In the 1970s, children everywhere dreamed of becoming astronauts. These real-life heroes set an example through personal sacrifice and bravery.
One Apollo mission was cancelled, leaving its Saturn rocket sitting idle in a museum in Houston. Apollo 18 sheds light on why, and it wasn’t budget constraints at play.
Ben Anderson (Warren Christie), Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen) and John Grey (Ryan Robbins from “Sanctuary”) embark on an unclassified mission to the moon over Christmas holidays, unaware that help may be a quarter-million miles away or that their lives could be threatened by an alien creature invading its surface.
Even though their film is fiction, the filmmakers did use authentic details from Apollo program to invoke Willing Suspension of Disbelief among audiences. For instance, actors donned actual NASA spacesuits as props. Furthermore, consultation was made with an actual Apollo flight director to make their scenes as realistic as possible.
The film also makes an effective case for human survival instinct in zero gravity environments, showing us that when faced with an emergency situation it is best to band together to find solutions together rather than individually relying on brainpower alone to find ways to survive. This runs counter to Hollywood narratives depicting astronauts as brainiacs incapable of thinking for themselves.
One of the movie’s more intriguing subplots involves Harrison Schmitt. Schmitt was a professional geologist chosen by NASA primarily due to his academic and research capabilities rather than piloting ability, however as soon as it became evident that Apollo moonlandings would come to an end, he made moves to fly on one final mission – Apollo 17 being its final mission he ultimately joined!
Initial plans called for Apollo 18 and 19 to follow Skylab missions; however, due to funding being diverted elsewhere. Both missions were ultimately cancelled.
Apollo 18’s original mission objective was to visit Copernicus Crater and Hyginus Rille on the Moon as it is thought these sites may provide key insight into lunar volcanic history as well as potential evidence of tectonic activity.
Many individuals were involved with the real Apollo missions, including backup command module pilot Donn Eisele and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell whose names can be seen inscribed on the wall at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo/Saturn V Center; there is even a replica of Apollo 15’s Lunar Module displayed.
Most people associate the Apollo program with Neil Armstrong’s first steps onto the moon during Apollo 11 or with Buzz Aldrin’s harrowing experience in Apollo 13. What many don’t know, however, is that there were actually two additional Apollo missions never completed: 18 and 19. NASA decided instead to use one of their Saturn V rockets for Skylab launch instead and cancelled these two Apollo missions instead.
Apollo 18 would have explored the lunar far side and Copernicus Crater, led by Richard Gordon Jr. with Vance Brand and Harrison Schmitt as crewmembers; Schmitt was later assigned to Apollo 17 for Taurus-Littrow exploration – becoming the only scientist ever to conduct actual lunar surface research during that mission.
Once Apollo 18 had concluded, its next scheduled missions were Apollo 19 and 20. Unfortunately, when Skylab space station missions were cancelled, funding for those missions was pulled as well – effectively cancelling both Apollo 18 and 19. However, these missions remain referenced historically, and their command modules and lunar modules have been preserved and displayed for public view.
Ben Anderson (Warren Christie of “Alphas”), Nate Walker (Lloyd Owen), and John Grey(Ryan Robbins from “Sanctuary”) are selected to spend their Christmas holidays on an official mission to the moon – to collect samples from its far side and volcanic regions – which will take samples back for analysis by NASA scientists back home. The movie does a good job depicting their rigorous training regime during this journey to outer space.
Even though the film falls short in terms of accuracy, it does offer plenty of history behind its narrative and proves found footage can work when handled appropriately. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning about Apollo program history or just looking for an enjoyable science fiction thriller.
As an added resource on the topic, my Cosmic Log book club selection for this month is James Michener’s 1982 novel which follows an Apollo 18 mission.
When most people think of moon landings, they typically think of Neil Armstrong’s historic steps onto the lunar surface during Apollo 11 or the terrifying journey aboard Apollo 13. But there was another mission which never made it; one such mission being Apollo 18. This movie takes a look at Apollo 18 and other lost missions which never took off – including ones which never actually launched themselves at all!
The film uses found footage style presentation with real NASA movie footage mixed with new studio-shot footage with actors and special effects, telling a tale about a 1970s moon voyage that never took place due to budgetary concerns and safety precautions – like many planned missions before them, unfortunately this mission too never went ahead due to cancellation.
As public distrust in US government increased alongside Watergate scandal, congress began withdrawing funding for Apollo 13 missions before cancelling Apollos 18, 19 and 20.
Although these missions were ultimately cancelled, their objectives were still accomplished. Apollo 18’s astronauts were assigned the task of placing detectors that would alert government of any ICBM attacks from Soviet Russia; additionally they performed geological work at Copernicus crater; home to an active volcanic system where its lava flows might help scientists better comprehend how the Moon formed.
Finally, astronauts were charged with conducting seismic profiling by placing geophones and then activating them to analyze any resulting seismic waves emitted by them. This data would give scientists a deeper insight into Moon’s subsurface structures.
While all of these experiments were essential, one of the key reasons that the crew was cancelled may have been safety concerns. Initially, astronauts would travel in two modules: command module (CM) and Lunar Module (LM). Once in lunar orbit, the Lunar Module would be detached and dropped onto its surface; from here astronauts would explore lunar environments, set experiments, take photographs, collect rock samples before returning to CM for return trip back home.
The Final Mission
Apollo 18’s crew is sent back to the Moon with the goal of setting detectors that will alert the United States of any impending Soviet ICBM attacks, but their mission becomes much darker when alien creatures from previous landings return and cause havoc on a far greater scale than anticipated. Apollo 18 is, at heart, a horror flick in which astronauts find themselves isolated from any form of aid while battle cryptic yet violent crater creatures on an alien world.
This movie was constructed using 84 hours of actual footage from the mission, which was uploaded to the internet and presented as found footage. This included pre-launch preparations, camera angles inside the lunar module and handheld cameras used by astronauts during lunar surface excursions. These clips were combined with fake period interviews and stock NASA footage to produce a sci-fi horror flick similar to The Blair Witch Project which first made popular this genre over 10 years ago.
Contrary to most films in this genre, this one actually utilizes a full-scale Saturn V rocket for Apollo 18–but not initially intended. Instead, its command and service modules as well as lunar module were originally utilized during an earlier mission called Apollo 15 with Richard Gordon Jr. serving as commander, Vance D. Brand as command module pilot, Harrison Schmitt as trained moonwalker geologist, and Vance D. Brand as command module pilot; Schroter’s Valley in February 1972 had been planned as their landing site; however budget cuts due to Schmitt moving over to Apollo 17 officially cancelled both missions along with 20.
Not only would the crew explore the surface of a crater, they would conduct various experiments such as measuring the moon’s magnetic field, analyzing seismic waves to gain more understanding about subsurface structures, and studying trace gases for clues to its origins. Furthermore, they planned on using their lunar module to conduct surface tests of new engines before returning samples back home for further study.
Going to the Moon was an enormous endeavor that required immense government funding and support, yet public enthusiasm began to decrease after initial successes of Apollo 18-19-20 were achieved. Due to intense involvement in Vietnam War and Strategic Arms Limitations Talks negotiations at that time, justifying spending huge sums of money for space exploration was no longer plausible; eventually Apollo 18 and 19 were cancelled along with any follow up missions such as Apollo 21-22 that may have been planned in 1969.