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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Science > Space > Apollo 8 (Spacecraft set)

Apollo 8: Leaving the Cradle (Spacecraft Films)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: B-     Main Programs: B



Apollo 8 was America’s first manned lunar orbit, which occurred on December 21, 1968.  Three men were aboard that shuttle and became the first human beings to ever leave the Earth’s atmosphere.  This all would occur almost one year before the actual landing on the moon and would be the ultimate test to see if a lunar landing would be possible.  If any mission secured that idea, it was Apollo 8! 


Fox is issuing DVD-only editions of NASA’s history and will go to the fullest extent of pulling together documented material and bringing them to life on DVD.  Their first installments include The Mighty Saturn’s (reviewed on this site) Project Gemini: A Bold Leap Forward (also on this site) and two Apollo missions 8 and 11.  They also plan on releasing Apollo 15, 16, and 17, with each being a 6-disc set. 


Apollo 8: Leaving the Cradle is broken down onto three discs.  Disc One contains three sections: Preparation, Moonport, and To The Moon.  Preparation reveals all the tests the needed to be done early on in order to secure a safe launch.  This includes the centrifuge tests, altitude chamber, and the actual walk taken from base to the launch site, a countdown demonstration, and the deluge test.  The deluge test shows how the watering system is used in order to protect certain hardware during the launch. 


Moonport covers the transport of the Apollo 8 vehicle to its final pad and there is also material here on certain operations and preparations for the men before launch.  To The Moon shows alternate angles of the launch sequence, which can be changed by using the ‘angle’ button on your remote in order to toggle from each perspective.  This is the most interaction section.  There are also various pad camera views as well as static shots from the air and the ground.  The splashdown is also covered here of the Apollo 8 shuttle.


Disc Two includes all the television transmissions from Apollo 8.  This disc is broken down by each transmission, which covers all six.  The first occurred on December 22nd 1968 and at this point the astronauts are about midway to their final destination.  There are certain views on Earth from this point, but most of this footage is hard to see.  The most exciting and memorable transmission occurs on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day as we finally get a view of the lunar surface as the astronauts are at their farthest distance. 


Disc Three shows all the 16mm footage that was taken from the spacecraft and shows footage of life aboard the ship.  Not only are inside shots shown, but also spectacular shots of the moon.  Only six of the magazines of film that were taken could be saved, the others were exposed. 


Each of the discs presents a different aspect of the overall Apollo 8 mission.  Also there are post-recorded audio files that have been placed onto the disc in order to gain some sense of what is going on almost like a commentary track.  There are also some onboard voice recordings that have survived and are also included. 


All of the footage is presented in a full-screen ratio that certainly shows all the degrading qualities that can be expected from this type of material.  Given its age and source, we cannot be too picky on what we are getting.  The audio is sounds more like a 3.1 configuration, which might sound better if switched strictly to stereo.  The sound is never really clean and delivers all the hiss and interference that is expected. 


Apollo 8: Leaving The Cradle may not be the most well-known mission since it did not exactly land on the moon, but during its time it was certainly an achievement that if it did not go right, who knows if we would have ever made it to the moon.  Certainly our race into space was documented with each detail recorded with great historical significance.  It’s a great thing having this material finally onto a format like DVD to keep.  This is certainly a set that all serious libraries and schools need!



-   Nate Goss


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