In 1986 we were all given a taste of what it was like to go to NASA’s SpaceCamp. Even though this movie was filmed at the facility in Huntsville, Alabama, the setting was Cape Kennedy. Andie Bergstrom (Kate Capeshaw) is a crack pilot, but keeps getting passed over to go on shuttle missions. She is ever the alternate, but never gets called to the Show. He husband, Zach (Tom Skerritt), is a NASA commander, and runs things from Ground Control. Ever since she saw John Glenn’s orbit pass over her farm back in 1962 when she was a tiny Southern belle, Andie promised herself that she would go up. When a new group of campers comes under her “command” at the camp, he does not realise it, but this will be her chance.
The campers are a motley mix of kids, mostly teens, with the exception of one very bright boy. Max (Joaquin Phoenix) is just about 10 or 11, and he has an I.Q. of 180, and he wishes for the world to be just like Star Wars, and that he was Luke Skywalker. The older kids have their own issues. Kevin Donaldson (Tate Donovan) could care less about even being there, and is at camp to please his rich parents. Kathryn Fairly (Lea Thompson) is all up for camp, has been studying NASA programs and diagrams and just about everything about the shuttle program, but thinks she should do everyone’s job, and tends to freeze up under pressure. Rudy Tyler (Larry B. Scott) has dreams of opening the first quick-service restaurant in space, but does not realise that his real strength is in engineering. Tish Ambrosei (Kelly Preston) wants to be an interstellar DJ, and is there to learn more about radio communications. Most likely she ended up in the SETI program ten years later. Of all these kids, Tish seems to be the only one who has her act together, despite her wild hair and make-up. Max has way too many issues for a kid his age, and when he befriends a robot, Jinx, that takes commands literally, that is when things really get interesting. Andie gives them these crew positions, Kevin, shuttle commander, Kathryn, pilot, Tish, communications, Rudy, engineering, and Max, mission specialist.
We see a montage of informational facts and snippets of the kids getting orientations on what will be expected of them, and why some of the safety precautions are put in place. We see the kids in simulations on various devices that astronauts train on to work in the Shuttle, or when unexpected dangers might occur. They do mission simulations in the Shuttle simulator, and this is when Kathryn tries to take on too much, and forgets her responsibility as pilot, then causing their mission to fail. Another failing happens when Kevin takes Kathryn on a date after hours, and Jinx tells Zach and Andie where they are. Kevin gets angry with Max, and tells him to get his head out of the clouds and to stay as far away from him as he can. Being just a kids, Max gets upset, and runs off. Jinx follows him, and hears Max’s wish to go into space, so he can be far from all those that are upsetting him. Jinx is going to make this happen, but it will be very dangerous. Max is Jinx’s friend, and Jinx will do what Max wishes.
Jinx arranges for everything to happen without Max’s knowledge. His team is chosen to be on Shuttle Atlantis during an engine firing test. The test happens, the fuel tank fills, and the only way to save the clueless team is to launch them. Shuttle Atlantis is not mission ready, and only has one tank of oxygen on it, which is not enough to get them to get them to the next window open to land at Edward’s AFB.
This is one great family film, and even though the technology has grown over the years, one can’t help but be impressed by the movie magic that was done with mattes and miniatures back in the mid 1980s. It might seem a little geeky to some people, but this movie was very impressive for its day, and still is, even if we have evolved both in entertainment and science since twenty-five years ago. This is a fun way to kick back with the kids. So put some oil in a two-quart pan, pop some corn the old-fashioned way, and let them live the dream. They might even consider wanting to go to SpaceCamp.
I give this film a Musing review of