6 Best Documentaries about NASA that you can watch online

Space exploration documentaries are a great way to learn in an entertaining way. And over the years there have been many dedicated to NASA. In this list, you will find some of the most interesting that you can see online.

6 Best Documentaries about NASA that you can watch online

If you like to learn about astronomy, space missions, and space in general, documentaries are always a good option. Instead of reading vast amounts of technical texts, they allow you to gain knowledge in a relaxing time on your sofa.

And of course, on all streaming platforms, there are documentaries dedicated exclusively to space exploration and the missions that have made it possible over the years. 

If you have enough free time, some platforms offer documentaries of several episodes, and even of several seasons. Of course, you will need more time to watch them, but they are generally documentaries that are worked by very reputable experts, and they are certainly worth it. 

But if you can't spend time on an entire series, you can always go for single episode documentaries. They tend to be shorter than a movie and focus on very specific topics rather than more general aspects. 

Leaving aside the format, within the entire offer of documentaries related to space exploration there are many dedicated to NASA and many of the missions that this agency has carried out. 

Some focus on science topics, for example talking about specific projects carried out by NASA with the intention of studying our solar system and different regions of the universe. 

Index of contents

  • The Mars generation 
  • Era of Hubble
  • Mercury 13
  • Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
  • The Fallen Astronaut
  • Death Dive to Saturn

On the other hand, there are many other documentaries focused on NASA's history. Beyond astronauts, there are a large number of professionals who have worked hard for humans to reach space safely, and for us to better understand the universe.

History documentaries, therefore, can be a great way to learn about the work done in a space agency, beyond what we normally see at rocket launches and similar events. 

So, if you are interested in documentaries about NASA but do not know where to find them, in this article we have prepared a list of some documentaries of this type that you can find on various streaming platforms. 

The Mars generation

For many years now, the possibility of the human being traveling to Mars, and even establishing bases on the red planet, has been raised. In fact, it has even been proposed to maintain a stable population on Mars if certain objectives were to be achieved. 

Obviously, science and technology will be the key, which will make the difference between whether we can do it or not. And it seems that it is something more real and closer in time than we might believe at first glance. 

But apart from rockets and various technological devices, there is something very important that cannot be left out of these considerations: the astronauts who will be chosen for this type of travel. 

The Mars Generation is a documentary focused precisely on people who want to be astronauts, and who may be candidates in the future to participate in one way or another in missions to Mars.

The main protagonists of the documentary are very young, teenagers to be specific, but considering that it will probably take several decades to travel to Mars, it is no surprise. 

These teenagers are preparing in what is known as Space Camp, a program managed by a government agency that has certain links with NASA. Being part of the camp is not a guarantee of a future at NASA, but it certainly brings them closer to that achievement.

The camp provides them with education in various fields of science and technology, as well as the physical preparation necessary to adapt the human body to the conditions of the red planet. 

Basically, they receive basic training in vital subjects for anyone who wants to apply to NASA, especially those who are interested in becoming astronauts for the US space agency. It is not a simple summer camp, it is practically a preliminary training to the actual preparation of NASA. 

But the documentary is not limited to following those teenagers during their learning. It also serves to review NASA's history and to pose how missions on Mars might unfold based on the agency's current plans. 

  • Release year: 2017
  • Duration: 1 h 37 min
  • Where to watch: Netflix

Era of Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope is probably one of the best-known astronomical observation tools globally. For decades it has been the pride of NASA, ESA, and other space agencies that collaborated in its development and are responsible for maintaining it today. 

It has a well-deserved reputation for helping to observe the farthest reaches of the universe and giving us spectacular images of galaxies, nebulae, and other bodies hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of light-years away. 

And the Hubble Era is practically an ode to the work this telescope has done since it came online. It reviews all the images it has obtained and the information and knowledge that we have acquired over the years thanks to this telescope. 

The documentary also narrates how scientists from various space agencies developed the technology and parts necessary to build a telescope as advanced and sensitive as Hubble. 

All this serves as a framework to explain various data on the origin and evolution of the universe, and on different bodies and phenomena that we can find throughout space. 

Most of these explanations are accompanied by impressive images captured by the Hubble telescope itself. So even if the data that is exposed is nothing new to you, you can enjoy truly spectacular images. 

  • Release year: 2016
  • Duration: 50 min
  • Where to watch: Prime Video

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo

When we hear about space missions, the focus is usually on the mission objectives, the ship on which it will take place, and the astronauts who will be responsible for traveling into space to carry out the mission in question.

But behind each project related to space, there are hundreds of people in charge of very different tasks. And without all those people, space missions wouldn't even exist. 

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo gives us the opportunity to meet those people. Reviewing the history of NASA, especially the Apollo missions, the documentary follows the story of many of the professionals who helped change the field of space exploration.

The documentary reviews the reasons for these professionals to pursue a career at NASA. It also looks at some key moments from space missions carried out in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on how they were lived from mission control rooms. 

