Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
Today marks the 40th anniversary when a group of three men shook the dirt of this mud ball from their shoes, in order to plant their feet where no man has gone before. Today marks the anniversary of the take off of the Apollo 11.
You might be considering dusting off your version of “The Right Stuff” to honor the occasion, but I’d like to recommend another film, a gentle, quirky charmer from Australia, called The Dish.
The Dish is a semi-fictional, semi-biographical accounting of the part that the telescope at the Parkes Observatory in Australia played in the Apollo 11 mission. Late in the Apollo 11 planning mission, NASA officials decided to telecast the first moon steps via television, and the Parkes telescope, along with the telescope at Honeysuckle Creek, also in Australia, would be the primary receiving stations for the signals. They would then send these signals on to NASA in the US, which would, in turn, broadcast the show to the world.
The movie focuses on fictional members of the Parkes Observatory crew, and one individual from NASA, as well as the people in the town associated with the observatory. Though based on a real event, some of movie’s storyline was fictionalized for artistic purposes. However, much of the movie reflects history as it happened, including the gale force winds that kicked up just when the telescope was needed, putting both it and the people operating it at physical risk.
The cast of the movie includes Sam Neill as the leader of the Australian crew, ably assisted by Patrick Warburten as the NASA rep. In my opinion, though, the story line that takes place in Parkes, where Roy Billing plays mayor, was just as compelling.
No mad chases, no computer graphics, or robots that turn into cars. This is a movie about a telescope in the middle of a sheep paddoc. And it’s the story, ultimately, of Apollo 11, and how one single event made the world just a little smaller.
You can catch “The Dish” online at Amazon Video on Demand, iTunes, Netflix Watch Now, or wherever you get your DVDs. If you’re considering a double feature, you might also want to check out Space Cowboys, another charmer that doesn’t disappoint.
And in celebration of Apollo 11:
update Fascinating comment thread related to a review of the book “Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon”. Note that the Gene Kranz referenced in the thread is the Gene Kranz who was the flight director for the Apollo missions. He was played by Ed Harris in the movie, “Apollo 13”. Sometimes comments, even acrimonious comments, are like little snapshots of history.
Plus, irreverent look at the moon landing, by The Onion. And there’s a video, too. Neither is safe for work, kids. No, really, I mean it.