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When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (Blu-ray Review)

2 Nov, 2008 By: John Gaudiosi

When We Left Earth

$49.98 four-DVD set, $69.98 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Narrated by Gary Sinise.

One of the great things about Blu-ray’s high-definition capabilities is that future generations of students studying America’s exploration of space will have the brilliant Blu-ray audio (DTS HD 5.1 surround sound) and video (1080p 1.78:1) “you are there” experience of When We Left Earth.

This six-episode miniseries, which originally aired on Discovery HD, documents the history of U.S.-crewed space flights over the past five decades. The series begins with the Mercury and Gemini programs and then traces the Apollo program and its spinoffs — Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The series culminates with the Space Shuttle program and follows the Hubble Space Telescope and the assembly of the International Space Station.

Actor Gary Sinise (Apollo 13) narrates the documentary, but it’s the gorgeous visuals that speak volumes. For the first time outside of an Imax theater, viewers can get a sense of what the first-hand experience was like for the past and current pioneers of space exploration.

Discovery had unprecedented access to NASA’s cold-storage vaults and invested its own money into HD video and audio transfers of more than 100 hours of archival footage. While all of that footage was donated to NASA for future use, Discovery was able to take what it wanted to create When We Left Earth. The new footage puts viewers on the actual spacecraft, which adds a new sense of drama to the documentary.

Beyond the breathtaking visuals, what defines this series as the perfect educational tool moving forward is the historic line-up of interviews done exclusively for this series.

This four-disc set comes packed with the informative documentary series, as well as four hours of footage not seen on TV. A standout is the extended interview with Neil Armstrong, who rarely sits for such candid conversations.

The collection also has a 14-page booklet featuring a timeline of major NASA events.

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