Space flight looms large in the dreams of young people, until certain deficiencies always arise. Do you have an inspiring father who worked as a NASA astronaut on several missions? Okay, never mind: Do you have $30 million you can spare?
Richard Garriott, the Ultima video-game inventor, met both criteria (his dad, Owen, served on Skylab) and, in 2008, bought his way into orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz for 12 days. Solidly and a bit squarely, Man on a Mission details the training regime he underwent---the language lessons, swimming-pool maneuvers and Zero-G assimilation---and climaxes with the mission itself.
Garriott narrates much of what we see in an upbeat, affectless flow of pure geekery, thrilled at every moment. (He clearly belongs onboard.) Experiencing this doc can feel like being pinned to your seat by an excited 12-year-old who's watched Apollo 13 too often. In dominating his own story, a deeper, more urgent question remains unexplored: Is space tourism really the way forward? It's not much of a stretch to see this as an extremely expensive version of the mile-high club (lacking one specific activity). Dreams like Garriott's shouldn't be available only to the highest bidder. If you end up taking the kid in your life to go see it, urge them to start saving their allowance.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
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