In the Dark

The Undaunted

First Man
Produced by Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, Isaac Klausner, and Damien Chazelle
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Screenplay by Josh Singer from the biography by James R. Hansen 
Distributed by Universal Pictures 

Black 47
Produced by Fastnet Films and the Irish Film Board 
Directed by Lance Daly
Screenplay by P. J. Dillon 
Distributed by IFC Films 

Chuck Yeager, the much-celebrated Air Force test pilot, derisively referred to NASA’s original astronauts as “spam in a can.”  He meant that once these extraordinarily brave men were strapped into their modules, they practically had no agency.  Their flights and maneuvers were controlled remotely by hundreds of technicians on the ground.  It’s well known that the scientists involved with America’s nascent space-flight project, including Wernher von Braun, didn’t want human beings aboard for the ride at all.  The politicians involved insisted otherwise, however.  They had decided that we had to prove to the Soviets that we could do it.  But by 1961, NASA was already late to the contest.  Yuri Gagarin had orbited the earth successfully in April of that year.  It would take another five years for the Mercury astronauts to achieve space orbit.

At the time, Neil Armstrong (Ryan...

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