Return to Space: Netflix Documentary Review – A new age of space travel

A New Age Of Space Travel

Sending man to the moon in 1969 remains one of the biggest events in humanity’s history. This marks the foundation for humanity’s ongoing aspiration to journey to the stars and beyond. Whether we like it or not, our time on this planet as a species is finite. If not before, the sun will eventually blow up (don’t worry, that’s still five billion years away) and with it, all life on Earth. So naturally, the next frontier in humanity’s future lies with inter-planetary exploration and journeying beyond the Milky Way galaxy.

For anyone who has followed space news and NASA in the past, they’ll be well aware of the struggle it’s been for those in the field to secure funding and keep the space program going. Ironically, this has led to companies like SpaceX popping up in 2002, with Elon Musk in the driving seat to try and propel humanity forward through help from the private sector, pumping billions of dollars into this project to get humans to Mars – and beyond.

This 2 hour documentary essentially serves as both a fly on the wall doc and an informative history lesson, diving into SpaceX’s journey up until 2021, including all the rocket launches and agonizing failures along the way. There are snippets from the archives here too, including a particularly infamous teary interview with Elon Musk in the wake of Armstrong and other astronauts slamming the decision to commercialize space travel.

From Oscar-winning directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo,” “The Rescue”) this documentary doesn’t just focus on Musk. Sure, he’s a big part of SpaceX’s vision coming to life but this film goes a lot deeper than that.

Understanding that raw, human element that’s so important for a documentary like this, Return to Space paints an intimate portrait of the SpaceX mission through the eyes of NASA astronaut veterans Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Not only do we get to know these two astronauts, we follow them onboard the ISS and back down to Earth again, seeing everything from space walks and delayed launches through to their emotional goodbyes with their families before leaving Earth.

Interestingly, we also see what happens in mission control too, with Elon Musk and the SpaceX team showing all the nervy, nail-biting moments as they try to send humans up into space again. Given this is the first time it’s been attempted from US soil since 2011, there’s a lot riding on the subsequent mission this focuses on, and you can really feel the tension during these segments.

Anyone interested in space travel or exploration should 100% check this documentary out. It’s certainly not going to win over any Elon Musk doubters, given the man’s eccentricity and quirkiness, but it is a very good film that shows how painstakingly difficult it actually is to send a rocket to space – and how many risks are involved.

Failure is a part of every day life but it’s what we do with those failures that shapes the difference between winners and losers. That’s actually the message SpaceX portrays here, with a pretty brutal montage of numerous rockets blowing up in quick succession. However, the team remain undeterred, pointing out that with every explosion and failed launch, it brings them more understanding over what went wrong – and closer to a coveted success.

Return to Space is a pretty inspirational film, although at over 2 hours long this is quite the endeavour (no pun intended) to embark on if you intend to sit down and watch this.

There are some pretty tense moments along the way, and the understated musical score is a big part of this. The interviews that take place all help to add an extra level of understanding, and are backed up by some simple but effective animations to show different parts of the launch process and the mission beyond.

If you even have a pinch of curiosity about space, exploration or where our species’ future with space travel could end up, Return to Space is a great documentary and well worth checking out.

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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