Our First Visit To NASA Johnson Space Center

When Al first brought up the idea of doing a 'spiritual sequel' to For All Mankind, it's not like I needed a lot of coaxing. First off, FAM is a classic film that I adore, and I've worked with Al on his last two films and have had an absolute blast. So signing on for Above It All was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned.

This picture does not adequately convey the 1970s level of design infusing this place. It's definitely a time capsule. Photo: Aldrich

The first steps in putting the film into motion (pardon the pun) involved getting NASA's blessing. Through a series of steps with the good folks responsible for our nation's best return on our tax dollars, we've been lucky enough to be blessed with their cooperation. 

Our first visit occurred in early July 2016 -- the best time to visit NASA/Johnson Space Center, in my opinion. It's usually hovering around 100˚ with roughly 70% humidity. But since Al and I have spent plenty of time in Houston (and live in Texas anyway) it's not like we weren't used to it. 

Driving onto campus involves the usual bureaucratic dance of getting one's picture taken, badges issued, directions given... and then you're on the campus. I'd visited with my older son in January as part of a Cub Scout campout, so I knew a little of what to expect, but it was still very cool to be going in as part of our research. Al spent a good chunk of the '80s working on FAM so he was back home (save for the new construction). 

The campus itself is very much like Norman Mailer's description of 'an upscale community college with good landscaping.' It reminded me a lot of the University of Florida of my youth, when I would run all over the campus with my father's lab as home base. The interior hallways (see pic) really made me think of McCarty Hall of that time. Very cool -- I definitely felt at home, even though it was my first time there.

NASA ISS Imagery Manager Carlos Fontanot and Director Al Reinert  discussing NASA history at an off campus location. Photo: Aldrich

Our initial visit was just that -- an initial visit, a chance for us to get to know the Video and Archive staff, tell them about the project, and get them excited about it. You're not going to find more dedicated folks than the people who work at NASA. They believe in what the agency does, they believe in the mission, and they believe they're truly doing something to advance mankind as a species. It's not often you find people who take such pride in their work, and it's an honor to tell even a part of that story.