Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo tells the story of the people who inspired the whole world with the accomplishments of their space program. The first men were young, the average age about 30, most didn’t even know what computers were but they were tasked with sending a man to the moon. They basically had to invent NASA and space travel from the ground up, on the thrillingly generous salary of $6770 a year.
This was such an important time in human history that you can’t help but be drawn in to this drama. In fact, it’s a real credit to the director, David Fairhead, that this documentary feels thrilling even though we all know extremely well how the story turns out. But it’s also contemplative and insightful, the men recounting the hard times that led to the successes, the loss of life that inspired them to do better, to do great things. And they certainly did.
This documentary focuses on the people manning the stations in mission control – the men in contact with astronauts during their space flight. Any problems encountered by the space craft is on their shoulders, with practically no time at all to fix unfathomable challenges and absolutely no room for error. Failing is not an option.
Mission Control is interesting not just for interviewing the people behind the history, but for painting them as real people, country boys and working class kids from smokestack towns. The position of astronaut or NASA engineer or rocket scientist were complete unknowns when they were growing up. And yet they became this remarkable team who defeated the odds and accomplished such great heights.
Fairhead’s documentary has got some really cool archival footage of those first journeys toward the moon – Apollo 8, 11, and even 13, which is as tense as you’d think. These guys remember this time like it was yesterday, right down to details you’ve never considered, like what the room smelled like when people were working for 5 days, nonstop, under stressful conditions, smoking like chimneys, no time to reapply deodorant. But these interesting details are also enhanced by beautiful VFX work and a really nice orchestral score. It’s exactly the kind of tribute that these men deserve.