Considering that it is not a perspective that we often have access to, this documentary is a great way to understand how space missions are lived from Earth and the type of pressure that specialists working on them are subjected to. 

In addition, Mission Control also displays many images of the missions in question; you'll be able to relive numerous takeoffs, the first landing on the Moon, and some of the tensest moments in the space race. 
  • Release year: 2017
  • Duration: 1h 39m
  • Where to watch: Netflix

Mercury 13

The documentary Mercury 13 focuses on a project of the same name developed by NASA with private funds in the early 1960s. This project sought to study the possibility of taking women into space, and the documentary narrates how the project itself developed and the consequences it had.  

Officially, NASA had not considered sending women into space. The astronaut position was reserved for men, and there was no interest in changing the situation and rethinking their selection criteria. 

But many scientists believed that women could be extremely valuable as astronauts. Space in the ships and capsules was extremely limited and being generally smaller and lighter women, they could be much better candidates for space travel. 

Rather than openly embrace the idea, NASA decided to develop the Mercury 13 program, a totally secret project in which a group of women would go through the same type of testing and preparation as the male astronaut candidates.

The intention was to check if these women had the same physical and mental capacities as the men and to verify if they were equally apt to obtain a position as astronauts at NASA.

Not only were they shown to be just as valid as their peers, but also in numerous physical and intellectual tests their results were much better than those obtained up to that moment with male astronaut candidates. 

But instead of rewarding them, NASA decided to cancel the project and leave the entire group of women with no chance of being astronauts and traveling into space. The reasons were simple: they considered that space was reserved for men. 

It is the least ironic because in 1963 the USSR would send the first woman into space. But despite this, NASA would not consider it until decades later: no American woman would travel to space until 1983.

During the documentary, the women who participated in that program are given a voice. And the negative effect that discrimination had on an agency that, at least in theory, should be dominated by scientific facts, not segregationist ideology, is also highlighted. 

Also shown is the unfair treatment that NASA and the US Government gave these women, clinging to technicalities and overtly discriminatory laws and restrictions to prevent them from being part of the space program. 

It is clear that not everything in space exploration is a great achievement and knowledge gaining, and Mercury 13 is a great documentary to learn about little-known parts of NASA history. 

  • Release year: 2018
  • Duration: 1h 19 min
  • Where to watch: Netflix

Death Dive to Saturn

Some of NASA's most important missions have focused on sending various probes to the planets in our solar system. They have been one of the keys to learning relevant data about all the planets, and about the origin of the solar system itself. 

And one of the best-known missions of this type is the Cassini-Huygens mission, popularly known as Cassini. This mission focused on the study of Saturn, its rings, and its satellites. 

Death Dive to Saturn presents a part of the development of this mission. NASA's Cassini orbital probe, accompanied by the Huygens surface probe (created by ESA and intended to land on the Titan satellite to study its surface), spent decades helping to make important discoveries about the characteristically ringed planet.

But all missions have an end, and it is precisely that end that this documentary covers. In the last days of the Cassini spacecraft, it set out to do something that had never been done before: navigate in space between the planet and its inner rings.

This involved getting closer to the planet and its clouds than ever before, which could lead to the collection of important scientific data. But it also posed serious risks, such as the possibility of colliding with the rocks that plague that region of the rings.

The documentary presents how the final days of the mission were developed, and the hard work of engineers and all kinds of specialists so that the probe could carry out the last days of its trip successfully. 
  • Release year: 2017
  • Duration: 53 min
  • Where to watch: Netflix

The Fallen Astronaut

Sometimes NASA makes mistakes or acts in the least questionable ways. And the events surrounding the first work of art to be taken to the Moon are a clear example of this. 

In 1971, during the Apollo 15 mission, one of the astronauts left a small humanoid figure on the lunar surface. It was a work of art, a small aluminum sculpture, created with the intention of being placed on the terrestrial satellite.

But what should have been a simple gesture of union between the arts and space exploration turned into a legal and bureaucratic nightmare? Astronauts used the figure to create a small monument on the moon in honor of 14 Soviet and American astronauts, but the artist was apparently unaware of it.

And to complicate matters further, NASA refused to acknowledge the authorship of the sculpture. For years, the author of the work would remain anonymous; NASA did not want the artist to be able to commercially exploit the work he had created in any way. 

The problem had arisen from the agreement itself that led to the creation of the sculpture. The artist claimed that he had never agreed to remain an anonymous author, nor that his work of art was a monument to the fallen. 

But the version given by the astronaut who initiated that agreement is completely different, and NASA stuck to this. This ended up creating a problem that lasted decades and led to uncovering protocol problems in several missions. 

The Fallen Astronaut talks about that sculpture's trip to the Moon, about all the problems a small metal figure caused, and some details of the missions that didn't happen exactly as NASA had planned. 
  • Release year: 2020
  • Duration: 54 min
  • Where to watch: Prime Video

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