The Stars Belong to a New Generation
Directed By
Screenplay By
Clifford Green (as W.W. Wicket) & Casey T. Mitchell
Story By
Patrick Bailey & Larry B. Williams
Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Joaquin Phoenix
Edited By
Tim Board & John W. Wheeler
William A. Fraker
Musical Score
ABC Motion Pictures
Distributed By
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Release Date
June 6, 1986
Filming Location
$18 million[1] or $25 million[2]
$9,697,739 (USA)[3]

SpaceCamp is a movie that dramatizes a summer adventure involving a group of kids who are accidentally launched into space. The film was completed before, but released after, the January 28, 1986 loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Plot[edit | edit source]

The story involves a group of youngsters — Kathryn, Kevin, Rudy, Tish, and Max — who attend space camp at Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida (actually located in Huntsville, Alabama, but set in Florida for the convenience of the plot). There, they spend three weeks during the summer learning 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.

When Kathryn and Kevin break curfew to sneak away for some romance near the launch pad, 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.

Jinx overhears Max longing for space in response Kevin's impatience, and takes the sentiment literally. When 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.

As the shuttle is not flight ready, it 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.

In the shuttle, Rudy attempts to decipher the technical schematics to work out how to feed the oxygen into the shuttle's tanks. His lack of confidence combined with the time pressure frustrates Kathryn, who tries reading the diagram herself and gives Andie instructions that conflict with Rudy's. Andie follows Rudy's correct instructions. Kathryn's self-confidence is shaken as she realizes her interference nearly caused disaster.

The second oxygen container malfunctions, injuring Andie. Unaware of this, Ground Control begins the autopilot sequence to land the shuttle – closing the bay doors and stranding Andie outside. Andie regains consciousness and urges them to leave her and take the re-entry window, as the shuttle does not have enough oxygen to make the next window. Kathryn is unable to make a decision, but Kevin finally shows himself to be the shuttle Commander and overrides the autopilot enabling Max to rescue Andie. Having missed the Edwards re-entry window, the crew comes up with a plan to land at White Sands, New Mexico after Kathryn briefly mentions the 1982 Space Shuttle mission that landed there. Armed with this news, Tish uses Morse Code to signal NASA to let them land there.

At Ground Control, Jinx brings the signal to Zach's attention and they prepare for the White Sands landing. With Andie injured, Kathryn fulfils her role as pilot, but begins fretting and doubting her abilities until Kevin cajoles and teases her into landing the shuttle.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Kate Capshaw as Andie Bergstrom
  • Lea Thompson as Kathryn Fairly
  • Kelly Preston as Tish Ambrosei
  • Larry B. Scott as Rudy Tyler
  • Joaquin Phoenix (credited as Leaf Phoenix) as Max
  • Tate Donovan as Kevin Donaldson
  • Frank Welker as the voice of Jinx
  • Tom Skerritt as Cmdr. Zach Bergstrom
  • Barry Primus as Brennan
  • Terry O'Quinn as Launch Director
  • Mitchell Anderson as Banning
  • Scott Coffey as Gardener
  • Daryl Keith Roach as NASA #1
  • Peter Scranton as NASA #2
  • Hollye Rebecca Suggs as Young Andie
  • Terry White as NASA #3
  • Susan Becton as Senior counselor
  • D. Ben Casey as Rudy's father
  • Kathy Hanson as Girl
  • Ron Harris as Tom the technician
  • Scott Holcomb as Hideo Takamini
  • Kevin Gage as Counselor #2
  • Saundra McGuire as Rudy's mother
  • Bill Phillips as Kathryn's father
  • Jon Steigman as Bully in dorm
  • Adrian Wells as Rudy's brother

Legacy[edit | edit source]

"SpaceCamp was an interesting movie because, after the first day of filming, we were already 10 days behind schedule. And it kind of kept on that way. It was supposed to be a three-month shoot, and it ended up taking six. We had T-shirts printed up that said, “SpaceCamp: It’s Not Just A Movie, It’s A Career.” Oh, actually, instead of SpaceCamp, it actually said SpaceCramp.

That movie was really fun because of the camaraderie we had. It was Kelly Preston, Tate Donovan, Kate Capshaw, and Leaf Phoenix, who later became Joaquin Phoenix. He was only 10 and just a wonderful kid. We all spent so much time together on that weird mock-up of the space shuttle. And then it was, like, the biggest disaster for a movie, because before the movie came out, between the time we wrapped it and the time it came out, the space shuttle blew up with [Christa McAuliffe] on it. Which was a horrible, horrible tragedy, so, of course, nobody wanted to see a film about a bunch of wacky kids accidentally blasting off in the space shuttle. It was just a horrible situation.

Since then, though, I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say that they became physicists or inventors, how much they loved that movie and how much it inspired them. That was really sweet and something I never really expected.
―Lea Thompson interview with The AV Club in 2012 [1]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Promotional Photos
Lobby Cards

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
  2. "Blockbuster Lull No Problem at Box Office", Chicago Tribune, 1986-07-30. 
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