Star Player in Lunar Drama: The Dish
Here’s something the Americans left out
of the first moon landing, and something to enliven classrooms
when the lunar event is discussed while studying space missions.
Directed by Aussie, Bob Sitch, The Dish is a fact-based
drama about the Australians who played a key role in the first
manned lunar mission. Since the United States faces the moon for
only part of the day, NASA needed help in piloting Apollo 11 along
its astral route and broadcasting the images it collected back
to earth. The only satellite in the Eastern Hemisphere that could
handle such a task was the size of a football field and located
in a sheep meadow outside of the tiny city of Parkes, Australia.
The movie tells the story of the people
who tended this satellite and accomplished the mission. While
somewhat floored by the honor, they go about their job in a laid-back
way, led by the calm Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill). Among them is an
American NASA by-the-book representative, Al Burnett (Patrick
Warburton—“Puddy” on Seinfeld), who ultimately comes to respect
the working ways of the Aussie team. In town, however, the residents
run around so excited at their new importance that they unwittingly
almost destroy the mission.
The residents in Parkes are a mix of quirky
and endearing types. The mayor and his wife, among many others,
are contrasted throughout the movie with the quiet team manning
the dish. Computer failure and windy weather also threaten to
destroy the mission, which would leave the world without lunar
images. In the end, teamwork wins, and when the final frames show
the actual moon walk footage, you feel like rooting for the crews
up there and down under.
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