May 1, 2017
From the works of Robert Heinlein to Carl Sagan, telling stories about science and our quest to explore space has helped to define our own journey to the stars. Almost as vital as the missions themselves, communicating and helping to inspire people across the planet about pushing the boundaries of exploration matters. It helps to retain that interest and imagination, as well as inspiring the next generation. All essential things if we are to push forward in a new commercial Space Race.
This is also an interest which is close to the hearts of Space Angels members. Among them Richard Garriott de Cayeux, a man who was one of the first private citizens to travel to space, saw his own journey to the stars portrayed on screen in the film Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to the Stars. “I hope my story is far more than just about my own flight, but rather you come along on the journey and become inspired to take an active role in the future.” Says Garriott about the documentary of his personal quest for space.
The most recent film to come from a Space Angels member is Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo. Produced by Keith Haviland, who was also one of the producers of Last Man on the Moon, this is a familiar story, but told through some often overlooked voices – the team at mission control, that worked to make Apollo possible. “The film gives a new and fresh perspective on the first great era of spaceflight. As well as acting as tribute to the early leadership of the program and the group of young people that formed around the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) in Houston. They came from ordinary backgrounds, for the most part, but became an extraordinary team”, explains Haviland.
Directed by British film editor and director David Fairhead, who believes the story is every bit as exciting when seen from those who remained on the ground.
“We know this story almost exclusively from the side of the astronauts. But by telling these familiar tales through a different set of eyes. The eyes of the controllers back on Earth, it’s great to get a new angle.” - David Fairhead
Premiering to a full house at both Space Center Houston and The Explorers Club in New York, the film is testament to the power that stories about the first Space Race still yield. “It is about a period of spaceflight that has always fascinated me since I was a child”, adds Haviland. “But it is also about good leadership, delivering a big vision and the power of people working together. It resonates with much of my past career, and it will resonate with anyone who has made a contribution to a team, a project and similar undertakings.”
It is that inspiration from the Apollo era that more than likely inspired so many of the people working in space today. “I, like many of my tech boom contemporaries, was inspired by the Apollo program of the 1960’s and 70’s”, Explains Garriott. “Later myself and many others including Elon Musk & Jeff Bezos then turned their success back into completing the vision that inspired them originally, furthering humanities reach into the cosmos.”
Yet continuing to tell stories is still important. Apollo didn’t just inspire the generation that built the modern world, it continues to galvanize a new generation who are once again looking at pushing the boundaries of exploration. “My hope for the movie is that it will be watched by college kids and it inspires them to get America back to the Moon”, says Jerry Bostick, one of the stars of the movie who worked as FIDO/Retro in Mission Control and was one of just a handful of people to work through through the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. “I think ours is a story which the younger generation missed. By telling it, it will hopefully inspire people to keep the exploration dream alive.”
Among the stars of the movie are modern flight controllers such as Ginger Kerrick and Courtenay McMillan, through to giants of the Apollo era such as Gene Kranz, Glynn Lunney, Gerry Griffin, and Chris Kraft - the man who laid down the foundations for mission control. Even at the age of 93 Kraft is still a passionate advocate for space exploration, telling crowds in Houston “we need to be returning to the Moon and exploiting it for resources.” One of the greatest frustrations of those who worked on Apollo is that nearly 45 years since the last Moon landing in December 1972 we still have not returned.
For many involved in that era, one of the most poignant ways we can honor their achievements is by continuing to push the boundaries of exploration. However, telling stories about what happened does play an important role in continuing to retain support and interest in reaching for the stars. “The generation of people in Mission Control during the era of Apollo is fading away, and I believe it was important to capture that generation’s reflections fifty years after what has been called by some as the greatest technological achievement of the 20th century.” Believes former Flight Director Gerry Griffin. “I hope the movie will inspire future generations all over the world that they too can do ‘the impossible’ no matter what background they come from early in life.”
Of course, just like the quote from the film 1983 film The Right Stuff, ‘no buck no Buck Rogers’, investment is key to keeping these stories from the history books. “Documentaries have become very popular in recent years”, says Fairhead. “We rely very heavily on funding. The more people who want to join in the better, and the more stories we can tell.” For Haviland, it is simple: “We live in one of the great eras of discovery. Movies are always high-risk investments, but the majority of stories of spaceflight from the Apollo era to the modern day remain to be told.”
Currently Haviland is planning future documentaries about space exploration and the lessons which can be learned, including a look at women in space and the unmanned missions which have conquered our solar system. “Space films encourage interest in STEM careers and space businesses. They help raise our sights to the possibilities of space exploration.”
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo is available now on-demand and will be released on DVD and blue-ray this summer. www.missioncontrol.movie It joins a growing but important list of films from that era, preventing it from being simply consigned to the history books.
There’s never been a better time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.