Thursday, 3 September 2009

Max Needs Thermal Curtain Failure

As the crew of Discovery work to complete the International Space Station, and we approach the end of the Space Shuttle programme, I was reminded of some of the Shuttle's most memorable on-screen appearances.

Disney's SpaceCamp - classic, innocent pre-Challenger film in which a somewhat literal-minded robot sends a group of children into orbit after overhearing a wish. Also a brilliant piece of three-layered propaganda: it's about the Space Shuttle itself which is portrayed as easy and safe enough to be flown by schoolchildren; because it's about the Shuttle this is also a pro-Western technology and civilization message; and thirdly it's an advert for the real Space Camp summer programme at Kennedy - presumably there are now hundreds of Americans who are devastated at not being accidentally blasted into space themselves.

Armageddon - you know, actually the propaganda in Space Camp wasn't too bad. Michael Bay's film on the other hand is an utterly jingoistic and physics-defying caper in which two secret military shuttles are sent to deflect an asteroid.

Moonraker - one of the most ridiculous Bond movies but also one of my favourites - villain Drax is stealing space shuttles and using them to build a space station where he can hide away while the rest of the Earth is destroyed. NASA fights back with it's own shuttles - converted to carry marines in their cargo bays! - while Roger Moore and Lois Chiles get it on in zero gravity.

Species II - opens with a Mars shot that is clearly a political stunt, with a space shuttle crudely welded to an additional engine rig and plastered with sponsorship logos. The senator's son leading the sample-return mission gets only a few minutes on the surface. Naturally this is enough to pick up a taste of the local alien nymphomaniac predator.

Space Cowboys - following John Glenn's return to space this film featured four "mature" but well-liked male actors led by Clint and Tommy Lee as they try to break NASA's ageist recruitment policy... a science fiction film with heart and a lot of gentle humour.

Spiders - where else would you send a secret biological weapon but on a space shuttle flight? And when it kills the crew, what else would you do but bring the Shuttle down into a secret military base and allow it to escape?

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