Today, for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, US astronauts launch into space on a SpaceX Falcon rocket. Watch the live NASA TV feed.
This is an absolutely fascinating and rather beautiful 1936 Soviet science fiction film that foretold how a future 1946 moon mission would work. It’s got incredible zero gravity effects, miniature models of a fantastic space ship on a launch ramp, and very cool technical details like filling the cockpit with fluid to buffer the cosmonauts from launch forces. Then there’s a marvelous sequence on the surface of the moon with excellent stop motion animation inter-cut with live actors. Apparently, the Soviet censors banned the film after a short but successful first run because they felt the cosmonauts were having too much fun on the moon. They were right. These characters go hopping and bounding about with so much joy it’s almost an embarrassment. Citizens of the Soviet Union were not supposed to be happy.
Don’t worry about understanding Russian. The film was shot as a silent and is more or less a completely visual experience.
It was directed by Vasili Zhuravlov, but what’s really most interesting about the production history is that Constantin Tsiolkovski, a Soviet scientist and professor, became enthusiastic about putting some of his theories on space travel into a film. He consulted with the filmmakers in an attempt to lend verisimilitude to the moon voyage. Many years later, Werner von Braun credited Tsiolkovski’s calculations as having been correct.
So here is a old Soviet film that went to great lengths to get many of its details right.
Here is an interesting article about the film.
Retronaut has a stunning collection of Soviet era space propaganda posters. NASA could use a little dose of this astro-enthusiasm as it sits on its lethargic butt, totally incapable of lifting a single human being into orbit.
In 1965 Pavel Klushantsev made this Soviet film about how a voyage to the moon might happen. I’ve seen and posted other footage from this great science fiction director, but this is interesting because its color has been restored to saturated magnificence. Don’t worry that you can’t understand the Russian language. Just watch and enjoy the 60s communist enthusiasm! You will be treated to astronauts cavorting on the lunar surface while wearing space suits that look to me like nearly perfect adaptations from popular speculative illustrations of the time. The technical detail of this film is really quite amazing. NASA might want to refer to it while trying to re-acquire its lost Apollo knowledge.
It is apparent that Kubrick had his eye on this director’s work as he prepared to make 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you know that film, you will catch the shots I’m talking about.