Norah O'Donnell previews "CBS Evening News" debut, Apollo 11 retrospective

Norah O'Donnell on her CBS Evening News debut

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."

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"CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell. CBS News

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.

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Poppy Northcutt revisits Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center with Norah O'Donnell. CBS News

"And Bezos said that people at NASA were gulping, like, I don't know if we can do that within the decade," O'Donnell said. 

"And now our space program is not really dominated by the government. It's dominated by billionaires like Bezos and [Elon] Musk and aerospace companies. What's really interesting is Jeff Bezos says we have to go back to the moon in order to save the planet," she said.

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. "

"CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell" debuts Monday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT.

And don't miss CBS News' one-hour special "Man on the Moon," hosted by O'Donnell, Tuesday, July 16 beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT. 

Preview: Man on the Moon - a CBS News Special
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.