Filmmaker raises funds to build eternal tributes to America’s astronauts – Daily News


Santa Monica-based filmmaker Steven C. Barber grew up idolizing astronauts. His father worked on the “moon buggy” at General Motors.

“I met all the astronauts when I was 12,13,14,15 years old, and these guys are my heroes,” Barber said.

Now, Barber is working to immortalize his heroes permanently in bronze. The 60-year-old documentarian raises funds to commission statues of astronauts. His most recent project, a rendering of the Apollo 13 crew, now sits outside the Space Center in Houston.

The Apollo 13 crew is famous for attempting to land on the moon — but aborting the mission after an oxygen malfunction.

Spoiler alert: The three astronauts made it back to earth unscathed after hours of brilliant troubleshooting by the team on the ground at NASA. The journey was portrayed in the 1995 film “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon.

Space Center Houston held an event honoring the Apollo 13 mission on April 17, exactly 51 years after the astronauts landed safely back on earth. Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, two of three crew members on the ship, attended the event alongside other people who worked on the mission and their families, and they took pictures next to the statue. The third member of the crew, Jack Swigert, passed away in 1982.

The Apollo 13 statue isn’t the first Barber has buoyed. For the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, Barber put together financing to memorialize the crew that first landed on the moon. Colorado-based sculptors Mark and George Lundeen sculpted both, and Joey Bainer, another sculptor, worked on the Apollo 13 project. The Lundeens and Barber plan to make a sculpture of the Apollo 14 crew for the University of Arizona next.

Barber and George Lundeen aren’t just looking to make statues of Apollo astronauts, though – and they certainly don’t just want to make statues of men either. Lundeen said he wants to make statues honoring Sally Ride and other women who made NASA history, including Katherine Johnson, the mathematician portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures.”

“As far as we’ve come in this world, it’s easy to tear a monument down, but sometimes it’s hard to put one up,” Lundeen said. “And sometimes the most deserving people are the last to be memorialized.”

For his part, Barber said he’s run into difficulties trying to secure funding for a Sally Ride memorial. Despite an angel investor’s donation of $100,000, the project isn’t even half-funded.

While statues and memorials are a central focus of Barber’s, he’s also using his skills as a filmmaker to keep the memory of these astronauts alive. Barber said he recently completed a documentary on the Apollo 11 mission, and he’s almost finished an Apollo 13 documentary.

Barber may have to race to finish more documentaries like these if he wants total access to the astronauts who went up into space. It’s been over 50 years since the moon landing, and many of the original Apollo astronauts are gone now including Michael Collins, the third crew member on Apollo 11, who died on Wednesday, April 28.

When asked why people should care so much about astronauts who haven’t flown into space for many years, Barber emphatically explained that the world wouldn’t look anything like it currently does without the space program.

“This cellphone has 1,000 times the computing power of the lunar module,” Barber said. “Think about that – 1,000 times. But because the lunar module landed on the moon, and everything we learned going to the moon, that exponentially through technology into warp speed.”


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