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From The Movies, Lessons On Privatizing Outer Space

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From The Movies, Lessons On Privatizing Outer Space

From The Movies, Lessons On Privatizing Outer Space

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Our film critic Bob Mondello knows because Hollywood has already boldly gone where no company has gone before.

BOB MONDELLO: When I was a kid, years before the first space shuttle went into orbit, I knew what outer space was going to be like. I'd seen it at the movies. It was just like Earth, only weightless.


MONDELLO: In "2001: A Space Odyssey," to get to a space station, characters flew Pan Am - if you're under 30, ask your parents - and once they'd arrived there, apart from curved walls and floors, everything was familiar. You could check into a Hilton, chow down at Howard Johnson's, even check up on the youngsters back home by calling them from a Bell Telephone Picturephone booth.


WILLIAM SYLVESTER: (as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd) Hello.

VIVIAN KUBRICK: (as Squirt - Dr. Floyd's Daughter) Hello.

SYLVESTER: (as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd) How are you, squirt?

KUBRICK: (as Squirt - Dr. Floyd's Daughter) All right.

SYLVESTER: (as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd) What are you doing?

KUBRICK: (as Squirt - Dr. Floyd's Daughter) Playing.

MONDELLO: Phone booths in the sky seemed less likely by the time NASA had flown the first real shuttle mission in 1981. By then, "Silent Running" had shown us a future in which corporate spaceships were essentially lifeboats from a planet so wrecked, the Earth's few remaining plants had to be shepherded to safety in outer space. American Airline space freighters took them there in geodesic domes in hopes that they would someday be able to return.


ROY ENGEL: (as Anderson) Until that day, may God bless these gardens.

MONDELLO: Great plan, except that after a while, the airline wanted its freighters back.


ENGEL: (as Anderson) We have just received orders to abandon and nuclear destruct all the forests, and return our ships to commercial service.

MONDELLO: Actually, greedy space corporations became a Hollywood staple. In the "Alien" movies, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation really wants one of those diabolical aliens and doesn't want to hear about consequences.


SIGOURNEY WEAVER: (as Ripley) We set down there on company orders to get this thing, which destroyed my crew and your expensive ship.

PAUL MAXWELL: (as Van Leuwin) Thank you, Officer Ripley. That will be all.

WEAVER: (as Ripley) Please, you're not listening to me.

MONDELLO: In space, no one can hear you sacrificing humanity for profit.

NASA: the evil head of the Drax Corporation.


ROGER MOORE: (as James Bond) That's where the Moonraker shuttle is made?

LOIS CHILES: (s Dr. Holly Goodhead): That's right.

MOORE: (as James Bond) I'd heard that Hugo Drax is obsessed with the conquest of space. Now I can believe it.

MONDELLO: The Buy n Large megacorp in "WALL-E," for instance, evacuating Earth because it had turned the planet into a trash heap.


L S: (as character) Too much garbage in your face? There's plenty of space out in space. BnL StarLiners leaving each day. We'll clean up the mess while you're away.

MONDELLO: Then, there was Lunar Industries in the film "Moon," economizing while reaping huge profits.


SAM ROCKWELL: (as Sam Bell) GERTY, have you heard anything new about anyone fixing Lunar-Sat?

KEVIN SPACEY: (as GERTY) No, Sam. What I understand is it's fairly low on the company's priority list right now.

MONDELLO: And, of course, the RDA Mining Corporation in "Avatar," trying to get its hands on a precious resource by military means.


SAM WORTHINGTON: (as Jake Sully) Back on Earth, these guys were Army dogs, Marines fighting for freedom. But out here, they're just hired guns, taking the money, working for the company.

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.


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