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Editor: Kris Cerone
Happy Anniversary, Apollo 17
By Robert Gounley
On December 7th, the stars came out on Sunset Boulevard. While a crescent moon rose above the Cinerama Dome, limousines dispatched celebrities to a growing crowd of reporters and onlookers. Instead of the usual assortment of actors and actresses, this gathering brought real-life heroes of space exploration. Enthusiasts were treated to glimpses of Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmidt, and Ken Mattingly. Flight Director, Gene Krantz was there, as were former NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin and the first commander of the International Space Station, Bill Shepard.
This night, all were gathered for a 30th anniversary celebration of the launch of Apollo 17 — the last manned mission to the Moon. Organized to raise funds for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, the event treated donors to a special showing of the Academy Award nominated documentary, For All Mankind, which recreates to excitement of the Apollo program using only archival film and narration from the astronauts themselves.
After overcoming audio-visual equipment malfunctions that nearly frustrated an auditorium filled with rocket scientists, Frank Braun, NSS's Vice-President for Public Affairs, delivered opening remarks before passing the microphone to James Cameron, director of the movie Titanic. Cameron praised the work of his friend and fellow-filmmaker, Al Reinert - creator of For All Mankind and co-author of the screenplay for Apollo 13. Most of all, he praised the many astronauts whose skill and courage made lunar exploration possible.
As the film began, the audience was brought back to the early 1960s when President Kennedy's challenged a nation with these words,
With only occasional astronaut commentary, the movie lets images tell the story of a composite lunar mission by merging together scenes from Apollo 11 through Apollo 17. Many in the audience who were not born when the last Saturn rocket launched pressed back in their seats when rocket engines filled the huge theater screen with flame. Viewers heads turned about when astronauts seated behind them appeared thirty feet talk on film. All grew quiet when viewing the magnificent desolation of the Moon with the brilliant blue globe of the Earth hanging in the sky above.
After the movie, Apollo 17 astronauts Cernan and Schmidt joined Gene Kranz for questions from the audience. They ranged from the emotional —
At the close, all the astronauts in attendance were invited down to join the panel. Cernan and Schmidt were joined by Aldrin from Apollo 11, Lovell from Apollo 8 and 13, and Mattingly from Apollo 16. In a nod to current NASA missions, Goldin and Shepard completed the gathering. Camera flashes flickered as eager spectators captured a truly once in a lifetime group portrait.
Among the many closing remarks, Goldin was the most affirming — we will relive the spirit of Apollo by venturing back to the Moon and onward to Mars. The auditorium filled with applause.
As the crowd left for their cars, astronauts and aspiring astronauts mingled. Now high in the sky, the crescent moon still glowed above the theater.
Was it looking down on the next person to press a footprint onto its surface?
James Cameron's company, Breakpoint Media, has prepared an edited version of the movie For All Mankind for downloading in Microsoft Windows Media. It may be found at http://www.breakpointmedia.com/.
For more photographs of the event, see the page in the Gallery.
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