Burbank,CA- October 1, 2012 - In celebration of the arrival of the space shuttle Endeavour to Los Angeles and the safe landing of the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) last month, KCET, the nation's largest independent public television station, will air a series of space-themed documentaries throughout the month of October.
To kick off the programming, KCET presents a special encore presentation of JPL's documentary trilogy, Beginnings of the Space Age, which premiered exclusively on KCET last November. The groundbreaking explores the intriguing characters and pivotal events that helped establish JPL as the world's leading center for robotic exploration of the solar system and beyond. Produced, written and directed by JPL's Blaine Baggett, a national Emmy®
award-winning documentarian, the three-part series leads viewers on a dramatic journey into America's history of space exploration that begins on the trails of the Pasadena Arroyo, launches the United States into Earth orbit, touches the moon before the Apollo astronauts, and accomplishes the first-ever visit to another planet.
In addition, KCET will air the BBC documentary, The Space Shuttle: A Horizon Guide, which chronicles America's 30-year history of the space shuttle program.
Beginning on Monday, Oct. 8 at 9 p.m. The American Rocketeer tells the controversial story of aviation engineer Frank Malina, whose fundamental role in the evolution of American rocketry is largely forgotten. Malina, along with a motley crew of amateur rocket enthusiasts and fellow California Institute of Technology students, conducted the first stand-up rocket engine test on Halloween in 1936 in the Pasadena Arroyo. On this 76th anniversary of those tests, the 90-minute, intensely personal documentary explores the complexities of Malina's life and the wide ranging ramifications his work had on Caltech and the nation. At its core, this film tells the story of how Malina's idealism put him on a collision course with the world.
Then on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. Explorer 1 is the second episode of Beginnings of the Space Age, and reveals how JPL and the U.S. Army could have been the first to place a satellite into Earth orbit, had they only been given the chance. That opportunity was lost when the Eisenhower administration, unsure of what the Soviet reaction would be to a satellite launched (in part) by the U.S. Army military, assigned the project to a civilian-led program called Vanguard. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in October 1957, shocking the world and creating the "Race for Space" in the midst of the Cold War. Only after the Vanguard rocket exploded on the launch pad were JPL and the U.S. Army given its chance. The result was Explorer 1, the first successful U.S. satellite, which also achieved the first space science results.
Directly following Explorer I at 10 p.m. is Destination Moon,the third in the trio of documentaries about the beginnings of the space age. It documents JPL's ambitious plan to beat the Soviet Union in robotic space exploration by reaching not only for the moon, but also the inner planets. But as the hour-long episode documents, JPL would be humbled by a series of failures in attempting to merely hit the moon, let alone visit other planets. "We didn't know what we were doing," one veteran JPL engineer confides, "and there was no one around to tell us." This film shows how JPL did learn to go to the moon and to the planet Venus, giving the United States its first "First in Space."
Finally, on Friday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m., The Space Shuttle: A Horizon Guide looks at America's career in space. In 2011, after more than 30 years of service, America's space shuttle took to the skies for the last time. Its story has been characterized by incredible triumphs, but blighted by devastating tragedies - and the BBC and Horizon have chronicled every step of its career. This unique and poignant "Horizon Guide" brings together coverage from three decades of programs to present a biography of the shuttle and to ask what its legacy will be. Will it be remembered as an impressive chapter in human space exploration, or as a fatally flawed white elephant?
This program repeats later in the evening at 10 p.m.
On-air, online and in the community, KCET plays a vital role in the cultural and educational enrichment of Southern and Central California. KCET offers a wide range of award-winning local programming as well as the finest public television programs from around the world. KCET currently produces the Emmy®, duPont-Columbia and Peabody Award-winning SoCal Connected, a hard-hitting prime-time weekly television news program that examines the issues and people of Southern California. Throughout its 48-year history, KCET has won hundreds of major awards for its local and regional news and public affairs programming, its national drama and documentary productions, its quality educational family and children's programs, its outreach and community services and its website, kcet.org. KCET is a donor-supported community institution. For additional information about KCET productions, web-exclusive content, programming schedules and community events, please visit kcet.org.
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