Inspire Film Festival in The Woodlands Showcased NASA Apollo Era

By: Rachel Norton
| Published 02/20/2020


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Last week’s Inspire Film Festival showcased two documentaries pertaining to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Apollo era. Both films highlight the determination of many, and the feats they accomplished in our own backyard, the city of Houston.

Apollo 11
Directed by Todd Douglas Miller

“A cinematic event fifty years in the making. Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names. Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.”

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
Directed by David Fairhead

“At the heart of the remarkable Apollo space program was the team who worked in mission control. They were born against a backdrop of economic turmoil and global conflict. Some came from a rural lifestyle unchanged since the 19th century, while others grew up in a gritty, blue-collar America of mines and smoke stacks. They ranged from students straight out of college, to soldiers toughened by military service. Yet, from such ordinary beginnings, an extraordinary team was born. They set out on what JFK called, “the most hazardous, dangerous, and greatest adventure upon which mankind has ever embarked.” Through the team’s testimony and the supporting voices of Apollo astronauts and modern NASA flight directors, “MISSION CONTROL” explores their journey from the faltering start of the program to the Mercury and Gemini missions, and then the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire and the glories of the Moon landings.”

Following the showing of Mission Control, a panel of current and former NASA Mission Control Flight Directors and spacecraft systems experts took the stage: Bill Reeves, Milt Heflin, Bill Moon, and Jeff Hanley. Combined, they have a total of 143 years of experience.

Bill Reeves retired from NASA after 34 years. He worked as Flight Controller within the Lunar Module Systems Branch, Electrical and Instrumentation Systems Section, as well as Manager of Space Shuttle/Space Station Integration. Later in his career he became the NASA Space Shuttle Flight Director.

Milt Heflin’s co-written book, Go Flight! The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, was the inspiration behind the film. Milt spent 47 year at NASA where he worked as the Lead Recovery Engineer (embarked on the primary recovery ship for Apollo 16, Apollo 17, Skylab 2, Skylab 3, Skylab 4, and the Apollo-Soyuz Missions) as well Space Shuttle Flight Director for 20 missions, and Lead Flight Director for seven. He later served as Chief of the Flight Director Office.

As the first minority to join Mission Control, Bill Moon spent 37 years at NASA. He worked with the EECOM console (Electrical Environmental Communications) for Apollos 15 through 17. Moon Remained with Mission Control team early in the Space Shuttle era, and was part of the launch team for the historic flight of STS-1.

Jeff Hanley joined NASA for 25 years. After working as Chief of the Flight Director Office, he became the Program Manager for the Constellation Program, which focused on going to the moon, mars and beyond before it was eventually canceled. He is now with the Aerospace Corporation working in human exploration with hopes to get back to the moon once again.

The men discussed deciding factors that influenced them to join NASA, what it takes to make or break a flight control team, the difference between technology then versus now, advice for future engineers, and more.

When asked if the gravity of what he helped accomplish has set in, Moon replied that it’s beginning to a bit more due to the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, which took place last July.

“When we were doing it, it was our job,” he said. “We didn’t think about it, we didn’t have time to think about it because we’d have one mission and go right into the next one … but now we begin to appreciate what we did.”

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