Jacque Marshall

The Moon Program: A Baseline Achieved

If you're in a mood for an interesting excercise in shifting perspectives, try this one out. Matt Ryan and I tried it pretty much unintentionally a few days ago:

Monday afternoon, went out to the video store and rented, among other things, Destination Moon. Reasonably good study for its time, although it fails dramatically because it's SO bloody plodding. It's obvious that it's primarily a farely blatant propaganda pitch, designed to convey the imperative to space exploration and impart some of the urgency and sense of wonder associated with the idea.

But it does carefully and systematically (in true Heinlein fashion) go through and educates about the physics and technologies, and some of the assumptions that would be involved in a moon shot. And on the whole does pretty well -- at least on a macro scale. (They slip up on details like having a drawer in the cockpit of the spacecraft, which does not disgorge its contents when opened in zero-G.)

Then we turned around, and the following evening went to see Apollo 13.

Heh. Well I obviously don't need to rhapsodize about that here. But having the two movies to compare made for a very interesting set of historical comparisons and perspective checks.

Things I noticed particularly:

DM was geared towards -- and needed to -- educate the audience in the basics of space-flight physics. Hell, even the scientists had only a theoretical understanding of what zero-G would "look" like.

A13, however, was made in an era when a large chunk of the audience grew up knowing what zero-G looks like! (That still vaguely blows me away...) Additionally, A13 was able to use actual zero-g in making it (although I expect they salted it liberally with carefully designed special effects -- I don't even want to think what their bill for jet-fuel must have been...). It occurs to me that, strictly speaking, the necessary technology did exist in DM's day. However, they were someone hamstrung from an infrastructure standpoint; A13 was able to make use of existing provisions and talent needed to achieve the effects they were after. DM would have had to rent the plane, talk the owner into letting their vehicle be heavily modified, catch him when he ran screaming upon being told what they intended to do....

I found the sociological diffences especially interesting. If I'm not mistaken DM was made before NASA existed -- hell I think it was made even before Sputnik. (Unfortunately, I didn't catch the release date when we picked it up at the video store.) So, it was very interesting to see the pitch it made encouraging industry to take the lead in developing space technology, on the grounds that the government didn't have the resources. So, you've got a bunch of cowboys out on the desert hammering away on this space ship -- and then making a mad dash for it when the revenooers come over the hill with restraining orders.

A13 had copious (and crucial, it turns out) ground support -- could basically draw on an effectively unlimited supply of brain-power to solve the problems they were faced with. In DM the guys were pretty much on their own.

The similarities (i.e., the things DM got right) were interesting, too.

Both were pre-pocket-calculator. I particularly shivered when Ground Control is scrambling to b