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‘Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes Of Apollo’ (review)

Produced by Keith Haviland, Gareth Dodds
Written by David Fairhead, Keith Haviland
Directed by David Fairhead
Featuring Dr Chris Kraft, Gene Kranz,
Glynn Lunney, Gerry Griffin, John Aaron,
Ed Fendell, Jerry Bostick, Jim Lovell,
Gene Cernan, Charlie Duke

 

The new documentary Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes Of Apollo spotlights the work of the people behind the scenes of the most crucial moments of space exploration history.

In the process, we are treated to an impromptu history of NASA and how human vision and determination got us to the Moon…and perhaps there is no better time to retell that story.

Many of the types of talented young geniuses who would be, in the current era, whiz kids building killer apps for start-ups and taking Silicon Valley by storm would likely have been recruited into NASA, circa the 1960s.

Watching Mission Control, you really get a tangible sense of how essentially “crowdsourcing” that many brilliant minds can accomplish something so incredible for the time period as launching people into space.

These people built and improvised what would be some of the most foundational and critical tools for humanity to reach “the stars,” working long hours and shouldering enormous responsibility. This point is really brought home in the scene regarding the tragic Apollo 1 launch pad fire, in which three astronauts lost their lives; after the accident, the Mission Control staff were told to each go to their personal blackboards/whiteboards in their offices and write “tough & competent” to remind them what they needed to be. That might sound “harsh” or even pedantic, perhaps…but the truth is, even beyond the loss of life, that every failed mission set back—and even put into jeopardy—the entire fledgling space program.

And so one of the biggest things I get out of Mission Control is how these workers felt driven by a mission, a sense of honor, and a notion of something far bigger than themselves. How many of us can claim the same regarding our own professions? How many brilliant young people are stuck in states of ennui and cynicism—states that I totally do not fault them for, given the contemporary societal and economic situation—and do not feel anything close to that sense of purpose and connection with humanity as a whole?

Now, more than ever, I feel we need to refocus both on future space excursions and the people who made it all possible. We need to stir that excitement again that I witnessed in the news footage of people of all walks of life gathering together in the street and celebrating the landing on the Moon. And I cannot help but feel that Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes Of Apollo is trying to accomplish that very specific thing.

For this isn’t a “small” documentary. Director David Fairhead has presented something that can almost best be viewed on the wide screen, sculpting dramatic moments in NASA history with an impressive array of tightly-edited intimate footage inside Mission Control, heartfelt interviews with many from the original staff, familiar shots of the the rockets at launch & mid-flight, and an epic film score. Digital re-enactments fill in the “blanks,” but not in a way that feels intrusive or that takes you out of the milieu of the time period.

I highly recommend viewing Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes Of Apollo as a way to acquire a vital refresher course on our space exploration history and to get excited at what might come in the future.

 

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes Of Apollo
is available now in theaters & On Demand. 

For more information, visit missioncontrol.movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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