SpaceCamp is a 1986 film based on a book by Patrick Bailey and Larry B. Williams and inspired by the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. The film stars Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Joaquin Phoenix and Tate Donovan. Its screenplay was written by Clifford Green (as W. W. Wicket) and Casey T. Mitchell. The movie was directed by Harry Winer.
It was released five months following the Challenger accident of January 28, 1986. A rewrite of the book to coincide with the movie mentioned the disaster. The exteriors of the spacecraft launch were from STS-51C. The landing footage was from STS-8.
The film SpaceCamp revolves around four teenagers and a 12-year-old boy who have gone to space camp for three weeks during summer to learn about the NASA space program and mimic astronaut training. There they meet Andie Bergstrom, a camp instructor and NASA trained astronaut who is frustrated that she has not yet been assigned to a shuttle mission.
Things start to unravel when Max saves a sentient robot named Jinx. To return the favor, Jinx decides to send Max into space after hearing Max say during a moment of frustration after a heated argument with Kevin that he wanted to be in space.
Unlike the majority of her camp-mates who are just there for some fun, Kathryn is serious about her ambitions to become a space shuttle pilot. One night she and Kevin sneak away for some romance near the launch pad, but Jinx gives them away when Andie and Zach discover that they are missing. During a confrontation between Andie & Kathryn, Andie explains that she believes Kathryn has what it takes to accomplish her ambition, and understanding the necessity of the harsh treatment Andie is giving her she vows to improve her conduct & performance. Zach's conversation with Kevin is not nearly so inspiring however.
That same night, Jinx secretly enters NASA's computer room and prepares a "thermal curtain failure" on the Space Shuttle Atlantis whilst the group are on board. This causes one of the boosters to ignite during the engine test. Launch Control is forced to ignite the second booster and launch the shuttle in order to avoid a crash.
The Shuttle is not flight ready however, and not only has no long range radio, but is critically low on oxygen, and does not have enough air to last to the re-entry window to land at Edwards Air Force Base. Andie takes the shuttle to the partially constructed Space Station "Daedalus" and aided by Max retrieves oxygen already stored there. Meanwhile, realising that while they have no voice communications with NASA they do have telemtry, Tish begins using a switch to send a morse code signal to NASA, but it is not noticed by ground control.
Andie is injured by a depressurizing oxygen canister and, unaware of this, Ground Control begin the autopilot to land the shuttle - closing the bay doors stranding Andie outside. Andie regains consciousness and urges the kids to leave her and take the re-entry window, as the shuttle doesn't have enough oxygen to make the next window to land at Edwards. Kathryn is unable to make a decision, but Kevin finally shows himself to be the shuttle Commander and overrides the autopilot and brings in Andie. Having missed the Edwards re-entry window the crew come up with a plan to re-enter and land at White Sands, New Mexico. Armed with this news, Tish then uses Morse code to signal NASA to let them try for a landing there.
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