Heart-ache: NASA says Apollo 18 not real

Oh, suuuuure. That’s what you said about the triple breasted prostitutes on Mars, too.

If you’re planning on heading out to see Apollo 18 this week, don’t get your hopes up that this stunning documentary will provide proof of little green men. NASA is backpedaling faster than Barack Obama on ozone emission standards and claiming that the story of the secret 1974 mission to the moon never happened.

A cracked cosmonaut helmet, footsteps in the moon dust, a mysterious flash of light outside a spaceship window — these are some of the images the Weinstein Co. has released from “Apollo 18,” a documentary-style sci-fi thriller that opened Friday and is being marketing as a movie culled from “found footage” from a U.S. space mission.

But after initially touting “Apollo 18” as one of its upcoming fiction film collaborations, NASA — which, for the record, says the last manned mission to the moon was Apollo 17 in 1972 — has begun to back away from the movie.

“Apollo 18 is not a documentary,” said Bert Ulrich, NASA’s liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations. “The film is a work of fiction, and we always knew that. We were minimally involved with this picture. We never even saw a rough cut. The idea of portraying the Apollo 18 mission as authentic is simply a marketing ploy. Perhaps a bit of a ‘Blair Witch Project’ strategy to generate hype.”

NASA has traditionally been a willing partner with the film industry, and for good reason. Anything that ramps up excitement about space exploration and fires the imagination of the public is simply good for business, provided that they don’t take part in something which turns out to be a laughing stock. They have provided footage and support for a number of films over the years, most notably Apollo 13. They have also gone so far as to provide real NASA workers as actors in some scenes and on site locations for shooting, adding to the realism of movies and eliminating the need to construct expensive replicas of NASA facilities. It seems, however, that the conspiracy theory aspect to Apollo 18 is a bridge too far.

This is nothing new, though. The government has been using Hollywood as a vehicle for a long time. The military has been an active participant in war films since the post World War 2 era. These included all of the famous submarine warfare films from the fifties, up through Patton and Top Gun. But it’s understandable that they would like the service to be reflected in a favorable (or at least fair) light in return for their contributions.