Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Honor of the Space Race

One of our members requested information about good family friendly films that could bring the Space Race alive. We whole heartily recommend the following award-winning, entertaining, and wonderfully accurate films...

Apollo 13 tells the story of Commander James A. Lovell, Command Module pilot John L. "Jack" Swigert, and Lunar Module pilot Fred W. Haise, who launched from earth on April 11, 1970 in the ill-fated Apollo 13. Two days after the launch, an explosion caused by an electrical fault in an oxygen tank crippled the Apollo spacecraft. Despite great hardship caused by severe constraints on power, the crew successfully returned to Earth. The mission was thus called a "Successful Failure." This wonderful film certainly brings that moment to life.

The Right Stuff tells the story of NASA’s Mercury Program, and the seven men chosen to lead the missions, Malcolm Scott Carpenter, “Gordo” Cooper, Jr., John Glenn, “Gus” Grissom, “Wally” Schirra, Alan Shepard, and “Deke” Slayton. Full of brilliant performances, this film will keep you riveted while it educates.


Wonderfully kid friendly, October Sky tells the story of Homer Hickam, son of a West Virginia coal miner who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry, eventually becoming a NASA engineer. While attending Big Creek High School in 1960, he led a group of boys who built rockets. They called themselves the Big Creek Missile Agency and went on to win the National Science Fair and full college scholarships. Perhaps the best historical element of this film is its combination of Space Race dreams with West Virginia coal town reality. This film introduces kids to the concept of company towns in which everyone lived in a company house, sent their kids to a company school, and shopped in a company store. It also gently introduces them to the union movements who objected to so much company contol, and the powerful draw space flight had on everyday Americans at the time.

From Earth to the Moon is a Golden Globe winning twelve episode miniseries that relates the entire space race, from the Mercury and Gemini projects to the legendary Apollo missions. It may not be star studded, but it tells the full story and entertains at the same time.

In the Shadow of the Moon is a wonderful award-winning documentary that brought together the surviving members of NASA's Apollo missions and allowed them to tell their story in their own words. Mixed with archival footage, we get to meet the men who lived the experience and actually walked on the moon.

All of these films are family friendly, and Historybusters Members may download a Historybusters curriculum full of background and fun facts from their members' drop box to make the Space Race Story even more accessible.

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