Picks and Pans Review: Journey into Space

updated 08/31/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/31/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It's hard to imagine a more effective antidote for the aura of despair that has surrounded the U.S. space program since the accident that destroyed the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. The tape's producer-director, Craig Jackson, is an audio engineer with the NASA television and film division, and he culled official NASA footage of the first 24 shuttle flights for these 28 minutes. This is a sanitized production; there are no shots of people throwing up or even looking apprehensive. But the lack of objectivity seems excusable. Organized to parallel the chronology of a typical flight—preparation, takeoff, orbit, landing—it includes a sound track that has music (Vangelis-like synthesizer background music, also created by Jackson) but no narration. That effectively focuses attention on the screen. And what images! In some ways, they often seem less realistic than sci-fi movie special effects. Seen behind astronauts who are working outside the shuttle as it orbits, for instance, the Earth seems surreal—too huge, too blue, too beautiful to be true. Without having to consider the immediate details, a viewer also has time to appreciate the immensity of the shuttles' achievement and the courage and spirit of the astronauts. A segment in which Jackson shows clips of various astronauts floating weightless inside the orbiting shuttles, tossing paper airplanes, tumbling, munching on floating bananas and generally horsing around, is particularly affecting. In the midst of such a prodigious enterprise of the imagination and intellect, these playful, casual moments seem to perfectly round out the image of what we want our heroes and heroines, and ourselves, to be. (MCA, $29.95)

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