Until now, there were exactly three great movies about the US space program: “The Right Stuff,” “Apollo 13,” and Tom Hanks’ HBO series “From The Earth To The Moon.”
Add to that “In The Shadow Of The Moon,” a new documentary about the Apollo program that stars the men who actually went to the moon, including those who went around it without setting foot on lunar soil. Chief among the latter is Michael Collins, the command module pilot who orbited the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became known for all eternity as the first men to walk on another world. Collins doesn’t hold anything back, nor do Aldrin, Alan Bean, Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, John Young, and other members of one of the most elite clubs in the world — the lunar explorers. Neil Armstrong, still notoriously private, didn’t sit for the new segments, but he and his colleagues appear in lots of the genuine NASA footage director David Sington has strung together.
They tell the story in their own words, from the earliest days of the space race to JFK’s commitment to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s to the Apollo 1 fire that killed 3 astronauts on the pad during a test to that triumphant Apollo 11 mission in July, 1969 and on through the last moon voyage, Apollo 17.
It’s hard to believe we haven’t been back in 35 years. As a fan of the space effort, I hope we go back again in my lifetime. Until then, “In The Shadow Of The Moon” is more than a history lesson about a great adventure; it’s a terrific movie, too.