Discovery Channel // 2008 // 265 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // August 20th, 2009
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." -- President John. F. Kennedy
This is the story of the men and women who built the machines that took us to the moon.
In October 1957, barely two months after the White House announcement of the intention to launch satellites into orbit by the spring of 1958, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik 1 into orbit, scoring the first point in the space race. In a bold move to reassert U.S. supremacy in man's reach for the stars, President John F. Kennedy made a speech at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962, announcing that the United States intended to reach the moon before the end of the 1960s and "to become the world's leading space-faring nation." The Apollo program was born with that announcement and it was to be as much about U.S. pre-eminence as it was about science and exploration.
All of America looked on and responded enthusiastically to Kennedy's speech, but the men and women who would be tasked with making the dream into reality also felt more than a small amount of concern. Man had never been out of Earth's orbit, much less considered traveling the more than 239,000 mile distance to the moon. Moon Machines takes an in-depth look at the technology and innovation that it took to bridge the nearly insurmountable chasm between Kennedy's vision and reality.
Helmed by director Christopher Riley, who also directed the 2007 documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, Moon Machines is divided into six individual episodes: The Saturn V Rocket, The Command Module, The Navigation Computer, The Lunar Module, The Space Suit and The Lunar Rover. More than 400,000 people in a wide range of disciplines contributed to the success of the U.S. space program and this is their story, told through the lens of personal experience.
This series is more about the content than the visual or audio presentation. While billed as a widescreen presentation, about 80 per cent of the presentation is confined to 4:3 archival footage, which is just fine given the historical nature of the subject matter. The soundtrack for the series was composed by Philip Sheppard who wrote and produced music for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2006 British documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. Sheppard's score suits the subject perfectly, delivering several majestic and inspiring themes that reoccur throughout all six episodes. Actor Bill Hope (Aliens) narrates the series effectively, delivering often technical content without losing the audience's interest and the score and narration are always well balanced, never distracting from the on-screen elements.
Moon Machines does a fantastic job of reminding us of an amazing series of technical achievements that happened to meet an almost impossible deadline. The world has become more than a little blasé about space exploration in the past and the mandatory retirement of the space shuttle program in 2010 will clearly mark the end of an exciting era. Until NASA's Project Constellation program potentially takes men back to the moon in 2020, Moon Machines serves as a proud 40th anniversary testament to the skill and determination of the men and women who brought the moon within reach.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Discovery Channel
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 265 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated