On this day in film history, Warner Bros. Studios released Space Cowboys, a space disaster film that was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood (who also starred in the picture). The film follows four mostly-retired ex test pilots, “Hawk” (Tommy Lee Jones), Frank (Clint Eastwood), “Tank” (James Garner) and Jerry (Donald Sutherland) as they are forced to come to NASA to help rescue the Russian IKON satellite before it falls out of orbit.
There is a great deal of tension between the older pilots, who learned everything they knew before computers were common, and the younger astronauts, who believe they know better BECAUSE they were able to learn from computers (among other reasons). Eventually, they learn to work together and are launched into space to rescue the satellite.
Of course, things quickly become complicated when they arrive at the satellite and discover that it’s NOT a communications satellite at all, it was actually a disguised space platform for six nuclear missiles (that will automatically launch at pre-determined targets if the satellite falls below a certain range, THAT’S why the Russians needed it to be rescued). The plan is revised to send the missile off into deep space, but before that can safely happen, one of the younger astronauts (acting on different orders), attempts to stabilize the orbit on his own and instead sends the satellite careening out of control, seriously injuring the other young astronaut and leaving the older pilots in charge. The satellite is barely brought under control in time, but now there’s another problem. The only way to launch IKON into deep space now is if someone manually controls it (meaning someone has to go on a suicide mission). Hawk (who was diagnosed with cancer before the launch), volunteers to go as he hopes to make it to the Moon before he dies. The satellite is safely launched away and (after improvising more than a little bit), the shuttle safely lands with the other astronauts on board. And as it turns out, Hawk really did make it to the Moon!
Space Cowboys isn’t the greatest movie ever made, but it is a lot of fun to watch (the rivalry between the older and younger astronauts is really great).
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*poster image is the property of Warner Bros. Studios