One of the “finest hours” in American history is the triumph of man over mishap during the Apollo 13 mission which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The event was captured beautifully by Ron Howard in his film starring Tom Hanks (Jim Lovell), Kevin Bacon (Jack Swigert), Bill Paxton (Fred Haise) and Gary Sinise (Ken Mattingly).
I remember the tension surrounding this event and the excitement of all the Apollo 13 missions. I was a member of the Space Program (a Doubleday Book Club) and received a new book (with stickers!) every month from the program. The first book came with a really cool map of the moon and a model kit of the lunar module with an attached command module flying above it. I cannot find that model, but it was in my room for years. Remember making models? It was very detailed and my older brother helped me make it.
As a ten-year old, I remember the news coverage somewhat, but I think my parents shielded me from the potential disaster of astronauts being stranded and left to die in space. The fact that they would return safely must have been a given in my mind. Years later, watching the film brought the collective excitement over the space race, the mod clothes and the rock music of the era back to my mind.
The film is brought to life by spectacular cinematography and an outstanding, Oscar-nominated score. The soundtrack on Hoopla, by the legendary James Horner (Titanic, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Aliens, etc.), features key dialogue and a variety of popular songs from the era, including Spirit in the Sky, I Can See for Miles and Purple Haze. Horner was also nominated that same year for his memorable soundtrack to Braveheart. Perhaps having two scores on the slate affected the voting and another score, from Il Postino (The Postman), took away the award.
Hoopla also offers several non-fiction titles about the event for juveniles and young adults and a documentary narrated by Billy Mumy of Lost in Space fame (great 60s television sci fi camp with theme music by another film score giant, John Williams). There is an additional documentary about the making of Howard's film and the challenges they faced recreating low gravity, etc.
Mission control flight director Gene Kranz’ autobiography, Failure is Not an Option, is available on Overdrive/Libby. The phrase made memorable by Ed Harris in the movie was never actually spoken by Kranz, but he liked the way it represented his attitude during the disaster, so he chose it for the title of his book.
That autobiography and other juvenile non-fiction titles about Apollo 13 are on Overdrive/Libby: