Another in the series of podcasts where Howard Ingham and I discuss films we’d not previously seen. This time it’s Gonzalo López-Gallego’s first english language film, Apollo 18 (2011), a found footage account of the doomed, ‘final’ Apollo mission.
There are spoilers both in the podcast and in the intro below.
You can stream or download the podcast here:
If the Apollo programme ends here with a lot of screaming in space (which we can hear, take that Ridley), then it begins with a dream, a vision, and a speech.
John F. Kennedy could deliver a good speech, eh? His inauguration speech contains this brilliant piece of oratory:
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor (sic) will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
And the 1963 commencement address to the students of American University in Washington DC in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis:
“What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.”
He talked the talk like no other statesman of modern times. Yet one of his most famous speeches, the one concerning the commitment to a manned mission to the Moon has always troubled me.
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize (sic) and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”
Specifically this bit:
“and do the other things”
“And do the ‘other things'”. Okay, we know he’s talking about various auxiliary objectives that were mentioned earlier in the speech like rocket development and unmanned planetary exploration, but the thing about being quoted is that the quote will inevitably be out of context.
Poor Bill Shankly still gets taken to task over the quote about football being more important than life and death, when he was clearly being tongue in cheek.
But “other things” sounds like JFK’s lost his place or gone blank and has to wing it, Trump style for a brief moment.
And the speech endures, because nothing captures the 60s zeitgeist like the technological advancements and the sheer bravery of the first space missions. And the Apollo Programme’s (not sic) cancellation serves as the perfect example of the 60’s dream dying in the economic decline of the 70s.
In fact, here’s another brilliant quote from that other well know orator, Danny (Ralph Brown) from Withnail & I:
“If you are holding onto a rising balloon you are presented with a difficult political decision – let go while you’ve still got the chance or hold onto the rope and continue getting higher. That’s politics man. We are at the end of an age. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is nearly over. They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworths.
It is 91 days to the end of the decade and as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.”
But of course the real reason we didn’t go back to the Moon isn’t because of budget cuts at NASA, it’s because of the alien rock spiders. Don’t believe me? Listen to the podcast.