'Above and Beyond' Documentary to Land in Theaters for NASA's 60th

Poster art for director Rory Kennedy's documentary, "Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow." (Image credit: Discovery)

A new feature-length documentary examining NASA's 60 years of space exploration, including the agency's on-going studies of Earth, is set for a special engagement in movie theaters this fall.

"Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow," from Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning director Rory Kennedy ("Last Days of Vietnam"), will land in cinemas across the United States ahead of its broadcast debut on Discovery Channel. Tickets for the Fathom Events' screenings on Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 are now on sale.

"We are thrilled to partner with Discovery Channel to bring 'Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow' to movie theaters nationwide," said Ray Nutt, CEO of Fathom Events, in a statement. "There are few events as cinematic as space travel, and the incredible stories of the men and women of NASA depicted in this remarkable documentary are well-deserving of the big screen treatment." [Building Apollo (Photos)]

"Above and Beyond" traces NASA's six decades of historic achievements, from the Apollo moon landings 50 years ago to the ongoing robotic exploration of Mars. The documentary also looks at how NASA has helped shaped our understanding of our home planet, Earth.

"Sixty years ago, my uncle put forth a great challenge. Since then, NASA has journeyed far beyond. Today, we face a greater challenge, a challenge we cannot postpone, one we simply must win," says Kennedy in a video teaser for "Above and Beyond."

In September 1962, while at Rice University in Houston, President John F. Kennedy spoke of the cost of sending missions to the moon. "We have given this program a high national priority even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us." With "Above and Beyond," his niece asks "what has become of her uncle's faith in human ingenuity, his grand vision and aspirations?"

To find the answer, Kennedy spoke with NASA leaders, scientists and astronauts, including former administrator Charles Bolden, Mars 2020 rover chief engineer Adam Steltzner and International Space Station commander Peggy Whitson. The resulting film showcases the next-generation space telescopes, the prototypes of Mars-bound spacecraft and the missions that will take astronauts further out into our solar system.

Director Rory Kennedy, niece of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, also produced and narrates "Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow." (Image credit: Discovery)

But if her uncle once set NASA's goal as the moon, with "Above and Beyond" Rory Kennedy argues today the agency's most urgent mission is equally clear — to report back on the health of Earth. With a network of dedicated satellites, aircraft and ground teams, NASA has and continues to provide an unparalleled view of a complicated planet.

"When we look outward, when we understand the planets, when we go out into the universe, we're really still trying to look back at ourselves and say, 'How does our planet work?'" Ellen Stofan, NASA's former chief scientist and the current director of the National Air and Space Museum, tells Kennedy. "That Mars was once habitable, just like Earth, and is no longer makes clear how planetary bodies transform."

"Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" will be screened on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 12:55 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7:00 p.m. (all local times) in more than 650 select movie theaters, through Fathom's Digital Broadcast Network. Following the Fathom showings, the documentary will air on Oct. 13 on Discovery Channel.

The in-cinema events will include a special introduction from Kennedy.

"It is thrilling for me to have audiences see this film on the big screen, to showcase the images that NASA has captured over the last 60 years," said Kennedy in a statement. "My uncle had the foresight to see the importance of NASA and their work. Over the years, the agency has changed not only our vision of the universe, but of our planet, and ourselves."

Watch the teaser for "Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow" at collectSPACE.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.