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Tom Hanks draws on his love of space for immersive documentary ‘The Moonwalkers’

by Joshua Brown
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Space Exploration

Tom Hanks, renowned for his impressive acting career, is not among those celebrities and millionaires who seek suborbital joyrides on space tourism flights. He believes that a brief stint in space wouldn’t suffice for him, stating, “I don’t need to go up and down; I think I’d need a little bit longer in paradise.” However, the moon is an entirely different story, and it serves as the focal point of “The Moonwalkers,” an immersive documentary co-written and narrated by Hanks.

For Tom Hanks, a two-time Academy Award-winning actor, his passion for space has been a lifelong affair. This ardor is vividly channeled into “The Moonwalkers,” which premieres at the Lightroom, a specialized London venue dedicated to interactive art and film experiences. As viewers sit on benches, they are enveloped by imagery that brings NASA’s Apollo space missions to life over the course of a captivating 50-minute film. The documentary centers on the 12 intrepid individuals who set foot on the moon between 1969 and 1972, the countless others who played crucial roles in making those historic steps possible, and a new generation of astronauts poised to return to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program.

“The Moonwalkers” is a technologically advanced blend of archive film footage, drawings, animation, and digitally remastered photographs. Notably, Tom Hanks emphasizes that there are no computer-generated images in the documentary. Every visual element presented is a genuine photograph captured by a human hand, ensuring the authenticity of the storytelling.

Running until April 21, 2024, “The Moonwalkers” is subtitled “a journey with Tom Hanks.” The actor’s warm and avuncular narration, coupled with his co-authorship of the script alongside British documentary filmmaker Christopher Riley, imbues the space race narrative with a deeply humanistic perspective. It portrays the space race as a testament to humanity’s unrelenting curiosity and determination to achieve monumental feats, echoing President John F. Kennedy’s famous words about doing things “not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

Tom Hanks’ fascination with lunar exploration dates back to his youth, where he would attempt to simulate zero gravity by sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool. His portrayal of Jim Lovell, the commander facing peril in “Apollo 13,” played a significant role in reigniting public interest in the Apollo program during the 1990s. What captivated Hanks about space was not just the cutting-edge science, but the human drama unfolding among those who ventured into the cosmos. His curiosity extended to the practical aspects of life in space, such as whether astronauts drank coffee, had hot water, or needed a shave.

Hanks recalls the pivotal moment that ignited his fascination with space—a live broadcast in 1968, when he was a 12-year-old, showcasing Earth from the Apollo 8 spacecraft orbiting the moon. It was a breathtaking experience for him, transcending politics and news, akin to a grand adventure from myths and legends. This profound artistic achievement, coupled with technological brilliance, left an indelible mark on his young mind.

“The Moonwalkers” also features interviews with the four astronauts set to embark on the Artemis II mission, marking humanity’s first significant lunar journey in fifty years. Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Jeremy Hansen are scheduled to pilot NASA’s Orion capsule on this mission, launching no earlier than late 2024. While they won’t land on the moon, their circumnavigation will pave the way for a lunar landing by two other astronauts a year later. Notably, countries like China and India also have ambitious plans to send astronauts to the moon.

The Artemis crew members, exemplifying teamwork, express their excitement for the lunar program, even if they had not been chosen for the mission. Victor Glover, NASA’s first African American lunar astronaut, shares his amazement, saying he would be equally thrilled watching from home in his pajamas. Christina Koch, the first woman to embark on a lunar mission, views Artemis as the initial step on a journey that will eventually lead humans to Mars. She believes that answering the fundamental question of whether we are alone in the universe is one of the compelling motivations for venturing to Mars. As she puts it, “We’re going to go there because our best chance of knowing the answer to that is there.”

In “The Moonwalkers,” Tom Hanks not only shares his passion for space but also celebrates the indomitable spirit of human exploration, reminding us that our quest to reach the stars is driven by a profound curiosity and a desire to overcome challenges, just as President Kennedy envisioned during the heyday of the space race.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Space Exploration

What is “The Moonwalkers” documentary about?

“The Moonwalkers” is an immersive documentary co-written and narrated by Tom Hanks that focuses on NASA’s Apollo space missions, particularly the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972. It also explores the contributions of the thousands of people who supported these missions and the upcoming generation of astronauts involved in the Artemis program.

What sets “The Moonwalkers” apart from other space documentaries?

This documentary distinguishes itself by its commitment to authenticity. Every image and visual element in the film is a genuine photograph taken by a human, avoiding the use of computer-generated imagery. It offers a humanistic perspective on the space race, emphasizing the deeply human aspects of exploration and curiosity.

When and where can I watch “The Moonwalkers”?

“The Moonwalkers” is set to run until April 21, 2024. It premieres at the Lightroom, a London venue specializing in interactive art and film experiences.

What is the focus of the documentary’s narrative?

The documentary takes a human-centered approach to the space race, portraying it as a testament to humanity’s unquenchable curiosity and determination to achieve challenging goals. It echoes President John F. Kennedy’s famous words about doing things “not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

How did Tom Hanks become passionate about space?

Tom Hanks’ fascination with space dates back to his childhood, where he tried to simulate zero gravity by sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool. He was captivated not only by the science but also by the human drama of space exploration, including the practical aspects of life in space.

Who are the astronauts featured in the documentary?

“The Moonwalkers” includes interviews with the four astronauts set to join the Artemis II mission, marking humanity’s return to the moon after half a century. They are Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Jeremy Hansen. While they won’t land on the moon, their mission paves the way for future lunar exploration.

What are the future plans for lunar exploration?

Several countries, including China and India, have ambitious plans to send astronauts to the moon. The Artemis program, as featured in the documentary, represents NASA’s commitment to return humans to the lunar surface, with eventual plans for missions to Mars.

What is the documentary’s overarching message?

“The Moonwalkers” not only shares Tom Hanks’ passion for space but also celebrates the enduring human spirit of exploration. It reminds us that our quest to reach the stars is driven by curiosity and a determination to overcome challenges, echoing the visionary words of President Kennedy during the space race era.

More about Space Exploration

  • [Tom Hanks: ‘The Moonwalkers’ documentary](insert link here)
  • [NASA’s Apollo program](insert link here)
  • [Artemis program](insert link here)
  • [Lightroom London](insert link here)
  • [Apollo 13 movie](insert link here)
  • [Victor Glover – NASA astronaut](insert link here)
  • [Christina Koch – NASA astronaut](insert link here)
  • [Artemis II mission](insert link here)
  • [Space exploration](insert link here)
  • [Mars exploration](insert link here)

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