Mars Mission Doc Is A Fascinating Look At Mental Struggles NASA Astronauts Face On Extended Space Expeditions [Sundance]

Jan 29, 2023

So, what’s the hold up on humans going to Mars? Is it a technology issue? Is no one volunteering? Is it too dangerous? Is this all Elon Musk’s fault? Believe it or not, what’s stopping humans from going to Mars has little to do with any of those things. Sure, there are loads of physical dangers lurking around every proverbial corner, but if Ido Mizrahy’s “The Longest Goodbye” is anything to go by, the problem with humans getting to Mars is simply, and unsurprisingly, humans themselves.
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Thanks to the seemingly unfettered NASA access granted to Ido Mizrahy (“Gored”) and his team, “The Longest Goodbye” is a brilliant balance of equal parts family drama and tense thriller rolled up into a documentary about the rapidly approaching upcoming mission to Mars. The space documentary provides an engrossing and almost claustrophobic look into what the realities of an extended mission to Mars will cost the men and women that bravely go into the unknown. Yes, there’s radiation. Yes, there’s the physical effects of extended zero-gravity. But, the biggest, and most concerning hurdle will undoubtedly be keeping these astronauts sane as they embark on what might be the most socially isolating and psychologically testing mission in human history.
Filled with footage inside the International Space Station, NASA Mission Control, and astronaut’s homes, the documentary is a veritable treasure trove for space nerds. We’re seeing things we’ve been exposed to time and time again in fictional sci-fi films and television shows, but this time it’s the real deal. Mizrahy, the veteran documentarian, clearly understands how to condense hours of footage into an engrossing, coherent message. No section of the story overstays it’s welcome and all facets service the central message. However, the true heart of the project is in the first-hand interviews, diaries, and accounts from NASA employees, astronauts, and their families on the terrifying costs facing those that are being flung into uncharted space and those that are being left behind on Earth.
We’re brought up believing that anyone who becomes an astronaut is the ideal specimen of humanity – they’re mathematical geniuses, physically perfect, and mentally unshakable. “The Longest Goodbye” makes sure to paint the picture through first-hand accounts, interviews with spouses, and diary entries that, while impressive, these astronauts are painfully human with real problems and vulnerabilities. Most heartbreaking might be the account of former astronaut, Cady Coleman, and her six-month mission on the International Space Station while also trying to maintain a connection to her husband and ten-year-old son via limited, often glitchy video conferencing. How does one keep on parenting from space? How does one comfort a lonely spouse? Then imagine astronauts losing real-time communication completely for almost 3 years on the Mars mission – what effect might this have on the astronauts and their families? Even the most mentally sound could be broken by the time they return. This is the real hurdle of a long-mission astronaut and a point of tension that Mizrahy underscores time and time again.
The feature then explores ways in which NASA is attempting to innovate. This can be by gleaning pertinent information from events like the 2010 Chilean miner incident, in which NASA helped devise a system to keep the miner’s mental strength from collapsing over their 69 days being trapped underground. They’re also attempting to create AI companions, develop induced hibernation methods, and are setting up isolation simulations to test human mental boundaries. All of this to say that, despite being just ten years away from a potential mission to Mars, we are only scratching the surface of preparation, which makes the family fears and astronaut interviews shown throughout all the more terrifying.
Ultimately, Ido Mizrahy’s “The Longest Goodbye” is a fascinating reminder that humanity is rife with flaws and vulnerabilities, but also can be an inspiring community of innovation in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles. Is there a moment where everything clicks at the end and we’re seemingly on the right track? Only the film and time can answer that, but, as a whole, it expertly conveys what space exploration has always been rife with – a series of dangerous mountains that people must learn to scale and survive in real time. One mistake and you’re another hard lesson learned, but, if you keep surviving, that’s one giant leap for mankind. [B+]
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Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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