Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Man In Space

 "Hey kids! Do you want to see a color program about the history of space travel?"


"Do you want to see some humorous animations of what our American astronauts can expect from life in zero gravity!"


"Do you want to see a serious look at an actual space mission might entail?"


"Do you want to see known members of the Nazi party, well-fed and walking around freely thanks to Operation Paperclip?"

"Yea -- wait, what was that last one?"

Walt Disney at his desk
"Damn minorities."

Yes kids, tonight's nostalgic pick is "Man In Space" (Disney, 1955), a television program about space travel from a time before that existed. This was part of the Disney series of television specials back when the show was known as "Disneyland." Unlike a lot of the other Disneyland programs streaming on Disney+, someone had the foresight to upload the color version (even though it wouldn't have been seen in color during the original broadcast). It is divided into three segments: 

The first part of the program is a look at the development of rocket technology from ancient China (with a very brief and very racist segment) and gunpowder propulsion to the development of the modern liquid-fuel rocket technology. This bit is bookended by a discussion of rocket physics with Willy Ley, a German scientist who was not a member of the Nazi party.

Landing on the moon

Racist caricature of a Chinese man, circa 1955
Can you hear the music playing here?

The trajectory of a V2 rocket
Pictured: Actual science.

German (probably not a Nazi) scientist Willy Ley
German, but not a Nazi.

The second portion is a discussion of space medicine and the effects of outer space might have on a pioneer astronaut. I have to admit, this segment made me laugh (it has a lot of "Goofy" energy). This is mostly done with a cartoon narrated by known enthusiastic member of the German Nazi party and all-around human scumbag Heinz Haber (seriously, read up on the guy). 

Cartoon of a weightless man in space
Narrated by a Nazi. Seriously.

The third and final segment is a lavishly painted (but barely animated) cartoon about what the first mission to space might look like. Its… Ambitious to say the least. It does remarkably resemble a space shuttle mission from the 1980s-2000s, and is eerily accurate for predating those expeditions, but in retrospect it seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse (the mission doesn't really resemble the spacewalks before the space shuttle missions, yet the program predicts that they will preempt a moon mission). This last portion of the program is hosted by (supposedly reluctant) member of the Nazi party Werner von Braun (still an actual member of the Nazi party, though).

Werner von Braun, actual Nazi.
Pictured: Actual Nazi, Werner von Braun.

Spaceship rockets into orbit.
Short on animation, beautiful art, though.

Spacecraft in orbit.
Pictured: Not the space shuttle.

So, I'm torn on this one: On the one hand, this is a well-constructed, very informative, and absolutely prophetic vision of what mankind's first steps into space might (and in fact, did) look like. On the other hand, the cost of achieving this knowledge meant our government had to placate and cater to men associated with one of the most unapologetically evil regimes in recorded history (I suppose that's nothing new -- or past -- either). Of course, this is not at all brought up in the program, nor is there an explanatory placard at the start of the program explaining the "it was a different time" B.S. Was it the right call? I don't know, but it's enough to make me question whether or not I can recommend what should have been a slam-dunk "must-see."

"Man in Space" is currently streaming on Disney+, if you want to wrestle with morality.

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