When: Mon., March 31, 7 p.m. 2014
At a time when state and local education systems are seeking ways to engage kids in STEM programs, kudos to The Belcourt for its monthlong pairing of science-themed films — from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Primer — with guest speakers who can address the scientific topics the movies raise. So far Belcourt viewers have heard discussions of quantum mechanics, rocketry principles, the Higgs boson and advances in robotics; for its grand finale, the series gazes skyward with a classic documentary about space travel and a remarkable post-film panel. Al Reinert’s thrilling 1989 doc For All Mankind assembles archival NASA footage of stunning quality over a celestial Brian Eno score, condensing the Apollo program from 1969 to 1972 into a you-are-there narrative of the moon missions. Dr. Rhea Seddon and Capt. Robert “Hoot” Gibson may be coming from Murfreesboro for the post-film panel, but they traveled a far greater distance for the credentials that got them here: She was a mission specialist aboard the space shuttles Columbia and Discovery, while he piloted the Challenger and served as commander of the Columbia on a different mission. (They are married; the first dance at their wedding, reportedly, was to “Fly Me to the Moon.”) They’ll be joined by NASA engineers Brooks Moore and Al Reisz, who both worked on the development of the Saturn V rocket during Project Apollo; Vanderbilt history professor and 1960s/Cold War historian Thomas Schwartz; and moderator Tracie Prater, a recent Vanderbilt Ph.D. turned NASA engineer — who, in her winning intro to the 2001 screening, sounded like she’d been exactly the kind of passionate, scientifically curious student the Belcourt series should hope to inspire.