(CNN) -- The film "In the Shadow of the Moon" reunites 10 Apollo astronauts as they share their memories and emotions of reaching a destination never before visited by man.
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin describes the lunar surface as "magnificent desolation."
The documentary, which premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival, opened in New York and Los Angeles last week and arrives in additional cities nationwide Friday.
The film features interviews with the astronauts and never-before-seen footage from NASA's vaults. It won the World Cinema Audience Award for Documentary at Sundance.
The story of the Apollo space program begins in May 1961, with President Kennedy's challenge in a speech to Congress: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth."
From 1968 to 1972, the men of Apollo met Kennedy's challenge during a time when America was in a Cold War with the Soviet Union and the space program faced fierce competition from Moscow.
"The genius of Kennedy was to understand that a project like this would act as a rallying point for the nation and would also be a fantastic way of demonstrating to the world the value of American life," said film director David Sington.
"It was a space race -- there's no question about it -- to try to beat the Russians there," said astronaut Charlie Duke. Watch the astronauts talk about the moon -- and the movie. »
"Kennedy gave us this goal and a timetable, and then we, the 400,000 [people working on the space program], began to try to find a way to achieve an impossible dream," said astronaut Alan Bean.
The 10 astronauts in the film have a shared experience, but the stories they tell are each unique, and in surprising ways, moving:
"In the Shadow of the Moon" is a time capsule for anyone interested in what it was like for the Americans who flew to the moon.
"They're the people who have really seen where we are in the universe and what we are," the director said.
"You know over half the people on Earth were not alive during Apollo," Bean said. "So is it ancient history to them and they're not interested? Or is it one of the great moments in their country's history, and they want to know more about it? I'm anxious to see how it goes." E-mail to a friend
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