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Science journalist Andrew Chaikin and Industrial Light and Magic chief creative offer John Knoll try unsuccessfully to get the demo off the ground at Build. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

The opening demo at Microsoft’s Build conference was supposed to be a real showstopper, and ultimately it did stop the show — but not in the way that Microsoft, Epic Games and Industrial Light and Magic had hoped.

An unspecified technical glitch kept Industrial Light and Magic chief creative officer John Knoll and science journalist Andrew Chaikin from using the HoloLens 2 headsets to recreate the Apollo 11 moon landing in mixed reality.

As Chaikin said before walking off the stage, “It seems that doing a live demo is actually harder than landing on the moon.”

But a video of their rehearsal has now surfaced online, thanks to Variety, which had been tracking the plans for the demo and prepared a giant article with the full backstory on how the demo came to be. The collaboration is part of a partnership between Microsoft and Epic Games, marking a truce between the companies.

“All had worked out well during multiple rehearsals over the last few days,” Variety’s Janko Roettgers wrote. “But when Knoll and science journalist and ‘Man on the Moon’ author Andrew Chaikin were set to go on stage on Monday, the demo just didn’t run. Microsoft stalled by extending its pre-show ImagineCup competition until the show’s moderator couldn’t think of any more questions to ask. Then Knoll and Chaikin went on stage, giving it one more go — and the mixed-reality overlays simply refused to appear.”

If the demo had worked as planned, HoloLens users (and those who were watching the display screens at the Microsoft Build conference) would have seen virtual models of the Saturn V rocket, plus its Apollo capsule and lunar module, float and spin around the stage as Chaikin and Knoll narrated each stage of the 1969 moon mission. At the climax, a patch of simulated lunar terrain blossomed on stage, and a virtual Neil Armstrong climbed down the lunar module’s ladder to take his “one small step.”

Watch the runthrough video above to see how it would have unfolded.

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