This article is about the 1986 film. See U.S. Space Camp for the article about the camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

SpaceCamp is a 1986 movie based on a book by Patrick Bailey and Larry B. Williams and inspired by the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. The film stars Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Joaquin Phoenix and Tate Donovan. Its screenplay was written by Clifford Green (as W. W. Wicket) and Casey T. Mitchell. The movie was directed by Harry Winer.

The movie's release was untimely, coming out six months following the Challenger accident of January 28, 1986. A rewrite of the book to coincide with the movie mentioned the disaster.


The movie revolves around four teenagers and a 12-year-old boy named Max who have gone to space camp for three weeks during summer to learn about the NASA space program and mimic astronaut training. There they meet Andie Bergstrom, a camp instructor and NASA astronaut who is frustrated that she has not yet been assigned to a space shuttle mission.

Things start to unravel when Max saves a sentient robot named Jinx. To return the favor, Jinx decides to send Max into space after hearing Max say during a moment of frustration that he wanted to be in space.

Jinx secretly enters NASA's computer room the night before the teens and Andie were to sit in a shuttle orbiter (Atlantis, to be exact) as it test-fired its engines (without launching). Jinx asks the computer how the launch could be forced. The computer responds that inducing a "thermal curtain failure", essentially igniting one of the solid rocket boosters, would cause NASA to have to ignite both boosters and launch the shuttle to avoid disaster. While the teens and Andie are aboard the shuttle for its engine test, Jinx forces the computer to falsely signal a thermal curtain failure. Andie finally convinces Launch Control to launch. Shortly after reaching space, voice contact is lost because the shuttle's long-range radio was not flight ready. Andie thinks they can wait until a landing window opens, but finds later that there's not enough oxygen aboard to make it home to Edwards Air Force Base or the Kennedy Space Center. Meanwhile, Tish begins using a telemetry switch to send a distress signal to NASA via morse code, but no one on the ground notices. Andie takes the shuttle higher to "Space Station Daedalus" to obtain more oxygen, and after docking begins a spacewalk. While on her spacewalk, Andie is injured trying to transfer oxygen into the shuttle. The teenagers are able to get Andie back inside the shuttle, but the time it took them to do so has caused them to miss their re-entry window and they again risk running out of oxygen. Rudy and Kathryn together remember that the shuttle once landed at White Sands, New Mexico, and Tish uses Morse code to signal NASA to let them try for a landing there. Jinx, wanting to help Max, rolls into NASA's control room, fights for attention, and the slow-to-realize Zack figures out that the robot is reading Morse code off the unattended console. Zack figures out the code, "White Sands", and begins preparations for the landing. Because Andie injured her ribs and arm during the spacewalk, Kathryn has to fly the shuttle through re-entry and landing. After struggling to stabilize the shuttle, Kathryn finally succeeds and lands the shuttle safely.

Characters and cast

  • Andie Bergstrom (Kate Capshaw). Andie was a camp instructor and astronaut who had dreamed of going into space since she was a child. She had become frustrated with waiting to be assigned to a mission and was growing tired of chaperoning children at the camp.
  • Zach Bergstrom (Tom Skerritt) was the camp director and Andie's husband. In the fictional SpaceCamp universe, he was one of the astronauts that walked on the Moon.
  • Kevin Donaldson (Tate Donovan). Kevin made it clear from the start that he didn't want to be at Space Camp and looked down on people who did — he admitted the only reason he attended was because his father bought him a Jeep. Donaldson was originally assigned to a different team of campers, but he wanted to get to know Kathryn so he stole another camper's tag (Hideo Takamini) and joined her group. (note: this is Tate Donovan's Big Screen Debut as a co-star, his first film was No Small Affair in 1984).
  • Kathryn Fairly (Lea Thompson). Kathryn was a private pilot and wanted to be the first woman shuttle commander (at the time the movie aired, there were no women shuttle pilots or commanders; Andie was a pilot, but as above had not flown yet — the first woman shuttle pilot and commander is astronaut Eileen M. Collins). She idolized camp counselor Andie Bergstrom, a real astronaut. Kathryn arrived at the camp by piloting her own biplane.
  • Rudy Tyler (Larry B. Scott). Rudy was at Space Camp because he loved science. He admitted to not being very good at it, but he wanted to combine his love of science with his love of french fries and open the first fast food franchise in space.
  • Tish Ambrose (Kelly Preston). Tish, a typical teenager (and semi-Valley Girl), saw camp as a way to be away from her parents. She came across as a ditzy blonde, but in fact had a photographic memory and had a near perfect score on her SATs. She had done a project using radio telescopes and was motivated by the possibility of listening to radio waves from space.
  • Max Graham (Joaquin Phoenix, then credited as Leaf Phoenix). Max was an eager 12-year-old space enthusiast who bonded with the robot Jinx. He had been to Junior Camp twice in a row, and was supposed to be in Junior Camp again, but sneaked into the camp for older kids instead. Andie, knowing Max from earlier years, let him stay. Max is a whiz kid with a 180 IQ. He loves the films from the Star Wars universe, and much of his conversation is peppered with lingo from the films.
  • Jinx, was a sentient robot, who became Max's friend. Described by Andie as "the world's only $27-million handyman", it facilitated the group's launch into space, then helped rescue them by discovering Tish's telemetry morse code. He was voiced by Frank Welker. He made an appearance on the Family Guy episode Movin' Out (Brian's Song)
  • Barry Primus as Brennan
  • Terry O'Quinn as Launch Director (NASA)
  • 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 Spacecamp 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 Spacecamp Counselor #2
  • Saundra McGuire as Rudy's Mother
  • Bill Phillips as Kathryn's Father (in back seat of Bi-Plane)
  • Jon Steigman as Dormitory Bully
  • Adrian Wells as Rudy's Brother
  • Rocky Krakoff as Boy on Rooftop (uncredited)

Factual errors

The movie has the camp located at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. In reality, the facility shown in the movie is in Huntsville, Alabama. The Space Camp in Florida did not open until 1987 and is now closed.

In the movie, a "thermal curtain failure" during an SRB test forces NASA into initiating a full launch of the shuttle into orbit. In reality, NASA has contingency plans to provide for a launch abort at any phase of the launch process, including the options of Return to Launch Site (RTLS), an East Coast Abort Landing (ECAL) Site, and three Space Shuttle Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) Sites in France, Spain, (and until 2005, one at Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco). But, the RTLS abort has never been used and never will be, as in simulators it has a 10% success rate, due to the excessive G-forces in action during the abort, killing all on board.

There was never a Space Station Daedalus. NASA's Skylab was in orbit until 1979. The first section of ISS was put in orbit in 1998. In 1986, the time of filming, the only complete space station in orbit around Earth was the Soviet Salyut 7, and Mir had just begun construction.

The astronaut who flies the shuttle during reentry is not the pilot (on the right) as it is in the movie, but the commander (on the left). This is because the commander has the role as pilot and the pilot has the role as co-pilot.

External links


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