Space may be the final frontier, but, for those without the wherewithal to become an astronaut or the billions required to fund their own explorations, it’s pretty much unreachable. That may seem like a dour reality, but those enamored by the vast void beyond the Earth can easily take recourse in the many fascinating documentaries that have been made about space exploration in recent years.
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From man’s first small steps toward the infinite to conspiracies regarding ancient peoples and their run-ins with beings from outer spheres, every aspect of space exploration is exceedingly well documented and easily accessible.
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Updated on April 14th, 2022 by Tanner Fox: From stargazing on clear nights to Star Wars in crowded theaters, the vastness of space has for decades, if not centuries, been one of man’s most prominent fixations. Captivating the minds of would-be explorers and titillating sci-fi pop culture enthusiasts, just about everyone has at some point considered what it might be like to traverse the infinite.
While true space exploration is something to which one must devote a lifetime, Netflix can, for the ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of humans who will never reach space, be a great alternative. There’s actually a surprisingly solid stockpile of space-related programming on the streaming service.
The Universe (2009)
To paraphrase Carl Sagan, the universe is made up of billions and billions of stars. Even with modern technology, we’ve barely scraped the surface of what the vastness of outer space has in store for us. The Universe tries to help make some determinations.
Combining scientific images, animation, and the voices of experts, The Universe gives viewers a chance to see what space is like beyond the solar system and Milky Way. Netflix carries the first season of this series that explores our “neighborhood” and some of what is beyond.
NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse (2018)
Though Black Hole Apocalypse could be the name of a rock band, it’s the title of a Nova documentary on the enormous power of black holes. Astrophysicists detail some of their latest revelations concerning these galactic monsters. Along the way, they discuss how black holes have shaped not only the universe, but the Earth itself.
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Among the theories these scientists delve into is how supermassive black holes shaped the human race and became a potential reason for the first major species extinction. Via detailed CGI, viewers enter a black hole to see what’s inside.
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo (2017)
Fans of Apollo 13 should enjoy this documentary that details the lives of the mission control experts who were involved in the Apollo missions. When released, Mission Control coincided with the restoration of the space these engineers and scientists used at the Houston Space Center.
The documentary discusses the fight controllers and operators behind the critical lunar missions. Among those talked about are Gene Kranz and Glynn Lunney, the flight directors who helped guide Apollo 13 back to Earth. Mission Control is a documentary for those interested in the unsung heroes who helped to make the most tremendous leaps in the history of space exploration.
The Mars Generation (2017)
Particularly piquant and watchable as climate change becomes more of a reality, The Mars Generation explores the potential for developing our neighboring planet into a secondary homeworld for humanity.
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Depicting the day-to-day struggles of a group of young scientists and engineers dedicated to our Martian future, the documentary shows how far we have yet to go before the planet is a viable substitute for the earthly perfection we already possess, but ultimately presents the future as bright and full of possibility.
The Last Man On the Moon (2014)
A biographical documentary that regales the life of Gene Cernan, the eleventh person to set foot on the moon. Though more of a footnote in aerospace history than, say, Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, Cernan’s story is still a stirring one, and The Last Man On The Moon endeavors to salvage the legacies of those who came after those first steps were taken.
Maybe the best documentary on the subjective experience of setting foot on a world not our own, The Last Man On the Moon is informative, heartfelt, and manages to be a rousing galactic adventure in its own right.
The Most Unknown (2018)
What lies beyond the boundaries of the observable universe? Are we alone? If so, how did life on Earth begin? These are heavy, difficult questions with which the scientific community has grappled for decades, if not centuries.
Netflix’s 2018 documentary The Most Unknown sees a team of astrophysicists attempt to piece together answers to these and other questions about space and the infinite. While it has little to do with space travel and more practical phenomena, viewers who enjoy heady philosophical debate will absolutely want to give this thoughtful, eye-opening offering a watch.
The Wonderful: Stories From The Space Station (2021)
Most of us would like to believe that space exploration is a grand adventure full of wonder and mystery. While that’s true to an extent, much of it is spent in extremely cramped and potentially dangerous conditions. The views may be life-changing, but there’s quite a bit to life on the International Space Station that regular people don’t consider.
This 2021 Netflix documentary focuses on the awesome and not-so-awesome realities of living on the ISS. It’s an interesting feature that will clue viewers into the rigors of life in Earth’s orbit.
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About The Author
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Rocco is a Chicago-based writer, editor, and programmer. An avid devotee of all things weird and outrageous, he’s most in his wheelhouse discussing cult oddities and horror classics. Follow him on Instagram: @rosemarys_gayby
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