The Stony Way to the Stars

Author & Director:
Juergen Ast

Commissioning Editor:
Dr. Katja Wildermuth


astfilm productions | for MDR | ARTE // ARTE

April 4th 1959. Full of confidence the USA presents its future Astronauts, the "Glorious Seven", to the world. They were chosen from 500 fighter pilots to defeat the Soviets in space and make the "Sputnik shock" nothing but a distant memory. One of those "supermen" is going to be the first man to fly into space. The new heroes of the western world stand for masculine strength, intelligence, and total determination. They inspire the fantasy and dreams of millions ...

The stories and pictures of the "Glorious Seven" are published on every magazine cover and in all newspaper. But the daily training of an astronaut is tough, often they are pushed to the limit of human ability. Experiments with rocket propelled slides and psychological tests, everything has to be checked. Answers and solutions for a thousand questions, never asked before, have to be found. How does the human body react to weightlessness? What kind of psychological problems can occur? Some are afraid, that the Astronauts might swallow their tongue, or lose control of their mind ...

While the Americans are already training for a save landing, the Soviets only start in 1960 with the selection of cosmonauts - the "Team No. 1". The Americans are convinced of experienced test pilots, the Soviets believe in technology. The future cosmonauts - regardless of their prior experience - only need to be courageous enough to accept the risks involved. Their assignment was simple: survive the flight into the unknown ...

The documentary tells the story of those two legendary groups of pioneers in space: the "Glorious Seven" of the USA and the "Team No. 1" of the Soviet Union. What was it, that drove those exceptional men? What made them accept the risk of losing their life on a mission into space? Was it adventure or fulfillment of duties? Patriotism, prestige, fame, money? Scott Carpenter, Alexei Leonov, Pavel Popovitch, ... - the heroes in space, they all remember the time when they faced dramatic situations and experienced magic moments of joy on the stony way to the stars.