Space . . . the final frontier. Truly, the most impressive feat of our time has been the ability of man to escape the gravitational grip of the earth and venture out into the icy blackness of outer space. Considering all the challenges involved with sending a man to space, let alone getting him back safely, the space program was a great engineering success. And yet, nothing can ever work perfectly. We’ve seen many tragedies including Apollo 8, the Challenger explosion, and (most recently) Space Shuttle Columbia. The fact that men and women risk their lives for the sake of advancing into the darkness beyond our planet should make us all thank their valiant efforts. Of course, the exploits of these astronauts can turn into great cinema. This week’s two films examine the gripping drama of going into outer space.
Length: 140 minutes / 2.33 hours
The trick about Apollo 13 is that since it is a historical event in America’s voyages to the moon, everyone already knows how it will end. And yet, director Ron Howard manages to take all the suspense that goes with the tragic failure and package it so that you still wonder if they’ll make it back to earth safely. I occasionally will re-watch this film, and I still get nervous near the end when the space capsule goes into radio silence as they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. And yet, even though the flight to the moon didn’t go as planned, the fact that scientists on the ground could work together to get the crew back safely is a testament to the brilliant minds that put men on the moon.
In the build-up to Apollo 13, everyone involved is asked if they are worried that the number of the mission would give them bad luck. Of course, even with minor hiccups on the ground, no one lets superstition get the best of them. Once in space, everything seemed to be going as planned. That is, until something goes wrong. With some quick thinking, the situation gets under control, but now it’s clear: Apollo 13 will not be landing on the moon. Their primary mission is to get the three astronauts trapped in outer space back to the earth safely. With a plethora of off-nominal circumstances building the odds against them, everyone holds their breath as they patiently await the space capsule’s splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
The Right Stuff
Length: 193 minutes / 3.22 hours
Many children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, will tell you “astronaut”. Obviously, there’s many reasons that would drive a child to dream about flying out in space, hurtling across the sky. It’s no wonder that there was that same drive in the 1960’s to be the very first astronaut. Going higher than anyone has ever gone before holds a very high amount of honor among those involved with the eventual goal of reaching the moon. Of course, in order to go high, you need to go fast. The Right Stuff isn’t just about the first astronauts, it’s about the journey that it took to send the first Americans into space.
And yet, America wasn’t the first country to put a man in space and safely return him to the earth. Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut holds the honor of the first man in space, but that wasn’t going to deter America from trying. However, in order to get into space, one first needs to go fast. The Right Stuff starts with the story of Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) and his quest to be the fastest man alive. After breaking the sound barrier, the sky suddenly becomes the literal limit. As Yeager obsesses about how fast and how high he can fly, NASA was taking a different approach and had selected seven men that they would train up to be the first astronauts. The question now is, “who will be the first American in orbit?”
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 flights into space