“Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo”

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo”, directed by David Fairhead, focuses on the work of the professionals at the NASA Mission Control facilities, especially in Houston, putting men on the moon.

The film opens with a shot of the work area, and oddly someone is smoking, but this is back in 1970 perhaps.  Then it recreates the dilemma of the blown oxygen tanks that created the story for the 1995 Universal hit “Apollo 13” (directed by Ron Howard), which I saw twice, the second time on a cross-country flight back from California.

The documentary presents the challenge of Sputnik in 1957, which I remember well.   These were the days when the mantra was “get all the math and science you can”, and JFK’s “Ask Not”.

I can imagine what working there on a mission would have been like.  Men wore jackets and ties then.  In my youth, I thought computer technology would take us to space by the time I was in middle age;  instead, it miniaturized and gave me the ability self-publish.

The film moves to the tragedy in 1967 with Apollo 1 when three astronauts were burned to death in a ground accident.  The workers were changed to face their personal accountability for mistakes that led to the fire.  Some of the veterans say that the lessons learned from this accident made the rest of the space program possible; a lot more mentoring happened in the workplace.

The film presents the December 1968 (Christmas Eve) manned Apollo 8 orbital flight around the moon, with real BW footage.

Soon it covers Apollo 11, which on July 20, 1969 landed man on another planet for the first time ever.  This happened three weeks after Stonewall.  I was at Fort Eustis but probably in the best physical shape of my life.  The world was pivoting, for the better for me.

The last part of the film reviews Apollo 13 — not only the problem in space, but the working conditions, the cigarettes, the BO, the 48-hours straight on the job.

What kind of mission control will it take to send a crew to Mars – six months each way, to live there.

What kind of person would want to go for several years, or maybe move there? Or perhaps live on a space station near Europa or Titan?

I visited the Houston center myself in 1984, Wiki link.

Name:  “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo”
Director, writer:  David Fairhead
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length:  99
Rating:  G
Companies:  Gravitas
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 at 1 AM EDT)

“Sky Line”: documentary about a proposed space elevator, inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Fountains of Paradise”

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Name: Sky Line
Director, writer:  Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, Johnny Leahan
Released:  2015
Format:  HD
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant video
Length 74
Rating G
Companies: FilmBuff
Link: Facebook


Sky Line” (directed by Miguel Drake-McLaughlin and Jonny Leahan) documents efforts by entreprenuers to develop prototypes for a space elevator, a concept proposed by a 1979 novel by Arthur C. Clarke, “The Fountains of Paradise”, set in the 2200’s.

The basic concept would be to make a tether from carbon nanotube material, the strongest known construction kit, it seems.  Ironically, that’s the same matrix that Jack Andraka uses for his innovative pancreatic cancer test strip (the 2015 book “Breakthrough”).

The space elevator would rise about 40000 km (23000 miles) to a satellite or space statopm in geo-synchronized orbit.  A number of them might be built around the world.  One of the biggest application might be to construct very large solar collectors in space to provide Earth with carbon neutral, infinite energy almost forever.

The film describes the first failed attempt of a Seattle engineer, Bradley Edwards.  But other engineers, like Tom Nugent, followed, some of them sponsoring smaller scale science fair experiments for new designs of prototypes.  Many of the experiments were conducted in the Mojave Desert.

To me, the space elevator is rather like a space railroad, and maybe as novel as an underground monorail to speed people from New York to LA.

How would it fare with major storms (tornadoes or big hurricanes) crossing its path on Earth?  How would it be secured from terrorists?

(Published: Friday, August 5, 2016 at 3:45 PM EDT)