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Why Is NASA Afraid of Apogee of Fear? (Update)

By Keith Cowing
January 22, 2012
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Why doesn’t NASA want us to see the first science fiction movie shot in space?, io9
“… while he was aboard the ISS, Garriott shot an eight-minute movie called Apogee of Fear, which he says is the first science fiction movie ever shot in space. And NASA won’t let us see that film. Why not? .. the light-hearted film may be too playful for NASA, Garriott surmises. Until NASA gives permission, Garriott can’t release his film — which is easily the best science fiction film ever made in space! — to the public. Or put it in the Smithsonian, which has requested a copy due to its historical importance.”
Keith’s update: I have seen a portion of this film. It is funny – and harmless. I am baffled as to why NASA flies SciFi toys like Buzz LightYear in space and openly cooperates with films such as “Transformers” and “Armageddon” – but they won’t allow Garriott to release “Apogee of Fear”. Once again we have evidence of a lack of any cohesive communications policy or process at NASA. They just make it up as they go – and in cases such as this, it shows.
Keith’s update: Apparently the problem stems from NASA JSC where the default answer from the Astronaut Office and JSC lawyers is always “no”. My understanding is that there will be some discussions in the coming days to discuss how this fun little SciFi flick can be shown to people – even if NASA JSC’s lawyers continue to try and stop it.
Curiously, the Astronaut Office and JSC Lawyers also look the other way when astronauts do product placement for books written by JSC employees – at no charge to the author – but totally at taxpayer’s expense (see “Product Placement on the ISS“).
NASA Relents: Apogee of Fear, First Sci-Fi Film Shot in Space, Will Be Released, Wired
“Now I am pleased to report that things have changed for the better. In response to a query to NASA on the subject, I received the following reply from Bob Jacobs, deputy for communications at NASA: NASA is working with Richard Garriott to facilitate the video’s release. While the project was not part of his original Space Act agreement with NASA, everyone involved had the best of intentions. We hope to resolve the remaining issues expeditiously, and we appreciate Richard’s cooperation and his ongoing efforts to get people excited about the future of space exploration.”
Keith’s 23 January update: According to a Twitter posting by Richard Garriott: Friday I received the signed authorization to release Apogee of Fear! Consulting with my crew mates now…”

Keith’s further update: Meanwhile Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) just tweeted “On the set of “The Big Bang Theory” watching the cast rehearse, I will be doing a cameo”. Why does the Astronaut Office and JSC Legal allow Massimino to appear on a TV show about nerds, SciFi, and awkward dating situations, but not let Richard Garriott show his SciFi film – which would probably cater to the exact same demographic as those who watch “The Big Bang Theory”. Makes no sense.
Apogee of Fear, Wikipedia
Keith’s 19 Jan update: NASA may want you to see it after all. I have learned NASA is working to address the obstacles that have delayed the release of “Apogee of Fear.” There are a couple of unresolved issues, but they are largely procedural and the agency wants to resolve them by week’s end.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.