American kids go to a space camp during the summer holidays. They learn how to operate the Space Shuttle. A team consisting of a guy who just entered to meet girls, a wanna be astronaut and an instructor who wanted to go on a mission instead of teaching can sit in the Shuttle while testing the engines. Then they’re launched by mistake.
SpaceCamp is a 1986 American space adventure film based on a book by Patrick Bailey and Larry B. Williams and inspired by the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Directed by Harry Winer from a screenplay by Clifford Green (as W. W. Wicket) and Casey T. Mitchell, the film stars Kate Capshaw, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, and Joaquin Phoenix (credited as Leaf Phoenix).
The film was panned by critics and is famous for being a “marketing nightmare,” as it was released less than five months after the Challenger accident of January 28, 1986 (although filming was completed before the disaster occurred). The film performed poorly at the box office, grossing less than $10 million in the US. A rewrite of the book, released to coincide with the movie, mentioned how the teens struggled with the pressure of their decision in light of the Challenger disaster.
About the Story
Four teenagers: Kathryn, Kevin, Rudy, Tish and 12-year-old Max, go to space camp at Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida for three weeks during the summer to learn about the NASA space program and mimic astronaut training. They meet their instructor Andie Bergstrom, a NASA-trained astronaut who is frustrated that she has not yet been assigned to a shuttle mission. Her bitterness is compounded by the fact that her husband, camp director Zach Bergstrom, is an astronaut who has walked on the moon.
Max befriends a robot named Jinx, which was deemed unsuitable for space work because it overheated and was overly-literal. Max and the robot declare themselves to be “friends forever”. Meanwhile, Kevin pursues Kathryn romantically, Rudy shares his wish to open the first fast food franchise on the moon and Tish reveals that despite appearing to be a Valley girl, she is a genius with a photographic memory.
Kathryn and Kevin sneak away for some romance near the launch pad, but Jinx unintentionally gives them away when Andie and Zach discover they are missing. During a confrontation, Andie explains that she believes Kathryn has what it takes to accomplish her ambition, and explains the necessity of the harsh treatment Andie is giving her. While Kathryn vows to improve her performance, Zach’s conversation with Kevin is less successful.
Kevin takes out his anger on Max. Upset, Max states “…I wish I was in space…”. Jinx overhears and takes what he said literally. The group are allowed to sit in the Space Shuttle Atlantis during a routine engine test. Jinx secretly enters NASA’s computer room and triggers a “thermal curtain failure”, causing one of the boosters to ignite during the test. In order to avoid a crash, Launch Control is forced to ignite the second booster and launch the shuttle.
The shuttle is not flight ready, has no long range radio and there is not enough oxygen on board to last to the re-entry window at Edwards Air Force Base. Andie takes the shuttle to the partially constructed Space Station Daedalus to retrieve oxygen stored there. Realizing that while they have no voice communications with NASA they do have telemetry, Tish begins using a switch to send a Morse code signal to NASA, but it is not noticed by ground control.
Andie is slightly too big to reach the oxygen cylinders, so Max suits up for an EVA. During a critical moment, Max begins to panic until Kevin, knowing that Max is a fan of Star Wars, begins calling him “Luke”, and tells him to “use the Force”, which calms him enough that he can complete the mission, allowing Max and Andie to retrieve the containers.
Directed by: Harry Winer
Starring: Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Joaquin Phoenix, Larry B. Scott, Tate Donovan, Tom Skerritt, Mitchell Anderson, Hollye Rebecca Suggs
Screenplay by: Clifford Green, Casey T. Mitchell
Production Design by: Richard Macdonald
Cinematography by: William A. Fraker
Film Editing by: Tim Board, John W. Wheeler
Costume Design by: Patricia Norris
Set Decoration by: Richard C. Goddard
Art Direction by: Leon Harris, Richard Lawrence
Music by: John Williams
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: June 6, 1986