Wednesday, October 8, 2008

When We Left Earth

Confession time: Science and Math are not my thing. I stopped taking both in high school as soon as I completed my basic requirements and then only took what was necessary to get my liberal arts degree while I was in college.

Still, I was completely fascinated by the movie Apollo 13 which then led to being utterly captivated by the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon. So when I heard this Discovery series about the NASA missions was released on DVD on September 30th, I was immediately intrigued.

The four DVD set consists of the six episode series and a ton of bonus features including original NASA films, interviews from NASA's archives and mission clips from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.

The series presents the evolution of the American space program in chronological order using archival footage and present day interviews of many of the key players. Fittingly, Gary Sinise narrates the series, as his role as Ken Mattingly in Apollo 13 gives him the appropriate gravitas.

Episode 1 is titled Ordinary Supermen and details the selection of the men known as the Mercury Seven. Episode 2: Friends and Rivals moves on to the Gemini missions. Episode 3: The Explorers takes us through the early portion of the Apollo mission while Episode 4: The Explorers traces the Apollo moon missions through the launching of Skylab.

The space program's Shuttle Era is detailed in Episode 5 and Episode 6: A Home in Space explores the Hubble Space telescope and the future of space exploration. The series is as gripping as the initial space launches were to American people glued to their TV sets in the late 50s and early 60s. It's amazing that we've become so nonchalant about space travel. Today's shuttle launches barely rate a 30 second mention on the evening news.

But the early years of the space program were fraught with potential dangers with the new technology and the unknown outcomes. The series narration (perhaps a bit heavy-handed at times) makes sure the viewer is aware of how tenuous and risky these missions were. Given the Challenger and more recent Columbia disasters, it's evident that space travel remains a highly dangerous venture.

This comprehensive non-fictional look at the NASA mission over the last 50 years is more than merely educational and entertaining--it's a spectacularly enthralling firsthand account of history. If you're a space geek--or know one--this would make an excellent addition to your DVD collection or holiday present.

When We Left Earth is available in DVD and Blu-Ray formats at

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