Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse: Season 1, Episode 22

Man in Orbit (11 May 1959)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
6.4
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Gambetta
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Robert F. Simon ...
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11 May 1959 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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looking forward to space travel
26 June 2006 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Back in 1954, science fiction writer James E. Gunn was speculating over what could motivate the public to accepting space travel. He wrote the short story "The Cave of Night", hoping it might be published in Collier's Magazine, which had recently published a special issue by Wehrner Von Braun about space. In the end it appeared in the February 1955 issue of Galaxy Magazine and was dramatized on the radio program X Minus One.

When it was planned to make a television spin-off of X Minus One, the story was purchased for the pilot episode. This didn't eventuate, and the rights were sold to Desilu who changed the title to "Man in Orbit" (and changed the plot a little).

Lee Marvin is the astronaut and E.G. Marshall one of the scientists planning the first space mission. They wonder whether it is worthwhile cutting corners to send the first man into space. When they decide to launch, worldwide attention is focused on the plight of Lee Marvin's character.

James E. Gunn later wrote: "Science-fiction writers get reputations as prophets. They aren't really in that business. Their intention is to write plausible scenarios about possible futures. Sometimes, by chance, one of them coincides with reality." When the first American in orbit, John Glenn, passed over Perth, Australia, in 1962 the town turned its lights on and off to signal him as he passed overhead. I had a sense of deja vu -- because I'd already seen that happen in this story.


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