Norah O’Donnell previews “CBS Evening News” debut, Apollo 11 retrospective

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This image released by CBS shows Norah O’Donnell, host of the new “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell.” S News is making changes with its evening newscast, and the first happens on Monday, July 15, 2019, when Norah O’Donnell takes over as anchor. The second comes in the fall, when the network pulls up stakes from its New York headquarters and moves into a new studio in Washington. (Michele Crowe/CBS via AP)

Norah O’Donnell is making her debut Monday night as the anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News.”  

“We’re going to double down on investigative news, double down on breaking news,” said O’Donnell.  The former co-host of “CBS This Morning” visited Monday to talk about the Evening News, as well as plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

“This is an incredible week because it marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, an incredible moment not only for this country but also in CBS News history,” O’Donnell said. “It was so famously anchored by Walter Cronkite, and the team did such an incredible job. And even though this was one giant leap for mankind, we want to go back and look at the women of Apollo 11.”

O’Donnell spoke with some of the women involved in the Apollo 11 mission at a time when NASA was dominated by men. Among them was engineer Frances “Poppy” Northcutt, the only woman inside Mission Control, who was responsible for calculating the maneuvers that would bring the astronauts home. 

When asked what the environment was like for Northcutt, O’Donnell said, “Well, it was a lot of men and there were a lot of cigarette butts! It was sort of a ‘Mad Men’ era. As we went back to Mission Control at Johnson Space Center, I asked [Poppy], ‘Does it seem different?’ She said, ‘It smells different,’ a lot better!

“These pioneers, these trailblazers, these women who were there at the time, they were great scientists and mathematicians. You’ll see each stage they played in what was this massive government effort.”

O’Donnell also interviewed aerospace entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, and Caroline Kennedy, who talked about the presidential leadership of her father, President John F. Kennedy, who set the ambitious goal in 1961 that America land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

O’Donnell said she was very excited about starting her new tenure as the anchor of the network’s evening news broadcast. “It’s such an incredible team,” she said. “This is a legacy broadcast. It’s actually one of the longest-running broadcasts in America, and Walter Cronkite was known as the most trusted man in America, and I think we already have the best journalists here at CBS News.

“We want fact-based, trusted news every evening and we’re going to continue do that. That’s already been happening. The Eye on America series, Separated & Counting, Profiles in Service, we’re going to be doing on the ‘Evening News.’ We’re going to double down on investigative news, double down on breaking news. “

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