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MISSION CONTROL: THE UNSUNG HEROES OF APOLLO
Director: David Fairhead
MISSION CONTROL: THE UNSUNG HEROES OF APOLLO tells the story of the beginnings of Nasa’s space program through the eyes of those who started it. We go back to a point in the cold war when the evil Soviet empire launched the first man-made object into orbit, and the almost superstitious awe with which people on on the other side of the Atlantic looked to the sky. This produced the impetus of a massive scientific and engineering program (started by Kennedy and continued by Nixon) which aimed to put people on the moon, without any clear idea of how this will be achieved. We follow a disparate group of engineers as they move into the newly designed Houston Space Centre, and the rest of the narrative (from Gemini through to Apollo) unfolds from inside Mission Control.
Veteran documentary maker David Fairhead’s film treads an uncertain path between scientific exposition and (at times intense) historical drama to leave us with an idea of what it feels like to get an error message from a manned space mission while it attempts something never before tried. This balance is not always successful, and sometimes the film skirts detail in order to appeal more broadly, while it risks alienating its core audience of diehard space geeks (of which I am admittedly, a card-carrying member), and there were several moments when I really wanted to know exactly what it was that they needed to solve, and how they finally solved it. Telling the story in one feature length film is an ambitious move, as this could easily have been a mini-series (either fictional or documentary).
Hearing it from the key actors nonetheless succeeds in putting us in the front row seat at Mission Control, and makes for frequently exciting drama (particularly during the Aollo 11 and Apollo 13 missions). There are odd moments which stay with you: such us one mission controller realising the magnitude of what just happened half way through lunch in the cafeteria, while catching sight of a nearby TV.
MISSION CONTROL: THE UNSUNG HEROES OF APOLLO will have preview screenings and is available On Demand & DVD from 14th April.
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