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"Stand By For Mars!"

Men Into Space, by John C. Fredriksen, Bear Manor Media, 2013

Before Lost in Space, before Star Trek, and before Space 1999, American audiences were regaled by the weekly thrills, perils and otherworldly exploits of Men Into Space, the first ever "hard-science" sci fi program.

Popular actor William Lundigan appeared as the redoubtable Colonel Edward McCauley, who grappled with many of the same problems that real astronauts encountered in their quest to reach the Moon a decade later.

It was a somber departure from previous televised science fiction fare, aimed at juveniles, and served up the drama and excitement of space flight in realistic fashion.

In 38 black-and-white episodes, McCauley endures lunar crashes, renegade satellites, runaway space stations, meteor strikes, and colliding tankers, in addition to memorable encounters with feuding scientists, balky subordinates, hostile cosmonauts, and space babes.

All told, Men Into Space is a classic slice of 1950s Americana and exuberantly reflects the national obsession with astronautics of its day. It is a must for devotees of the heroic age of space flight and early science fiction television.

This ground-breaking book examines the historical context of the series and its rise and fall, along with biographies of all major personalities involved with its production. Includes two appendices and footnotes, profusely illustrated.

Interview with John Fredriksen: Men Into Space

Is the Men into Space series is in the public domain? Men Into Space is NOT public domain, it is still apparently owned by MGM/United Artists (or what's left of them). For that reason, if enough people complain about it, perhaps MGM/UA will release them formally on DVD--akthough I am not holding my breath! Bootleg copies are readily available on E-Bay from several sources.

Describe the process of writing Men into Space. Obviously you watched every episode. You’ve included so much detail that you probably watched each one more than once! "Writing" Men Into Space is perhaps an incorrect paradigm. "Subliminal gushing" is the only way I can describe it. I was and remain very emotionally attached to the series and could not conceal my child-like glee at doing something on it. Therefore, I first watched each episode individually--savored the experience and reminiscences--then did the episode descriptions.Loved every second of it. With those on disc, I next composed the preface and introduction to better contextualize the show and my efforts--not wishing them to be construed as simply a "fan boy rant." For some inexplicable reason, it all rolled off my fingertips, effortlessly and without hesitation. This has never happened before--and I've written 30 books. You might say that all this has been lurking within me since 1959, and I simply let the genie out of the bottle!

What impact, if any, did this show have on Lost in Space, Star Trek , etc. Was the fact that it stuck "too near the truth" limit its appeal, to the mass audience that preferred space opera? Men Into Space wielded very little impact on subsequent Sci-Fi, if at all. Perhaps the failure of "factual" sci-fi was painfully underscored by its short shelf life! However, compared to the contrived, zombie-vampire obsessed crap they try to pass off as sci-fi these days, I find its sombre approach to the real problems associated with space flight refreshing. I also think that the star, William Lundigan, is terribly underrated and deserves more credit.

By 1964, with the demise of "Outer Limits," this type of programming fell into either either juvenile format ("Lost In Space") or idealistically-laced soap operas ("Star Trek"), both of which also collapsed by 1968. Stark Trek, of course, was reinvented several times up through the ensuing four decades--and the networks even managed to kill the franchise off, too.

It is almost impossible to fix cultural taste in terms of a TV viewing audience, which constantly evolves and changes faster than the networks can keep up--so I am not really surprised by all this.

Elaborate a bit more on how sad the state of the US space program is now, when we are dependent on the Russians instead of in charge of our own destiny. Having ascended the mountain top in 1969, the United States continued the Apollo programs as a giant, mega-buck PR effort to rub it in the Soviet Union's face--in my opinion, justified--then let everything wane for sheer LACK OF INTEREST.

The public had become jaded with the space race and a pulse was only marginally revived with the advent of the space shuttle in the 1980s. We sank billions and billions of dollars into this glorified, low Earth orbit SUV which, it must be conceded, did some useful tasks viz Hubble, etc, but failed to really ignite the public imagination--at least on the scale it was in the 1950s. When the shuttle was retired and America lacked its first space vehicle since 1961, nobody even noticed!

So now we have to depend on Russia to get into low-Earth orbit??? I, for one, am appalled. Any takers?

Have you ever heard of the Mike Mars: Astronaut series of books? If so, do you think they were influenced by Men Into Space? I am not familiar with the Mike Mars series but, having scoped them out on the web, they look intriguing and would have been something I could have easily homed in on in the early 1960s. However, I also remember the large number of Soviet space movies that were around at this time, either doctored by David L. Wolper, or massacred by Roger Corman, and these were most impressive.

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