Your Daily Phil

The NASA Missions – When We Left Earth mini-review

Posted by lozenp on June 16, 2008

Space has been somewhat of an ignored topic in the last decade or so, and when it has gotten attention, it’s been due to terrible catastrophe’s such as the space shuttle explosions. The idea of rocketing out of Earth’s atmosphere just isn’t as sexy as it once was. Hoepfully the Discovery Channel’s new documentary will remind us all how amazing it was and still is today that we are able to send people into orbit.

The NASA Missions: When We Left Earth is a six-hour series airing now on the Discovery Channel and Discovery Channel HD (not HD Theater, mind you) that explores the space program from beginning to end and so far it’s amazing. Many people are comparing it to the Planet Earth series that HD Theater ran last year, and while I think that’s a bit unfair, at least visually, because Planet Earth was shot entirely in HD and The NASA Missions was forced to clean up 40-year old footage, it’s a fair comparison due to the scope and size of the project.

That’s not to say the people at Discovery didn’t do their job with the footage. I have never seen archival footage cleaned up and presented in HD with this amount of detail. I dare say some of the shots look better than modern HD-shot programs. There are many shots from the Gemini missions that are simply spectacular, and these are in some cases from more than 40 years ago.

In watching the first two hours I’ve already learned things I never knew before, and I’ve seen footage that I didn’t know existed of the first spacewalk and the first missions around the moon. The interviews with the NASA crews are insightful and informative while at the same time whimsical and conversational. You can tell these people have immense pride in their role in history, but at the same time they have a certain humbleness that is so often missing in today’s world.

The sound isn’t amazing, but that’s to be expected with a show that is 50 percent interviews. However, when the rockets fire, you know it, and the dialogue is presented in a clean and well-balanced way. If there’s any complaint, it would be that the mix is a bit bass-heavy in the most dramatic scenes, but that would be nit-picking.

So far I’ve made it through the Gemini missions, whose goal started with simply getting into space and evolved into walking in space and finally orbiting the earth. Apollo is up next, featuring the moon landings. The show airs on Sunday nights at 9, with two new hours each week. It’s in reruns during the week, as well in one-hour segments.

My Take

How it looks – 9
How it sounds – 7
Content – 9

OVERALL – 9

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