Category Archives: apollo

RIP Neil Armstrong

We have lost another great man. Last week, astronaut, explorer, hero, Neil Armstrong passed away at the age of 82. He was the first man to walk on the moon way back in 1969.

Wait a second. Didn’t he die last year? Groan. Is anyone else tired of these Twitter and Facebook delayed and fake deaths? How about those folks who read something on the internet and don’t check the date? Yeah, exactly. That said, Neil Armstrong was still a good man, a great man, and he should be remembered.

While I don’t precisely remember the event, Armstrong walking on the moon, as I was quite young, I was glued to the TV for all of the Apollo missions that followed. NASA, Apollo, space, the moon, astronauts – it was an American past time, it was hysteria, it was like Beatlemania, or Batmania, only real.

Some of my first and most beloved toys were space and astronaut themed. We were all drinking Tang and eating Space Food Sticks, and racing home from school to see the splashdowns. And to many of us, Neil Armstrong was the guy who started it. Godspeed. A year later, and forward.

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Apollo 18

Apollo 18 ~ Much like my earlier review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this movie pulls at my nostalgic heartstrings. NASA, the Apollo program, the moon landings, Skylab, Tang, all that stuff is a part of my childhood, and monumental to the 1970s. It’s worth noting that even Steve Austin was an astronaut, that’s how tied together this all is. And a movie about a mysterious Apollo 18 mission fits right in with my recent flights of nostalgia.

From the opening moments of Apollo 18 where it portends to be a found footage film, my heart sank. This type of filmmaking rarely works, and if it does, it usually falls apart at the end. Blair Witch and Chronicle are the rare exceptions to the rule. I hoped this would be as well. Just don’t think about how it is you’re watching this film. It’s apparently edited together after the fact, takes advantage of the poor video quality of the missions, and also spotlights bits of film the viewer is supposed to pay attention to. For me, that kind of ruins it. Don’t oversell, and don’t underestimate your audience.

We see lots of the cast, but sadly the film doesn’t give us enough of the astronauts for us to care about them. This probably remains the biggest fault of the film. That said, once into the premise and watching the movie, you can’t take your eyes off it. So settle in, dim the lights, and add some vodka to your Tang, you’re in for an intriguing and startling ride. Not what I expected at all. Relax and enjoy.

Mission to Mars

I am ancient.

Yep, I’m so old that I remember when men first walked on the moon. I remember how every channel, and don’t forget there were only four at the time, carried every NASA mission live – pre-emting everything else, no matter what it was. I remember when astronauts were heroes and just about to coolest thing you could want to be when asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. Hell, I remember drinking Tang, because it was what the astronauts drank.

I remember Apollo 13 (the reality, not the film) and asking my father what “docking” meant, only to be shushed because this was “very important.” I remember getting watch TV at school (something that never happened back then) so the class could see “history” – moon rockets blasting off. I remember rushing home from school to see the splashdowns. I remember summer evenings where everyone would be outside at dusk with telescopes and binoculars to get a glimpse of Skylab going over. And I remember that the first color photo in the local newspaper was the Viking shot of the surface of Mars, taking up the entire front page.

That was then, this is now.

Tonight, in a few minutes actually as I write this, the Phoenix lander will be touching down on the planet Mars. None of the major networks are carrying this event live. To add insult to injury, ABC is airing “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” What that says about us as a civilization, I’ll let you decide. CNN and Fox News are covering the story as part of their usual 24/7 news coverage. The super-accurate and objective MSNBC seems to think a re-run about San Quentin Prison is more important, perhaps Keith Olbermann might mention it later as an afterthought, or a joke.

Only the Science Channel is fully covering this event. And good thing though, this is history, whether the apathetic news media believes it or not.