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Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope
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Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope is a unique story that interweaves the heights of scientific achievement, the depths of a nations cruelty, the private grief of a boy who came of age during the Holocaust, and the public mourning of many nations in the aftermath of the Columbia Shuttle disaster. Combining historical and ethical inquiry, the film reaches across faiths and nationalities to tell a truly human story.
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One quibble: the program needs a better title. The rather generic "Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope" does little to alert the viewer that the narrative - while properly paying its respects to the entire, diverse crew - focuses on the moving personal story of Israeli fighter pilot-turned-astronaut Ilan Ramon (née Ilan Wolferman). With 135 total missions, US residents quickly turned blasé about each Shuttle blastoff, seeming only to pay attention when tragedy struck. But for Israel, Ramon's flight was a matter of great national pride, and his death a cause for great mourning.
But, while in the air, Ramon humbly grabs the stage to reveal his "mission within the mission" - showing a small Torah scroll he has carried into space. It's the tale of this scroll - how it survived the horrors of a concentration camp, how its possessor grew up to be one of Israel's top scientists, and how it came into Ramon's hands - that form the emotional core of the film.
It is a pure delight that the producers thought so much of this story that they captured it on film. Once again, we have Tom Hanks to thank for his abiding love of space exploration. Hanks is the executive producer here. His Playtone production company presents the program in conjunction with Herzog & Company/HCO and West Street Productions. It's a winning partnership. Those names brought luminaries such as Shimon Peres into the project. Peres' regal, eloquent presence is the cap on this well-told story.
Though the circumstances of the movie and book I mention are vastly different, the underlying meaning in both is one we all seek in our lives. It is captured beautifully by Mr. Milligan in his extraoridinary memoir . . . no matter what suffering is endured, we all can make it to a better day if keep trying and remember we are here to save one another, and it is in that fight forward that we all truly live. You can see the same spirit through the people in this movie honoring the memory of those lost by spreading their message.
The one message that was throughout the movie was the team spirit, the acknowledgement of the danger, and the acceptance of such from the family.
I would recommend this movie for ANYONE wanting the history of the shuttle program.