Hear the real stories behind the private space race in new documentary 'Wild Wild Space' (video)

Forget about those campfire yarns about the infamous land rushes of the Old West in the 19th century as it can't hold a candle to the crazy, free-for-all stampede for positioning satellite megaconstellations in the erupting sectors of space infrastructure and aerospace firms' desires for profit in the unfolding era of commercial exploitation.

"Wild Wild Space" (a sly nod to the cult '60s western spy series, "Wild Wild West") is a new HBO Original documentary directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman ("Born Into Brothels") which premieres on HBO and streams on Max beginning on July 17, 2024.

Here's the official synopsis:

"'Wild Wild Space' chronicles the modern-day, celestial land grab happening above our heads. It's a fast paced, high-stakes race of epic proportions in which companies compete to blast satellite-carrying rockets into low earth orbit. From exhilarating triumphs to gut-wrenching setbacks, we witness the fierce competition to tackle humanity’s next great frontier. However, beneath the shiny veneer of progress is the dark side of capitalism’s insatiable appetite for profit and the far-reaching reverberations of a world controlled from the skies.

"Inspired by the New York Times best-selling book 'When the Heavens Went on Sale' by esteemed technology and space journalist Ashlee Vance, Wild Wild Space follows three rocket and satellite companies – Astra Space, Rocket Lab, and Planet Labs – and the quests of their idiosyncratic founders to conquer the burgeoning space industry. Following the roller coaster journey for a piece of this unchartered territory, the film details the multi-faceted uses of satellites, from planet-saving, environmental imaging to 'big brother' government scrutiny and military espionage, exploring the ethics of technological advances. 

"With billions of dollars at stake, the world's privacy in the balance, and the ramifications of space debris dangerously cluttering Earth's low orbit, the documentary reveals how satellites now control the fabric of our modern world, and posits that whoever controls space, may well control the future of humanity."

A portion of the official poster for "Wild Wild Space." (Image credit: HBO Originals)

"Wild Wild Space" is a Zero Point Zero Production in collaboration with Amblin Documentaries and Hyperobject Industries. Producer duties fall into the capable hands of Jaye Callahan, Ashlee Vance, Adam McKay, Todd Schulman, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, and Craig H. Shepherd. It's executive produced by John Khoury, Maiken Baird, and Rachel Crane alongside HBO’s Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, and Tina Nguyen.

Notable personalities featured in this intimate examination of the commercial space industry and the satellite-launching economy galvanizing around it are Chris Kemp, co-founder/CEO of Astra Space; Ashlee Vance, tech journalist and author; Jonathan McDowell, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab; Will Marshall, co-founder and CEO of Planet Labs; Robbie Schingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer (CSO) of Planet Labs; Pete Worden, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force, retired; Jessy Kate Schingler, director of Open Lunar; Dr. Bhavya Lal, technology and policy at NASA; Allison Puccinia, imagery analyst at Armillary Services; and Carissa Christensen, CEO of BryceTech.

"Wild Wild Space" debuts on HBO and Max on July 17, 2024.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.