"God damn it, launch us or we're gonna explode!!"
"My god...we have lift off."
is a family adventure movie from 1986 about a group of kids at a space camp who unexpectedly get launched up into space for real. However the shuttle was still in pre-flight prepping and thus wasn't prepared for any kind of full mission. With only a limited air supply and virtually no communication with Earth, the kids and their instructor (played by Kate Capshaw) must work together
to get home safe and sound.
It was released amid a marketing nightmare that came about from the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster
that claimed the lives of seven American astronauts and grounded the shuttle program indefinitely until the cause could be determined and rectified. It didn't help, either, that the malfunction in the film partly resembled the malfunction in life
Many contemporary reviews were colored by the disaster. More recent reviews don't treat it much better. But some saw past the disaster and were moved by it: in a 2012 interview,
Lea Thompson said many fans told her they were inspired by the film.
SpaceCamp provides examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Although in this case it's more Artificial Stupidity rather than Artificial Malevolence.
- Almost Out of Oxygen: A major plot point. Twice.
- Arc Words: "Max and Jinx, friends forever."
- Ascended Fanboy: Max is an avid fan of Star Wars and will make numerous references to the franchise in nearly every scene he appears in.
- Batman Gambit: Jinx the robot tries to get Max into space while he's on the space shuttle "to fulfill his wish". He hacks into NASA's network and figures out how to fire up one of the shuttle's booster rockets, which on its own will cause the shuttle to shoot up briefly, then crash. However, his gambit is the operators at the control room will see the one booster firing up and choose to fire up the second booster to avoid killing everyone on board. Sure enough, it works.
- Big "OMG!": Max floats off into space behind a rogue oxygen tank, but this happens when he breaks off a satellite dish panel he grabbed to stop himself.
Andie: You think you're scared now? Wait 'til your parents get the bill for breaking Daedalus.
- Conveniently Close Planet: The shuttle is launched outside of its launch window into an unplanned orbit — but they still manage to make it to the unoccupied space station for supplies.
- Entendre Failure: Jinx the robot.
- Eureka Moment: After they miss the re-entry window, Kathryn realizes an alternative landing site: White Sands, New Mexico.
- When Zac starts to realize Jinx is spouting out letters, not just breaking down again.
C-O-M-E-I-N-C-O-N-T-R-O-L-C-O-M-E-I-N-C-O-N-T-R-O-L Come in, Control! Max's code! Zac:
Morse code? Jinx:
Max's code! Zac: Damn it
, they're talking to us!
- Everyone Knows Morse: One of the campers thinks to use a telemetry switch to send Morse code in place of the nonfunctional radio. But it takes quite a while for anyone in the control room to notice that one of their console lights is rapidly blinking in an irregular pattern...
- Five-Man Band:
- Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: Tish, full stop. Under the '80s Hair and Valley Girl look is a genius with Photographic Memory and a perfect SAT score.
- Gone Horribly Right / Be Careful What You Wish For: "I wish I could go up into space."
- Instant A.I., Just Add Water: See Reed Richards Is Useless.
- Jerkass: Kevin. At the beginning of the film, he switches his credentials with those of another attendee, just so he could get to be with Kathryn. Also, in another scene, after he and Kathryn were discovered to be making out at the launchpad, he yells at Max for Jinx spilling everything.
- Lesser of Two Evils: The Mission Controller has to choose between letting the the booster fire when it overheats, blowing the shuttle and all on board to atoms or launching a not fully flight ready shuttle with children on board into space with an uncertain outcome.
- Like Reality Unless Noted: In some ways the tech and abilities of the Space Camp NASA are ahead of us - there's a sentient robot, there's a space station already up in orbit with the necessary oxygen tanks - but when the plot demands it everything was at the level it is when the film was released.
- Literal-Minded: Jinx the robot, who obeys any words to him that sound vaguely like a command. His ruthlessness to fulfill them makes him a...
- Mood Whiplash: The kids go from excited to panicked very quickly when the thermal curtain fails.
- New Rules as the Plot Demands: No one seems to question Kevin for swapping his credentials with a Japanese kid just to get on the same team as Kathryn.
- Nobody Poops: Averted. Max has to figure out the shuttle's space toilet.
- No OSHA Compliance: NASA straps seven kids on the space shuttle unsupervised by a NASA employee, and seals the door. This is negligent even without being accidentally launched, no matter how good their grades at Space Camp were.
- Handwaved in the film; when Zack is pinning up the announcement he mentions the Camp trying to get permission to have campers in the test. After all, accidental launches only happen once in 4 billion years, right?
- Oh, Crap: When Jinx initiates the thermal curtain failure on one booster everyone in Mission Control and the astronaut instructor on board the shuttle have a collective one.
- Product Placement:
- Rudy mentions Big Macs
- Kevin mentions 7-Eleven, and drives a Jeep.
- Recycled Trailer Music: The main theme became stock trailer music for years afterward.
- Red Wire Blue Wire: A modified version, to connect the oxygen tank.
- They both look at the plans, and are sure that their blue hose is the only correct one. Perhaps they were both correct and the blue hoses are both for oxygen?
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Space Camp has a sentient, AI robot which is capable of bypassing failsafes to launch a shuttle, but NASA is still counting on the shuttle and mindless computers. Possibly justified: it's pointed out that Jinx is not used more prominently because he tends to make mistakes.
- Robot Buddy: Take a guess.
- Shout-Out: Count all the Star Wars references.
- Tap on the Head / Hard Head: Andie.
- Actually handled relatively accurately. She is heard wearily on the radio shortly after she was knocked out, suggesting she wasn't out for long. When she is rescued, she is treated for a shoulder injury, explaining why she couldn't assist in her own rescue.
- The Eighties
- Things Get Real
- Too Dumb to Live: In context, anyway. Surely, Rudy—who was put in charge of "equipment function and operation"—would've figured out by then that the Shuttle's on-orbit propulsion system was not the same as the launch propulsion system before suggesting it as a source of oxygen.
Rudy: What about the propulsion system? We could breathe the liquid oxygen from there.
Tish: The propulsion system uses nitrogen tetroxide, Rudy. We wanna breathe, not dry clean our lungs.