I recently saw Jeffrey Roth’s excellent documentary about the Apollo space program, The Wonder of It All (2007), and although this is not a review per se, it did get me thinking. It’s a subject of considerable inspiration to me (ditto the Mercury program so entertainingly depicted in The Right Stuff , albeit to a lesser degree). In 1994, in my previous incarnation as a book publicist, I had the honor of working on A Man on the Moon, Andrew Chaikin’s account of the Apollo program that was the basis for the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (1998).
It amazes me that out of all of the billions of people who have ever lived since the dawn of man, only twelve have ever set foot on another world. (All of them Americans, I might add, for you fellow patriots out there.) Seven of them are interviewed in Roth’s film: Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Eugene Cernan, Charlie Duke, Edgar D. Mitchell, Harrison Schmitt, and John Young, all of whom are well-spoken and put an impressively human face on this literally otherworldy accomplishment.
It amazes me that in spite of the unimaginable distance and danger, which would probably kill me with stark terror (since, among other things, I have claustrophobia, acrophobia, and a fear of suffocation…just the guy you want to launch into an airless vacuum in a tiny capsule!), most of the crews from Apollo 11 on made it there and back again.
It inspires the hell out of me that John F. Kennedy (who I consider one of our greatest Presidents, and partly for this exact reason) challenged the nation in 1961 to send a man to the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade–at a time when, by the admission of the astronauts interviewed, nobody really had any idea how to do it–and BY GOD WE DID IT. And it’s extra-tragic that he didn’t live to see that day.
And, as one of said astronauts pointed out, the fact that they got Apollo 13 (whose story I found even more gripping in A Man on the Moon than in the eponymous 1995 film, which starred future FTETTM executive producer Tom Hanks) back safely, against–if you’ll pardon the pun–astronomical odds, is perhaps an even greater tribute to the program than Apollo 11 and the other moon landings themselves.
Food for thought.