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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Moonwalker Film to Raise Funds for Apollo Memorial

Apollo 12 lunar module pilot Alan Bean steps down to moon's surface during his 1969 flight.

The only astronauts to set foot on the moon will share tales of their journey Saturday in a film screening to raise funds for a monument to their Apollo lunar missions.

"The Wonder of it All" looks to understand the men who walked on the moon, instead of the science and technology behind the Apollo missions. The result is a highly personal and affecting history of the U.S. effort to send men to the moon.

"We're all about the guys," said Jeffrey Roth, director of the film. The film will screen at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla., to help raise funds for a monument honoring NASA's Apollo lunar program.

Many of the Apollo astronauts share early childhood fantasies of flying like sci-fi hero Buck Rogers, and later pursued careers as military pilots. Their eagerness to push limits meant they had to mentally prepare themselves for the risks and uncertainties of the space program, as those became evident during the infamous Apollo 1 fire and the Apollo 13 accident in space.

However, the astronaut experiences diverge more when they touch down on the lunar surface. Some moonwalkers ran around methodically to accomplish their assigned tasks. Others took the opportunity to conduct an impromptu "lunar Olympics" by bouncing up and down in the moon's one-sixth gravity, or hit a golf shot on camera.

"All of us needed to do more human things," said Alan Bean, lunar module pilot for Apollo 12, who regretted focusing too much on collecting moon rocks.

Yet Apollo 11 lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, the second person ever to walk on the moon in 1969, took a moment to give thanks and pray under the blackness of space that astronauts described as beyond any darkness on Earth. Charlie Duke, of Apollo 16, left his family's photo in a clear plastic bag on the lunar soil.

Those human moments remain the most vivid impressions from "The Wonder of it All," particularly as the astronauts describe life following the Apollo program. Bean eventually left NASA to become an artist, turning his impressions as a moonwalker into vivid paintings. Fellow astronauts stayed on with NASA to work and consult, or entered politics.

The film also sheds some light on the less-joyful experiences of the Apollo program, such as returning astronauts being egged by student protesters or a personal struggle with alcoholism and depression.

By the end, astronauts reflect upon a spiritual experience in space that transcends the boundaries of human knowledge — and allows film viewers to appreciate that other component of the space program beyond rockets and spacecraft.

"Wonder of it All" is one in a series of recent films, which include "In the Shadow of the Moon" and "Magnificent Desolation," that focus on the personal stories of those few humans who set foot on the lunar surface.

"Science and technology could no longer explain what I was feeling," said Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17.

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