It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
We think of the Apollo voyages to the moon more in terms of the achievement than the ordeal. On the night of July 20, 1969, we looked up at the sky and realized that men, who had been gazing at the moon since before they were men, had somehow managed to venture there and were walking on its surface.
Yes, but consider the journey. Three men were packed like sardines in a tiny space capsule ("Spam in a can," the Gemini astronauts called themselves) and sent on a 480,000-mile round trip in a vessel whose electrical wiring was so questionable, it had already burned three of them alive on a test pad. The capsule sat atop a rocket that had a way of blowing up. They had no way of knowing where, on the moon, they would land, if they got there. Compared to them, Evel Knievel was a Sunday driver.
Yes, but they took their chances, and they made it. Six of the seven Apollo missions landed on the moon, and the saga of Apollo 13 was a masterpiece of ingenuity in the face of catastrophe. Now here is a spellbinding documentary interviewing many of the surviving astronauts, older men now, about their memories of the adventure. One who is prominently missing is Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, who says he was first only by chance, and gets too much attention. Gene Siskel sat next to him on an airplane once, and thought to himself, "Here is a man who is very weary of being asked what it was like to walk on the moon." So they talked about other things.
Of the others, every one is still sharp and lively and youthful in mind, even often in body. I attended the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, Colo., several times with Rusty Schweickart, and noticed that he tended to be on panels that were about everything but space exploration. Yet here, in front of the cameras, they open up in a heartfelt way. The most stunning moment reveals how desperately they wanted to be part of the missions: Gus Grissom, one of the three astronauts killed in the launch-pad fire, doubted the safety of the wiring in the 100-percent oxygen atmosphere of the capsule but didn't dare complain because he might be booted out of the program for a negative attitude.