Join the heroic men and women who dared to rocket into the the last great frontier on a quest to reach far beyond Earth and into the dark mysteries of space in "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions." Celebrating the last 50 years of NASA's amazing achievements, this four-disc set has hours of never-before-seen footage from NASA's secret vaults and rare interviews with the pioneers that made space travel possible. (Stacey Pendry)
Special features on Disc One of the Four-Disc Blu-ray Disc set include seven minutes of Highlights From The NASA Film: Four Days Of Gemini 4, two Interviews From NASA's Archives, and ten minutes of Mission Clips. Disc Two contains nine minutes of Highlights From The NASA Film: Apollo 13: Houston, We've Got A Problem, two Interviews From NASA's Archives, and ten minutes of Mission Clips. Disc Three contains eight minutes of Highlights From The NASA Film: Skylab: The First 40 Days, two Interviews From NASA's Archives, and ten minutes of Mission Clips. Disc Four contains the original NASA Films Freedom 7 (28 minutes), Friendship 7: John Glenn (58 minutes), Proud Conquest: Gemini VII & VI (29 minutes), Apollo 8 Debrief (28 minutes), and The Flight Of Apollo 11 (28 minutes).
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 DVD is a combination of archived footage (from as far back as the late 1950s) and newly shot interviews. Understandably, the picture quality fluctuates depending on the source, but even the early footage looks pretty good. There can be heavy noise/grain in the archive footage, but dirt and artifacts have been cleaned up very well. The new interviews show fantastic resolution and depth of field, and while the archived footage is limited in this regard, it is fairly sharp. Black levels are solid in both the new and old footage, and even the archived footage shows good color balance with bright, bold hues. Fleshtones appear natural in the new footage but is all over the place in the archived footage. Contrast is balanced well across the board, and shadow delineation is good. Edge enhancement isn't noticeable and the image is very clean, with few compression artifacts. The H.264 AVC-encoded Blu-ray Disc doesn't make much of an improvement over the DVD, with respect to the archive footage, but the interviews are sharper. Still, so much of the presentation is old footage, overall there isn't much of a difference between the two discs. The original high-definition footage from space and of the takeoffs looks superb, though. (Danny Richelieu)
The Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack is dominated by the center channel, but the front stage can be wide and amply deep. Fidelity is good in the interviews and music, with voices in the interviews sounding natural with decent articulation. The audio can sound digitized, though. The interviews do sound slightly forward, more in line with the narration than the music or archived audio. The LFE channel is incorporated well, with music and effects encoded at fairly restrained levels that mesh with the rest of the audio well. Dynamic range is okay, with subtilities in the soundtrack audible. There are moments when background noise can be a distraction, and shuffling distortion is audible at times. The Blu-ray Disc's Dolby Digital encoding is the same as the DVD, with the same digital edginess and noise. Shuffling distortions can also be heard. (Danny Richelieu)