Making the Grades
Like virtually everyone over the age of forty, I remember living in front of the television during the sunset years of the 1960s, savoring the coverage of the NASA moon missions. Now my oldest son, who was born two decades too late to experience the thrill of humans visiting another realm, vicariously lives and breathes space exploration by frequent visits to NASA's website.
My reason for relating this personal experience is because I was certain, between my son and myself, there wasn't a minute of film from the Apollo missions that we hadn't seen. But this documentary proved me wrong. Presenting comments, incidents and actual mission footage I wasn't aware existed, In the Shadow of the Moon offers a wealth of reasons why hardened space nuts -- and even those just mildly curious -- should take the time to view this documentary.
The concept is deceptively simple. Gather as many of the select few men who voyaged to the moon and have them reminisce about their experience. The results are surprisingly revealing.
The bulk of the interviews feature seasoned veterans like Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, and Michael Collins speaking in a very approachable and relaxed manner. Alan Bean, who became the fourth man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission, relates his experiences like a grandfather telling stories around a campfire. These men, who are the rarest of explorers, sound as though they are talking about a past life, which in essence they are. (The fact that it has been well over thirty years since anyone has set foot on another world is perhaps the greatest irony of our high-tech, know-it-all 21st century lives.)
Sometimes the dialogue becomes a little technical for casual viewers, but overall the messages evoke a sense of camaraderie and work-the-problem attitudes, which seem all but absent from our current politically-correct, risk-avoiding society. The production also holds a powerful message about the fragility of our planet as these men describe the emotional impact of viewing a relatively tiny Earth hanging in the immensity of space.
With the backing of space-enthusiast Ron Howard (who directed the movie Apollo 13), this film is a fascinating look back at one the most significant exploration events in this world's history. It is also the closest most of us will ever get to having these amazing guys drop by for dinner and a chat.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about In the Shadow of the Moon.
Roughly two years after an entire Apollo crew died in a fire on the launch pad, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. How have our attitudes toward exploration and risk changed since the era of the Apollo moon missions? Do you think it is a good thing that we are more conservative with our acceptance of risk? Is it possible to be too careful?
Today, we are still enjoying some of the benefits of the Apollo program, which range from enriched baby food to solar energy and modern computers. A page that details many of these positive spin-offs can be found here: www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html