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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fight for Space is a documentary about the U.S. space program and how it has waned since the last Apollo moon mission in 1972. It offers amazing footage of space exploration, as well as interviews with well-regarded scientists and NASA veterans (the latter aren't a particularly diverse group, but the other interviewees help balance that out). The film's basic argument is that going to the moon was more of a military mission -- to showcase U.S. capabilities during the Cold War -- than a scientific one. And once that goal had been achieved, many saw little need to continue the very expensive program. But today there's a renewed call to resume manned space exploration, and this film helps make the case in a way that even younger viewers will understand and enjoy. With messages about perseverance and ingenuity, this is a good pick for everyone with a sense of adventure.
What's the story?
In 1972, Apollo 17 took three astronauts to the moon and back, the last of the manned moon missions. In the decades since then, nobody has even left Earth orbit. FIGHT FOR SPACE explains why the space program was so successful in the 1960s and why it was cut back so severely in the 1970s. According to NASA veterans, former astronauts, and well-known scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and Bill Nye -- who all appear in the film -- the decision to curtail space exploration has been a scientific tragedy. Director Paul Hildebrandt uses compelling interviews and stunning historical footage to make the argument that humans must return to space, and soon.
Is it any good?
This well-made, thought-provoking documentary shines a different light on the space program, succinctly explaining why it wound down in the 1970s. According to Fight for Space, the moon missions were at heart a military endeavor. Conceived at the height of the Cold War, they were designed to showcase U.S. technological superiority -- which they did, beyond any doubt. Mission accomplished.
Yes, the space program also led to some amazing scientific breakthroughs and had a profound impact on the economy and pop culture, but all that was secondary, according to this film. And that's why, the film says, the program came to an end once it had served its purpose. Fight for Space argues that this retreat from space was a mistake and presses for a renewed effort to explore the solar system. Yes, it's expensive, and there may not be a whole lot of immediate economic benefits, but the lessons of the 1960s -- and from Bill Nye the Science Guy -- make it clear that much good will follow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Fight for Space presents the space program. What do you think NASA achieved by sending astronauts to the moon? Should we start exploring the cosmos again? What should be the next big goal?
How did the space program of the 1960s and early 1970s affect affect everything from pop culture to the economy? Do you think this would happen again if space exploration became a priority once more?
Historically, all of the people who worked in the space program's key roles were white men. Discuss the historical context and reasons why that's the case. How have things changed?
- In theaters: May 19, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: July 18, 2017
- Cast: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Director: Phil Hildebrandt
- Studio: Gravitas Ventures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: STEM, History, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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