[Review] Space Shuttle: Final Countdown

Watching a show on eqhd about the Space Shuttle..  Shows the life of the Space Shuttle program from the design years of the late 60s and 70s to the retirement in 2011.

It’s made for a general viewing audience, so don’t expect any real insight or analysis.  It offers a simplistic overview of the shuttle program, but at least it’s pretty.  I liked that they included lots of interviews with actual astronauts and NASA staff.  I would rather have had them narrate the whole thing.

It’s worth a look, but I have a laundry list of quibbles:

  1. The clips of the Challenger break-up had explosion sound effects dubbed in.  I found that to be disrespectful, cheap, and totally unnecessary.  It’s as though the break up of the launch vehicle and death of seven astronauts wouldn’t be enough to hold someone’s attention.  This isn’t a World’s Greatest Disasters show, folks.
  2. The narration was tedious.  The voice was an edgy bass that had the cadence and inflection of a movie trailer narrator.  “In a world…”, that sort of thing.
  3. The suggestion that the possible loss of Columbia and astronauts Young and Crippen during STS-1 would be the greatest space tragedy in history…  so the loss of the three cosmonauts on the first Salyut mission was/would’ve been less tragic?

Hail Columbia!

Image of Shuttle Columbia launchI must confess that I’m a space nerd.  It’s an affliction I’ve had since I was four or five years old.  Rockets, satellites, astronauts, cosmonauts, freeze-dried ice cream, the works.

When I was a kid, my Dad traveled to the USA quite frequently on business.  It just so happened that some of his trips were to Texas.  To a nerdy space kid like me, the word “Texas” equated to “Houston, Texas” which equated to “Johnson Space Center“, NASA‘s Mission Control.  I don’t recall if my Dad came up with the idea or if I nagged him mercilessly, but either way my Dad, my Mom, and I made two trips to JSC.

It was heavenly.  We toured the buildings, ate authentic NASA cafeteria food, spotted astronauts, took stereotypical tourist shots (Dad peering into the nozzle of a giant Saturn engine), and felt like a part of the whole operation.  We even picked up some NASA patches from a gift shop and my Mom sewed them onto a pale blue jacket of mine.  It looked like (to my mind) a real astronaut jacket for going around the town and impressing people.  I wore it everywhere.

As I got older, I gradually discovered the realities of the Shuttle program and the ugly nature of political compromise.  It was like going to Disney Land as a kid, then realizing as a teenager that the guy in the Mickey costume lived in a bachelor apartment on a steady diet of mac and cheese.  The romantic view was gone.

So, on to the point of this post.  I am the King of reminiscence.  I love to watch old documentaries and movies that remind me of how I used to feel.

Well, today I happened to be flipping through the TV channels and saw “Hail Columbia!”, a documentary about the launch of the first Space Shuttle, Columbia, in 1981.  The film was released in 1982, so it is full of the feelings of hope and possibility that pervaded at the time.  Watching it gives you the feeling that something great is happening and that we’ll all be living on space station in a decade.

I highly recommend that everyone watch it, nasaphiles and normal humans alike.  It’s in IMAX, but it also shows up on HD channels from time to time, and is available on DVD from Amazon.

Czech it out.