It’s the movie everyone’s talking about. So yesterday I went. The documentary focuses on the astronauts who participated in the Apollo program, each in their own words describing what they felt, thought, and did from selection and training to their walks on the moon. Digitally remastered, never before seen footage immeasurably enhances the experience and brings the viewer through a range of emotions.
Initially I felt awe that our country would dare to attempt this major feat, and in such a short time frame, too, 8 years from the date when President Kennedy challenged the United States to put a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth. The scene of the engineers feverishly figuring out how to do this thing with slide rules, graphite pencils, and mock capsules made of popcicle sticks brought home just how much brainpower was behind it as the astronauts’ bravery.
Then I felt pride, watching these men who sat atop thousands of gallons of liquid fuel inside a tiny capsule, knowing something could go wrong at any moment and their lives would be lost. And indeed, in 1967 Apollo 1’s crew of Grissom, Chaffee, and White were lost in a flash fire. Yet the commitment to pursue the dream of visiting another heavenly body remained intact and the program continued.
Then I felt such excitement as the movie brought the viewer toward the moon and the men who piloted a capsule to its shadow, leaving the “surly bonds of earth” and for some of the men who came to Jesus afterwards, “to touch the face of God.” Here, the images are tremendous, and Lovell’s reading of Genesis 1:1 on their Christmas Day orbit was moving in the extreme.
The astronauts’ return illustrated clearly how the world looked up to America, with peoples from all nations at the four corners of the earth crying and waving and exulting together at the moment of landing. Buzz Aldrin was especially humbled to hear over and over again as he toured the world: “We did it” and “We landed on the moon.” One French woman said “I trust America and I knew we could do it.” This segment brought pride and also sadness, because yes, it is true, at one time our country had the capacity to unite all of humanity, not in technology, not in science, but in our hearts. And 38 years later we see how far we have fallen.
The movie is about about boldness, daring, challenge, a power to bring humanity to one united moment at the dizzying pinnacle in July 1969. These men are the best America had to offer, and they are great indeed. Falling from the height of affable, humble, dedicated men of service, to the current low of self-aggrandizing politics and 24/7 porn. What goes up must come down, and for me ultimately it’s about the fall of America. God had blessed us with wealth, intelligence, daring, and compassion, but we have squandered them all. Though the movie is absolutely uplifting on many, many fronts, but it did make me think, you know… we coulda been somebody.