Pierre de Lespinois’ documentary for the Discovery Channel oddly begins with a doom and gloom intro, apparently arguing the International Space Station’s [ISS} ultimate goal will be to safeguard the Earth from a sudden meteorological impact – or at least start the doc with an action-packed teaser to lure audiences in before switching to more benign talking heads and animation of how the station will ultimately come together over a decade.
Narrated by Liam Neeson, the doc provides a basic sketch of the main components that were placed in orbit by 2000, and interpolates montages of the various technological needs for the various crews that will man the station once it's fully operational.
Segments include spacesuit designs against micro-space particles, virtual reality training for repair work, robotic arms to take over more dangerous exterior work, the development of an ambidextrous Canadarm to facilitate the integration and expansion of further scientific modules, robotic ‘butler’ globes to take over the tedious work to ensure a more fluid workflow routine, and training in Northern Canada to simulate the kind of isolation and time-sensitive work astronauts will have to address once they arrive at the station.
De Lespinois integrates plenty of interview material, archival and newly filmed footage, training and simulation montages, and closes the doc with a segment on the escape pod NASA’s developing to replace the older Russian Soyuz re-entry craft which can only accommodate 3 people.
Briskly paced and filled with plenty of visual eye candy (including a particularly striking shot of a space shuttle re-entering at a sharp curve), there’s a good balance of images and information, plus personable interviews with crewmen and women, technicians, and mission specialists that bear engaging information in spite of the doc being (at the time of this writing) 11 years old.
It’s also a suitable companion piece to the IMAX film Space Station 3D (2002), the wide film documentary that emphasizes the visual scope of the project, and uses a narration with simplified facts. Both docs also cover the interiors of the stations’ modules, but there are more scientific facts in the TV doc, plus background material on the Mir Space Station (including its scary crash into the ISS) from which NASA and partner nations gathered info and experiences to build a floating scientific city.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan