A new feature length documentary about the NASA team that guided the United States' early astronauts into space and onto the moon has been given a "go" to launch into movie theaters this spring.
"Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo," directed by David Fairhead and produced by Keith Haviland and Gareth Dodds of Haviland Digital, will arrive in select U.S. theaters and be available through video on demand (VOD) services on April 14, through a distribution deal announced with Gravitas Ventures on Thursday (Feb. 23).
The documentary is set for its world premiere on March 14 at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin. [Video: 'Mission Control' Theatrical Trailer]
"Flights into space capture the imagination as much today as they did 50 years ago," said Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures' CEO and founder, in a statement. "From SpaceX to 'Hidden Figures' to 'The Martian,' the dreams of millions are carried out by hundreds of heroes both in the air and on the ground at Mission Control."
Featuring archival and on-site footage and stories from the men who lived it, "Mission Control" includes interviews with the founder of NASA's Mission Control Center (and now its namesake) Chris Kraft and Apollo-era flight directors Gene Kranz (portrayed by Ed Harris in the 1995 film "Apollo 13"), Glynn Lunney and Gerry Griffin. Also appearing in the film are Apollo flight controllers Jerry Bostick, John Aaron and Sy Liebergot, and astronauts James Lovell (played by Tom Hanks in "Apollo 13"), Charles Duke, and the late Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.
Through their testimony, the movie explores the journey in Mission Control from the Mercury and Gemini trailblazing flights to the tragic Apollo 1 fire and, ultimately, the glories of the moon landings.
"To make this film of the unsung heroes [of NASA Mission Control] has been a fantastic experience," Fairhead said.
Mission Control was at the heart of the Apollo program and its members were born against the backdrop of economic turmoil and global conflict, according to the film's synopsis. Some came from a rural lifestyle unchanged since the 19th century, while others grew up in the blue-collar America of mines and smoke stacks. The team ranged from students who came straight out of college, to soldiers toughened by military service.
"Yet, from such ordinary beginnings, an extraordinary team was born," the producers said. "They set out on what JFK called 'the most hazardous, dangerous, and greatest adventure upon which mankind has ever embarked.'"
"It is a real privilege to tell this epic story," said Haviland. "It shows what vision and teamwork can achieve."
"Mission Control" has Gravitas collaborating with Haviland and Dodds once again, after first working together on the award-winning, 2014 documentary, "The Last Man on the Moon," which told astronaut Gene Cernan's story. Cernan, who flew three times in space and twice to the moon, died in January.
"We are thrilled to be working with [Haviland and Dodds] to share this remarkable piece of history," said Gallagher.
"It's a story we hope will inspire and move people," Dodds said.
Watch the theatrical trailer for "Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo" at collectSPACE.