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When one looks back on the technology available in 1969, it becomes even more evident that putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth was one of the most miraculous feats to be accomplished during the twentieth century. Having been a small child at the time when man first landed on the moon, I have always been fascinated by space flight and America’s space program. WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: THE NASA MISSIONS ($70) is a fascinating six-part Discovery Channel Series narrated by Gary Sinise that traces the history of America’s space program.

Ordinary Supermen looks at the very first astronauts and developing the technological know-how for the Mercury program to launch a man into space. Friends And Rivals moves the program onto the Gemini missions, which served as proof of concept of for the procedures necessary to land men on the moon and then return them safely to Earth. Landing The Eagle relives the tragedy and the triumph of the Apollo program, which culminates with America’s winning of the space race and achieving President Kennedy’s goal by landing a man on the moon before the end of the 1960’s. The Explorers looks at the ingenuity employed for the Apollo 13 mission in returning the crippled spacecraft back to Earth, as well as joyriding on the moon in the lunar rover, the final moon mission and the next phase of space exploration- Skylab. The Shuttle takes America’s space program to the next phase- a reusable craft to take astronauts to orbital missions to deliver large payloads, but space travel is still dangerous and filled with peril, as the final Challenger mission will attest. Home In Space catches the timeline up to the present, looking at deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station and plans to take man back to the moon, then to Mars and beyond.

Image Entertainment and The Discovery Channel has made the episodes that comprise WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: THE NASA MISSIONS available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080i presentations are very good for this type of mixed media production. Utilizing NASA archival footage from 35mm and 16mm sources, there are certain inconsistencies to the presentations. Of course, the hi-def footage always looks best and produces the sharpest images. Color reproduction is very good, but a bit variable, considering the very nature of the materials utilized. However, all things considered, the footage never fails to impress, especially the outer space geek inside me.

The episodes that comprise WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: THE NASA MISSIONS are presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtracks. Since the episodes are of a documentary nature, the sound design is mostly limited to narration, and interviewees speaking- so much of the sound is localized front and center. Space mission footage has been augmented to present an enveloping quality. Music has a good sense of presence and has been spread through the outlying channels. Fidelity isn’t dramatic, since it is offered at a lower bit rate than a theatrical feature, but is just fine for this type of documentary program. An English Dolby Surround track has also been provided, as have English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as some nice extra features. Disc four offers a series of Original NASA Films that include: Freedom 7, Friendship 7: John Glenn, Proud Conquest: Gemini VII & VI, Apollo 8 Debrief and The Flight Of Apollo 11 all run approximately a half hour, except Friendship 7, which is double that length. Other supplements include various NASA Film Highlights, Interviews From NASA Archives and Mission Clips.

WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: THE NASA MISSIONS is one of the best series to trace the history of the American space program. The hi-def presentations are solid and certain to please. If you are a outer space buff, then you’ll want to check out WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: THE NASA MISSIONS on Blu-ray.



When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (4-Disc Set) [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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