Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been obsessed with manned spaceflight. The prospect of exploring space is one of the things that inspired me to become a scientist, and among my hobbies is the history of Apollo, the only space program that has (so far) put humans on the Moon. From 1969 to 1972 a total of twelve men walked on the surface of the Moon. This represents humanity’s total manned surface exploration of another world. 

But why did we stop? Fight for Space aims to find out. Its featured interviews are a who’s who of science communicators and spaceflight historians. Even for someone as well versed as myself in the history of spaceflight, there was information in this film that was new to me. If you know nothing about Apollo, then this sixty minute film will bring you up to speed in an entertaining fashion. 

Fight for Space brings us to terms with the reality of NASA, devoid of all the hope and human aspiration that it has been painted with by politicians from the 1950s to today. NASA was born after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the Earth’s first artificial satellite. Suddenly there was a global fear that the Russians could put a nuclear weapon into orbit and drop it on any country they wanted, whenever they wanted. America was the only country – both economically and scientifically – that could oppose the Soviet Union’s seemingly inevitable march into space. As Neil deGrasse Tyson says in the film, “The history of human reaction to the threat of death knows no bounds; and knowing no bounds includes birthing an entire space program for the purpose of showing the world that we will not be bested by evil, Godless communists.”

After the birth of NASA, America continued to lag behind the Soviet Union in space accomplishments. After the Soviet Union launched the first human into Earth orbit in 1961, US President John F. Kennedy proposed landing a man on the Moon by 1970. Keep in mind that NASA had not even put a man in space yet, nor did it possess the technology to put a person into orbit. The required undertaking was massive, and accomplished its goal on 20 July 1969. 

Fight for Space gives us an appreciation of why America stopped sending men to the Moon, and the reasons are deeply rooted in why the program existed in the first place. The intention of the Apollo Program was never one of exploration or scientific accomplishment, it existed solely to achieve Kennedy’s proposal to “land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.” NASA’s floundering for the four decades since is due to the fact that it is an organization without a mission. The film explores the poor decision processes that led to the Space Shuttle Program, the International Space Station, and the rudderless state of the organization that took hold during the Obama Administration.

Fight for Space is a dense but entertaining documentary, highlighting an aspect of human society that most people rarely give a passing thought to. If you’re like me, then you believe that human settlement in the frontier of space is the future of our species and culture. If that’s the case then we need to understand why our space programs are in the abysmal state they’re in. Only then can we understand the steps needed to put us back on the road to space.
Fight for Space will be released in theatres 19 May 2017, and is available for pre-order on iTunes here:

4 out of 5 stars