Star Voyagers

RemingtonWhen Apollo 13—based on the book Lost Moon—premiered in 1994, it reminded America of NASA’s glory days.  Apollo 13, the third mission planned to land astronauts on the Moon and return them safely to Earth, did not accomplish its goal as a result of a malfunction on the spacecraft.

A daring rescue ensued with NASA astronauts and engineers conveying instructions to the three-man crew for surviving the disaster.  Starring Tom Hanks, a noted space buff, Apollo 13 served as a launching pad for the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, which documented the NASA program, including the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts during a test, the creation of the lunar module, and a view of the Apollo 13 disaster from a television news perspective.

The Greek chorus in From the Earth to the Moon is Emmett Seaborne, anchor of National Television Company, a fictional television network.

From the Earth to the Moon depicted dramatic points in the personal lives of the astronauts, for example, the tension orbiting NASA’s selection of Neil Armstrong to be the first man to step on the lunar surface.  Additionally, it showed that astronauts underwent comprehensive training in geology to familiarize themselves with moon rocks that could unlock secrets of the universe.  Andrew Chaikin’s book Man on the Moon was the basis for the miniseries.

Entertainment Weekly television critic Ken Tucker wrote, “Turning producer, Hanks is now attempting some expensive, expansive revisionism.  With HBO’s $68 million, 12-hour From the Earth to the Moon, he intends to transform the space program of the 1960s and ’70s into nothing less than a heroic, inspiring saga: uplift through splashdowns.  The miniseries gets off to a brisk start, its first hour directed by Hanks himself, by building its drama from the social upheaval and Cold War unrest of more than 30 years ago.  We’re told that the American space program came about primarily in reaction to a 1961 Russian launch of a man high into the sky: Bang—the ‘space race’ began, with JFK quiveringly anxious to get us competitive with the Red Menace.”

In his review of Chaikin’s book, Alex Roland of The New York Times wrote, “But he also tells of the space science, nominally the goal of the later Apollo missions, including the three that were canceled.  Mr. Chaikin succeeds in making this interesting and understandable—explaining, for example, why the orange soil found on the Apollo 17 mission turned out not to be the hoped-for evidence of oxygen on the moon but revealed equally important information: the presence of volcanic gases on the moon 3.5 billion years ago.  On the basis of these missions, old theories of the origins and evolution of the moon were revised and new ones were introduced.”

Hanks inserted an homage to NASA in the 1996 movie That Thing You Do!, which he starred in, wrote, and directed.  When the Oneders, later to be named the Wonders, perform in Pittsburgh, a marquee boasts Marilyn Lovell & the Geminis.  Marilyn Lovell is the wife of Jim Lovell, a NASA astronaut who flew in two Gemini missions and two Apollo missions, including Apollo 13.

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