The first Russian module (below) was called Zarya, which means 'sunrise.' It was mated to the first American module, Unity, in December 1998. Photo credit: NASA.


In December 1998, the United States and Russia mated two enormous satellites, called Zarya and Unity, together in Earth orbit. They became the cornerstone of what is today the most complex piece of machinery in human history: the International Space Station. Thirteen other nations joined the consortium to build and operate it.

In December 2018, all of these nations intend to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their joint creation.

The film Above It All will be the cornerstone of that celebration. 

Astronaut Bob Cabana (left) and Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev were the first people to enter the embryonic station in December 1998. Photo credit: NASA.




The spirit we hope to engage and reflect with this film was kindled half-a-century ago, at the height of the Cold War and the Space Race, when U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts began attending one another’s funerals.

This somber gesture of mutual respect not only acknowledged the risks those early space explorers shared, it revealed a shared belief in the value and meaning of space exploration itself. That belief spread and strengthened over the years into a vision that transcends geopolitics and is made manifest by the International Space Station, an orbiting protoype for worldwide cooperation. It was built off-planet from intricate pieces that were never joined together before except in the minds of people who shared the vision, earthly people.

 U.S. astronaut Robert Curbeam (left) and Swedish Astronaut Christer Fuglesang rewire the Station's electrical system in December 2006. The land mass below is New Zealand. Photo credit: NASA.

Since the International Space Station was first imagined there have been four American and three Russian presidents. The legislatures of both countries have seen major turnover of their majorities and national priorities. Each of the other thirteen partner nations have experienced similar changes and reversals in their respective governments. Some of these governments have had serious disagreements with each other. There have been wars and horrors across the planet. 

The Space Station has soared above it all, a powerful example of human cooperation despite the divisions that plague our world.

During Expedition 20, all five ISS partner agencies were represented together on board the Station for the first time. Pictured here, from left to right, is Russian Federal Space Agency Cosmonaut Roman Romanenko; Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata; European astronaut Frank De Winne; NASA astronaut Michael Barratt; Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Astronaut Bob Thirsk; NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Photo: NASA

The ISS has been continually inhabited for nearly twenty years by more than 220 people from over 20 nations. Five different space agencies from the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada came together to build the ISS over the course of more than 100 spaceflights. 

It is the model for the future of human space exploration, as well as a reason to believe we can solve intractable problems on Earth. 

Seven astronauts from Space Shuttle Endeavor (in blue shirts) join the ISS crew for a group portrait in the Japanese module Kibo. It was the first time four women were in orbit together. Photo credit: NASA

Above It All will be composed visually of film and video imagery found in the various archives of participating countries. There are thousands of hours of such material, demanding a long and diligent, labor-intensive research effort.

The film's narrative voice will be drawn entirely from interviews with the engineers, astronauts, and cosmonauts who conceived and built and lived aboard the station. These interviews will fully reflect the cultural and geographic diversity of the people and nations involved, and thus require considerable travel.

The voices and images together will tell the story of a great international enterprise, building trust between global rivals in pursuit of a shared dream. As the station expands more countries add pieces and send their citizens to live up there—in outer space—sharing the danger while sailing above the wondrous planet they also share.

Space Shuttle Endeavor docked with the completed ISS during STS-134, seen from the departing Soyuz TMA-20 on May 23, 2011. Photo credit: NASA.

The achievement is profound and inspiring and so too should be the film.