'For All Mankind' is less about space and more about politics as nations fight for supremacy in the final frontier

The much-anticipated space drama, set in an alternative history, is more about US wanting to be seen as Soviet Union's equal than anything else


                            'For All Mankind' is less about space and more about politics as nations fight for supremacy in the final frontier

The race to the moon on Apple TV+ show 'For All Mankind' is less about the evolution of space research and more about a bratty US playing spoilsport and making it all about itself.

The first three episodes of the show explore an alternative past where Neil Armstrong was not the first man to land on the moon. In fact, it was not even an American. It was the Soviet Union that accomplished the feat on June 26, 1969, and the first astronaut on the moon was Alexei Leonov. 

Apollo 11, the US the mission that was supposed to get the first human to the moon, is late by just a few days and the US president at the time, Richard Nixon, is not happy. He is worried about being the president on whose watch the dream to be the first to land on the moon died, and so the American intelligence agencies are sent scrambling to find someone to blame.

In the course of events, we learn that NASA could've achieved this feat a month before the Soviet Union, had Apollo 10, which was supposed to be a trial run to check if everything was in place for Apollo 11, had just landed on the moon instead of aborting eight miles away from the moon's surface.

The director of NASA, Dr Wenher Von Braun (Colm Feore), cites that the spacecraft that Edward Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) and Gordon 'Gordo' Stevens (Michael Dorman) were in was heavier and was also running low on fuel. 

So, the government decides to make sure that Apollo 11 is successful and give NASA an ultimatum. Either Apollo 11 does a successful landing or funds for future research and mission runs get scrapped.

Well, when has the US playing dirty ever surprised us? Such moves are what makes this supposed space drama a perfect stage for political oneupmanship more than anything else.

Is it interesting? Sure. The show makes for an entertaining watch but once you begin to peel the layers off, there is not much that is impressive. At least, not yet! 

A still of Jeff Branson as Neil Armstrong in 'For All Mankind'. (Source: Apple TV+)

So Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin do land on the moon, but they are the silver medallists at this point. So they are not of much interest to the people, or the government.

The Soviet Union also has another mission right around the time that the US has planned its Apollo 12 run.

While covertly looking into what the Soviet Union is really up to, the US government comes across thematics that point towards the Soviet Union planning a military base on the moon. 

Of course, the president demands that the US have one of his own. And, as outrageous as it sounds, NASA begins work on this.

Director Von Braun doesn't agree to the political interference in NASA so he needs to be removed. And America, which knew about him being a German who survived Hitler by working with him instead of against, decides to make one particular operation accessible to the Congress called Operation Paperclip. The files have pictures of Von Braun with Hitler himself and there is also the fact that Von Braun's rocket V2 became a weapon that destroyed many lives in London. All of this is made public, and he loses his position.

NASA also begins preliminary work on the lunar military base but before they could take any substantial step in the direction, the Soviet Union throws another curveball. 

The mission that was planned for around the same time as Apollo 12 was not for reconnaissance but an attempt at making another record. The Soviet Union now becomes the first country to have a woman astronaut, Anastasia Belikova, land on the moon.

Of course, there is more scrambling on the US side to explain to Nixon why the US fell behind, yet again.

That's when Nixon decides to put a temporary stop to the military base in space and pushes NASA to train American women who are equipped to land on the moon as soon as possible. His people also have a side note for astronaut office head Deke Slayton (Chris Bauer). Nixon would prefer that a woman who is blonde land on the moon.

So, yet again, in an attempt to not fall behind the Soviet Union, and also to improve Nixon's poll numbers among women, we see NASA chose a group of women who used to be a part of an experimental project known as Mercury 13. These women are trained pilots and all they require is to learn the science behind being an astronaut. 

Now, let's put things in perspective. The science of it, the flying lessons that they require before they man a mission (pun intended), took their male counterparts months to complete. The space part of the show becomes more inconsequential as we continue to delve into the following episodes. It meanders to cater to men who struggle with failure, women who struggle. Period.

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