilots were trained for space, but the program was ultimately canceled. The plan was to consider the Mercury 13 women as astronaut candidates, and those who could prove their worth could be declared astronauts.

What Was The Purpose Of Apollo 15?

When women were considered for the space program, Kate Baldwin, wife of Ed Baldwin, believed that it was a mockery of her husband’s job. Especially with Tracey Stevens, wife of Gordon Stevens, joining the program. The wives were the support systems for their husbands, and Kate found it almost unbelievable that women would now do the job that their husbands were trained for years to do. Housewives doubted the capability of working women, especially when one was to travel to space. Four women ultimately were declared astronauts, and Tracey Stevens was one of them. Even though she was initially not taken seriously for being the wife of an astronaut by the other candidates, she proved her worth. The first woman to go to space was Molly Cobb, who was a pilot as well as one of the highest-scoring candidates in the program.

She was selected to travel to the moon with Edward Baldwin on Apollo 15. Their mission was to find ice on the lunar surface. According to the data procured by NASA scientists, there was a probability of finding ice on the moon. The discovery of ice would help them develop fuel for their equipment, and that would further solidify their interest in staying on the moon. With women’s liberation gaining prominence, the journey of a woman to the moon became a benchmark. Young women wrote letters to Cobb expressing how her presence changed their lives. Women could now dream of going to space; they could dream of becoming engineers and scientists. There were no limits to what a woman was capable of achieving, and Cobb became the torchbearer of that belief.

As the wives of all the astronauts sat together to watch the launch of Apollo 15, Cobb’s husband joined them as well. While the rest pretended to be strong, particularly Kate, Wayne Cobb struggled to keep his spirits high. He was scared for his wife and had nightmares about the mission. While Kate denied ever worrying about her husband, it was later understood that she too suffered mentally in holding the family together and in being the rock-iron support for Baldwin, be it during his days in space or when he was serving in Korea.

‘For All Mankind’ Season 1: Ending Explained – Was Apollo 24 A Success? How Did Baldwin Help In The Process?

Edward Baldwin, Gordo Stevens, and Danielle Poole were sent on the Apollo 22 mission. Their purpose was to relieve members of Apollo 21, who were the first to inhabit space and continue to hold the base at Jamestown. While Apollo 23 was supposed to follow soon after, an explosion before the launch forced those in Apollo 22 to stay longer. This change of plan affected Gordo mentally. The fact that they were alone in space, living the same routine every day, led Gordo to hallucinate. One day, when Baldwin went on a walk with Gordo, he imagined ants crawling all over him. Though later, he expressed that he was not aware of what went wrong. Baldwin instructed Danielle to take Gordo back to Earth by boarding the Command and Service Module of Apollo 22. Danielle knew that if the headquarters were told about Gordo’s mental condition, they would terminate him from every program, and he would have to stay back home without any job. She saw her boyfriend struggle after returning from Vietnam. She knew that having no work all of a sudden would make his situation worse. Danielle purposefully injured herself and took the blame on herself to spare Gordo from the consequences. Gordo was upheld as the hero, while Danielle’s accident became a reason to doubt women’s capability.

Baldwin was left alone on the moon. He noticed the base that was set by the Soviets, and he doubted that they were tapping into the American basement and extracting information about their missions. He placed a camera to monitor the Soviets. Meanwhile, at home, his son, Shane, was faced with an accident and was hospitalized. He was later declared brain dead and could not survive without ventilation. Kate did not want to lose hope and asked the NASA doctor to access the case. He declared her son partially dead, and that completely broke Kate. She had kept the truth from Edward, hoping for her son to recover, but that never happened. Everyone supported Kate’s decision to keep the truth away from Baldwin. The only message that reached him was from the Soviets, who sent their condolences for his son. He believed it was the Soviet way of getting to his head. To seek revenge, he destroyed the Soviet equipment that he found in Jamestown. But after their son was declared dead, Kate shared the news with her husband, and that completely broke Edward. He had always regretted not spending enough time with his son, and the news of his demise, while he was on the moon, made it worse. Edward cut off all communication with the Earth and drank himself to sorrow.

Meanwhile, Apollo 24 prepared to free Baldwin and help him return to Earth. On board were Deke Slayton, Ellen Waverly, and Harrison Liu. While they had safely launched, there was a failure in a flight control computer. To help the case, Molly Cobb and Tracey Stevens on Apollo 25 went to repurpose the computer. Harrison Liu and Deke Slayton went ahead to exchange the faulty parts. Harrison Liu was ultimately killed when the S-IVB was unexpectedly ignited. Molly Cobb was also left stranded in space as a result. Apollo 24 drifted further away from the trajectory it was set to travel. When Deke Slayton was injured in the process, Ellen tried to help him keep it under control. As the two believed that they would eventually die, knowing that they had exhausted all the fuel, Ellen decided to share her truth with Deke. She revealed that she was in love with a woman, and she had married Larry to keep all speculation away and to protect her job. Deke warned her to never share this with anyone because she would lose her chances of being an astronaut. He was not supportive, and he knew there were men out there who would make sure to ruin her career for it.

Edward Baldwin ultimately contacted the headquarters when he realized there was an SOS situation. He was asked to board the LSAM and provide Apollo 24 with propellant. Ellen managed to grab hold of the propellant when Baldwin pushed it from his end. But when she reached back, she found that Deke had passed away. Ellen was the lone survivor of Apollo 24, and she commanded Baldwin to leave Jamestown and go back to Earth. Baldwin wanted to stay back; he was scared to face the dark reality that awaited him. Ellen was now in charge of holding the base of Jamestown. When she was asked to send a message to Earth, she replied that she wanted to express her love for her husband, indicating that she had considered what Deke had said and was not going to give away her truth, risking her career.

“For All Mankind” has several emotional moments. Be it the way it treats PTSD, where astronauts were terminated from all missions if they ever expressed any trauma, or the fight for equality for women. In particular, how difficult it was for a black woman such as Danielle to constantly prove her worth, along with queer women such as Ellen, who were questioned for their sexuality. With the changing government, there was a change in policy-from Nixon’s military base interest to Kennedy’s exploration interest; the series manages to incorporate it all.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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