As far as I’m aware there has not been a film produced and dedicated to the genuine unsung heroes of Mission Control who shined so spectacularly during the transcendent era of NASA first landing men on the moon. And my question is…….Why the hell not?!
Well, the good news is that thanks to British Director and expert Editor David Fairhead now there finally is at last a fitting tribute to the extraordinary pioneers who were so crucially instrumental in rocketing The United States to victory in “The Space Race” of the 1960’s and ’70’s. For we now have the stunning new documentary “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo”. And, man, I’m here to tell ya it is worth the wait!
Fairhead has done a resolutely masterful job of chronicling the birth and next-to-impossible meteoric emergence of NASA in the wake of the Russians successfully blasting Sputnik 1 into Earth orbit in 1957. Through a riveting series of actual footage and news reports of the period seamlessly interwoven with jaw-dropping outer spacecraft flight recreation and interviews with representatives of the engineering team who integrated peerlessly to transform dreams into unparalleled achievement, Fairhead fashions a narrative that is as rousing and thrilling as it is richly informative and educational.
For my money, the highlight of “Mission Control” are the interviews Fairhead conducted and intersperses throughout his remarkable production with the men who made it all happen both in our world as well as in the vast heavens above. The ambitious filmmaker secured riveting and revealing chats with the iconic likes of US Space Program leaders Chris Craft and Gene Kranz together with legendary astronauts Jim Lovell and the late Gene Cernan. And while the remarks and observations of these larger-than-life figures resonate profoundly, it is the words of the lesser known members of this steadfastly committed crew that really struck most poignantly. You see my own dad, Olav Smistad, worked with these gentlemen and knows most of them personally. And while his involvement with the Mission Control unit was cursory during the Gemini Program, his experience as a gifted and talented aerospace engineer and true pro with NASA mirrors exactly the unfaltering can-do sensibility of the exceptional guys featured in the film.
Certainly I am bias. Yes, I am resoundingly pro-American Space Program. Sure I believe in the immensely talented and enthusiastic men and now the women (of whom there were none to speak of on the front lines of NASA in it’s infancy) of the agency who are accomplishing so much, but who could realize so much more with the backing of their government, which was powerfully and consistently supportive in the formative and solidifying years of the national space exploration initiative. Now if we want to travel into space we have to hitch a ride with Russia.
It should never be this way.
May “Mission Control: The Heroes of Apollo” uniformly inspire those with whom we have invested our votes, and our collective faith, into to lead this great country in facing head-on such harsh truth with thoughtful and productive comportment. In other words, do something. And act in a manner that befits, and serves to honor, those humble heroes who were cheered on by citizens both at home and abroad every single step of the way toward and including those awe-inspiring, deeply moving moments when man wondrously walked on the moon. For there are still so many gloriously giant leaps for mankind to negotiate.
Now and forever.