A slight but nicely done overview of the U.S. space program, from its earliest days prior to the Mercury flights, through Gemini and Apollo, to the shuttle program.
I stumbled onto this documentary when it aired on public television recently. Billed (at least on Direct TV) as "Apollo astronauts discuss the fear and exhilaration of going into space," it turned out instead to cover a lot more ground, albeit rather lightly.
Written and produced by Richard Dale, and narrated throughout by actor Michael J. Reynolds, this is less an extensive history than a dramatic overview, more poetry than nuts-and-bolts. A gorgeous original score by Richard Blair-Oliphant accompanies some of the best NASA film and video from over 40 years of space exploration, both the familiar shots as well as some never before seen outside of raw mission footage.
No one will accuse this film of getting into too much detail. Only the highlights of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs are covered, and Apollo-Soyuz and the Skylab missions are never even mentioned. The Soviet space program, which in the early days mirrored (and in some cases exceeded) the achievements of the American program, is also ignored.
While thin on facts, the writing is generally good, though the script has a tendency toward the melodramatic. For example, Gus Grissom is repeatedly said to have "cheated death," for contrast with the inevitable pathos of the Apollo 1 fire. Similarly, the selection of subjects dwells a bit too much on the Challenger and Columbia disasters for my taste; Apollo 13, on the other hand, is never mentioned at all. But ultimately, the tone is one of pride and inspiration, emphasizing the courage of the "rocket men" who risk their lives in the exploration of space.
While hardly a source of new information, those already familiar with the history of NASA may enjoy "Rocketmen." It's a difficult film to find, but well worth the 90 minutes.
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