Return to Space review – documenting the new space age of commercial space travel

April 8, 2022
Abirbhab Maitra 0
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service


A documentary showcasing the commercial space travel revolution and its prospects in this new space age of the modern era.

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A documentary showcasing the commercial space travel revolution and its prospects in this new space age of the modern era.

Netflix documentary Return to Space was released on Netflix on April 7, 2022.

When I first heard about the documentary Return to Space, I anticipated this would be a PR advertisement campaign for commercial space flights on behalf of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. From that anticipation, I remember another docuseries on Netflix released last September, Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space. It narrates the story of the SpaceX dragon mission Inspiration4 in which four civilians travel into space on a three-day trip. The documentary is quite about the space travel for the civilians and commercialization of space travel in the modern era. But when I sat down to watch Return to Space, my anticipation was completely wrong, as it not only gives you insights into the modern-day space exploration, it goes beyond to give you brief documentation of how we get ourselves here.

The documentary showcases the revolutionary mission of SpaceX engineers, who successfully send two of NASA’s astronauts to the International Space Station and take them back to Earth. A 2-hour-and-8-minute documentary, directed by Oscar-winning couple Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, it documents the whole history of the commercialization of space travel, its need, and how this will be a beginning of a new space age.

The whole film is well-paced with details as any documentary should have. But the details are not like giving some lectures on the rocket science behind the whole mission. Rather, the directors focus on the emotional part of the whole program, which is good for comprehension for the general public to get engaged with it. But talking as a whole, the structure seems to follow the typical documentary format and there’s little in terms of something new.

There are the interviews, the stock footage, animations, and the live reactions of the people — all of these are old tropes of a documentary. So, as an explorer of new forms in filmmaking, I am somehow disappointed. Maybe it is the way to flesh out the whole story about the new age of space exploration. No matter what it is, Return to Space is an important documentary that captures the revolutionary steps of the corporate world going into space exploration.

What did you think of the Netflix documentary Return to Space? Comment below. 

You can watch this documentary with a subscription to Netflix. 

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