"My god, that little thing is so fragile out there."
That's what Michael Collins remembers thinking as he looked back at Earth on his way to the moon. Those of us who followed the Apollo 11 mission from lift-off to touchdown back in 1969 may think we know everything there is to know about NASA's decade-long reach for the stars. But director David Sington has put together a documentary that makes it feel like we're going there for the first time. Nostalgic in the best sense, In the Shadow of the Moon will have you longing for a time when the promise of science was as bright as the sun, when the whole planet seemed to unite behind one of mankind's greatest quests. And he's done it by going back and talking to the men who climbed into those bottle rockets and lit the fuses: the astronauts.
If you ask me, they were kind of boring at the time, all "Roger that" and "A-OK." But it turns out they're regular (and now seasoned) raconteurs, bursting with humor and insight. And some of them even have a touch of the poet, as when one recalls the planet he left behind floating in space "like a jewel hung in the blackness." Sington doesn't really address whether it was worth going to the moon, given that nobody's been back since 1972. But the silence of Neil Armstrong, who once again dodged the world's attention by declining to be interviewed, speaks volumes. He's never been able to quite make peace with the fact that he was the first man to walk on the moon. Or maybe he just doesn't have the words to describe his giant leap for mankind. But the others sure do. And it's both an honor and a pleasure to spend time with them.