Unless you've been living under a rock and thought that continuous sonic boom this morning was the apocalypse, you know that the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off earlier today on the final shuttle mission NASA will ever launch.
I'm personally not a big fan of the International Space Station, though I do have a lot of nostalgia for the shuttle program (a film critic with nostalgic tendencies? BURN HIM!), which was born basically the same time that I was. I wasn't even a year old when Columbia was launched for STS-1. I was visiting my aunt in Satellite Beach, at Kennedy Space Center when hurricane Andrew made landfall in 1992, thus making a memorable day much more memorable.
It's not that I have a huge problem with the ISS, really. Extended missions in space are great, and I'm all for them, but only if they're leaving low Earth orbit. We haven't had a manned mission leave LEO in my lifetime, and probably won't, which is a fairly depressing thing to think about, especially after talking with my friend Jenny's mom about sitting around the TV in 1969 watching the moon landing.
There are still as-of-yet insurmountable obstacles for a mission to Mars (and plenty of scientists and engineers working to solve them), of course, as anyone who has seen the William Shattner-narrated Mars Rising on the Science Channel knows. But the thing is that I can't get excited about LEO, or anything that is tethered to Earth orbit anymore. I'm not gonna be here that much longer. So, someone get on this already!
Well, with that highly positive thought, I'll get to the point of this post, which is that on Hulu Criterion has posted Al Reinert's brilliant Apollo-era NASA documentary, For all Mankind, which compiles footage taken by the astronauts themselves aboard the various Apollo missions.
It's a truly uplifting documentary (read Justin's review!), the living document of what happens when the best and brightest are given a specific task and time frame and there is no pussyfooting around, wondering what to do next. We're explorers, beyond the point of curiosity and financial interests, and it's a sacred human duty. We can't always let robots do it for us, we have to get our footprints down and dig our hands into some other soil at some point. For all Mankind is a reminder that, to borrow a phrase from someone, yes we can.