“Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo” is a well-crafted, revealing British documentary reuniting the surviving team members entrusted with safely taking astronauts to the moon and back. Although these hidden figures are exclusively male and almost entirely Caucasian, there’s still much to find uplifting.
In exchange for their $6,770 starting salaries, those who first “manned” the consuls would often work 35 hours straight under extreme pressure, especially when they had to address the “Houston, we’ve had a problem” distress call from the Apollo 13 crew.
Filmmaker David Fairhead, who edited 2016’s “The Last Man on the Moon,” profiling the late Gene Cernan, creates a vivid atmosphere (chain-smoking seemed to part of the job description) combining a remarkable amount of archival footage with audio recordings and computer simulations.
But it’s those insightful contemporary interviews with the likes of Cernan and Jim Lovell, and, especially Chris Kraft, acknowledged as the creator of Mission Control, and Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris in Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13”), who still favors military crew cuts, that effectively hit home.
There’s something undeniably moving about seeing the reunified flight directors and controllers, most now in their 80s and 90s, seated at their original command posts, reflecting on their shared triumphs and tragedies while acknowledging the toll all those stress-filled hours would often take on their family life.
‘Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo’
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; also on VOD
2:12 p.m.: An earlier version of this review omitted the first name of Jim Lovell.