August 21, 2017

In The Shadow of The Moon: A Review.

Next year will mark 40 years since man first stepped on the Moon. The documentary, In the Shadow of the Moon, directed by David Sington, depicts the voyage of the man to the Moon using exclusively the voices of the astronauts themselves.

This was a unique opportunity that a decade or two hence may not exist; much has been written and produced about Apollo, but rarely do we hear the thoughts and feelings of the astronauts themselves. Only 24 men went to the Moon on 8 missions, from 1968 to 1975; more than a whole generation has passed that has known no more than manned space travel to low Earth orbit. As we begin to journey out once again to the Moon, and then onward to Mars, these tales will ring true to an entirely new generation.

The immediacy and wonderment of Apollo is evident in the interviews. When envisioned, we had scarcely ventured beyond Earth orbit. President Kennedy’s challenge was elegant in its simplicity; to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In the bleak events of the 1960′s, Apollo gave hope to mankind.

Some of the footage used was obviously culled from deep in the archives; some of it has never been seen by the public. In the Shadow of the Moon made a minor run through theaters last summer; it then aired recently on the Discovery channel. We here at Astroguyz caught it, like most things, on Netflix. We liked this one enough to view the extras and outtakes, something we are rarely moved to do! One of our favorites is the explanation of why the emotions of the astronauts tend to run towards the stoic; as most were trained as military test pilots, they weren’t given to long winded prose. However, all were deeply affected by their journey to the Moon; in a sense, it could be said that space has given us all a much better appreciation of the fragility of Earth.

The documentary is very spare in its look, letting instead the astronauts stories speak for themselves. The title itself refers to the sense of awe felt as the astronauts are in radio silence, cut off on the far side of the moon (yes, I know there is a difference between the “far” side and “dark” side of the Moon!) Remember, Apollo is in sunlight almost the entire trip to the Moon; when it finally slips into the Moon’s shadow, the effect is indeed sobering.

The anecdotes range from the somber, including reflections on the Apollo simulation disaster, to the humorous. Watch for comments on the whole “Moon landing hoax” conspiracy theory during the ending credits! The documentary would fit well with other Ron Howard/Tom Hanks space productions, such as Apollo 13, From Earth to the Moon, and the IMAX film Magnificent Desolation, which we had the chance to catch at the Kennedy Space Center recently. Watch In the Shadow of the Moon, if only to whet your appetite for future lunar adventures to come!

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