Back to space we go, well vicariously through the memoirs of the astronauts that is. Have you ever heard of Skylab? I hadn’t until watching When We Left Earth, btw sidetrack to an excellent documentary. WWLE is a Discovery Channel production, six episodes that take you from Mercury through the shuttle and the ISS. Narrated by Gary Sinise, with interviews with astronauts, flight controllers, former President George H. W. Bush, and Jay Barbee space news correspondent from the very beginning. Filled with clips from so many missions it is an incredible introduction to the space program. The DVD set has a bonus features with some of the films produced by NASA. One episode talks about Skylab, America’s first space station. The third crew of Skylab included Bill Pogue who has written about his experience in his book By the Grace of God. I loved this book, so well written. Apparently his wife edited it for him as he worked on the manuscript getting on to him when he drifted into being too technical, it was a great follow up to reading John Young’s book that was so technical.
On to the Shuttle era. Jerry Ross is known as Spacewalker, which he uses as the title of his book. Jerry flew a record seven missions on the Shuttle he is tied with astronaut Franklin Diaz-Change for most flights, and they are tied for most launches with John Young if you count Young’s launch from the moon on Apollo 16. Ross has also completed nine spacewalks. Ross joins NASA first as a worker and then an astronaut while the shuttle was in development. He takes us through the entire era, as he flew missions, lead recovery efforts for Columbia, and was the person in charge of the astronaut’s crew quarters on the final shuttle flight. It was a quick but wonderful and emotional read.
Last book for today is Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield, Canadian Space Agency astronaut who has flown on the shuttle, and Soyuz spacecraft as well as living on the ISS as part of the crew and as commander of the world’s spacecraft.
All three of these books are on my wishlist, you should definitely read them!!!
Ok on to movies, at least the ones I’ve seen so far: Apollo 13 which has been at the top of my favorite movie list for years and years. I remember seeing it the first time and being simply amazed that this had happened for real. I was born after the Moon landings were done, I was born after Skylab was over. However it wasn’t until I borrowed the DVD from the library for the first time that I discovered the true treasures of the movie, the extras. There is a documentary The Lost Moon, same title as the book by astronaut Jim Lovell upon which the movie itself is based. You get to hear great behind the movie making scenes stories from the actors, and then stories from the astronauts and flight controllers themselves. I’ve read complaints online about the discrepancies and the dramatic license taken however just watch the movie with Ron Howard’s commentary and he explains almost every instance of either and they make sense since this is movie. Even better watch the movie with the commentary track of Jim and Marilyn Lovell. I’ve been known to watch the movie three times in a row, once just the movie and once with each commentary track. I have to say it’s so nice to hear Jim and Marilyn and know how much they love each other especially when you know how few early astronaut couples stayed married.
Now in case no one knows Tom Hanks is a huge space buff, hence Apollo 13, he has also played a large role in the making of two other space projects. I’ve only seen one so far though the other is in my library queue so I’ll write about it later. The one I’ve seen is HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon. Now going in I had high expectation as I love Band of Brothers, also an HBO mini-series produced by Tom Hanks. I was NOT disappointed, on the contrary this show far surpassed my expectations. It is simply amazing! Not only is the story told so well, with my personal exception being the episode about Apollo 13, however it’s hard to live up to the movie, this series is filled with actors and actresses it’s almost a who’s who of Hollywood at the time, maybe more TV who’s who but still… I cried during the Apollo 1 episode, loved the Original Wives Club episode so much I just couldn’t go back to ABC’s Astronaut’s Wives Club the soap opera. I finished all twelve episodes and immediately started watching again. I had to return it to the library after a week as others had it on hold but I put it right back on hold myself. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this series.
Now what have I missed? I’ll have another post to share sometime down the road when I’ve read more and seen more. If you have recommendations share them please!!! 🙂