Posts Tagged ‘In the Shadow of the Moon’

In the Shadow of the Moon, #2

December 1, 2007

We went to see this tonight, at last, and it was as good as expected. It is a rare thing to hear the words, and see the faces of the men who journeyed out of the gravity well of the Earth. Much of the footage is rare and the interviews speak for themselves. There is a little text to help fill in the story. We are taken from Kennedy’s challenge, through Apollo 1, Apollo 8 and 11 to the experiences of the men who flew.

I most enjoyed seeing the aged, rheumy eyes of the astronauts as they relived and analysed their feelings. They showed wonder, excitement, humour, and constant amazement that they should be so privileged to have been in the right place, at the right time, with the right stuff. Alan Bean thought he had the right stuff, whatever that is, only because he was selected!

I always love to hear what Michael Collins has to say. His autobiography, Carrying the Fire is widely regarded as the best Apollo biography, and I agree. He has an intelligent but slightly removed view from within the Apollo 11 crew.

I like to hear Buzz Aldrin. He is so earnest, as Dr Rendezvous or as an advocate of continuing human spaceflight. Although I heard little new from him it was right to hear him in the context of the others. His humility is improving with age.

John Young is the only astronaut to fly in 3 programmes – Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle. Vastly experienced, I think he was the last Apollo veteran to retire from NASA. Laid back and laconic. Always a pleasure.

Dave Scott had too small a role in my view. His mission, Apollo 15, was the first to really get to grips with science.

I don’t recall anything specific that Ed Mitchell said, which is a shame, as Apollo 14 is perhaps the most overlooked mission.

Charlie Duke was fun to hear, especially as he was the Apollo 11 CapCom. I was disappointed film wasn’t included of him saying “…you’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue…” He’s an engaging man.

Harrison Schmitt said a few things, but was greatly overshadowed by his crewmate Gene Cernan…

…who, in my mind held, with Collins, the core of the film. I sense a deep regret in him that he was the last to leave, and no-one has followed. As he says, no-one can take away the footprints he left on the Moon. He is captivated by the beauty of the Earth and is rightly proud of the Apollo program’s role in kick-starting global environmental awareness. What would we do without the Apollo photos of the Earth? The title of the film comes from something Gene Cernan says, in wonder, about passing into darkness from days of constant sunlight on the journey to the Moon.

Alan Bean clearly enjoyed his ride. I have such a strong impression of him through the Apollo 12 episode of ‘From the Earth to the Moon‘, which is seen through his eyes. Nothing he says on the film really changes what I learned from that.

Finally, Jim Lovell, who has such a gentle way, was again lovely to hear from. Apollo 13 has certainly defined his fame, and he deals with it very well, but his journey on Apollo 8 with Borman and Anders deserves equal memory. It was every bit as brave (the first manned flight of Saturn V, and they went right out of Earth orbit!) and made it clear that Apollo was back on track after Apollo 1 two years earlier.

We all missed hearing from Armstrong, of course. I’m sorry that he chose not to take part, but he probably feels he’s said all he wants to. I have no problem with that. What a burden to carry, as Aldrin explained in the film. I also missed hearing from Pete Conrad. He’s an astronaut famed for his humour and the Apollo 12 mission, with Bean and Dick Gordon, made a huge contrast with the quiet 11 crew. Jim Irwin and Al Shepard also were missing. You’d have to have made this film in 1990 to have had all 12 moonwalkers. Would it have been possible then?

I’ll be buying the DVD. Especially as the cinema forgot to play the sound for the first minute or so and then let the sound and picture get out of synch. Grrr.

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In the Shadow of the Moon

October 17, 2007

Check this out! I heard about this film a little while ago, and, if the trailer is anything to go by, it will be unmissable. Interviews with most of the nine surviving moonwalkers (although only archive footage of Armstrong) as well as Jim Lovell, who visited the Moon twice on Apollo 8 and 13, intercut with enhanced contemporaneous footage to tell the story of the Apollo race for the Moon. It is on general release in the UK from 02 November.

This is a Ron Howard production. Ron directed Apollo 13, one of my favourite films, largely because of its technical accuracy, but also because the story told is more real than life, if you see what I mean.

The whole Apollo program embodies the best of human endeavour. Only 32 astronauts crewed Apollo spacecraft, but around 400000 engineers and their managers drove the whole show. This team effort is something Apollo 13 shows pretty well, but wasn’t unique to this mission. None of the journeys to the Moon could have happened without the contribution of the whole, massive, team.

The best book I know which deals with the backstage work for Apollo is Apollo, by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox. The stories of the flight controllers, spacecraft engineers, managers, range safety, launch technicians, communications experts, suit makers – you name it – are compelling. How did these (generally) young men do that? You have to buy the book from the authors, but it is worth it. I think I’ve read it 3 times now.

Can America (with Europe/Russia?) repeat the achievement of the 60’s in the twenty-teens? I hope so. Robot missions are great, but robots don’t dream of anything but electric sheep.