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The Mark of Excellence (1968)

Hardin-Simmons University Library

Sound | 1968

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  •  Red Adair, an oil well firefighter 
  •  NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong 
    Armstrong flew as Command Pilot for Gemini 8, which performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space. The mission was cut short, however, after a critical system failure forced the crew to conduct an emergency landing.
  •  Armstrong encounters a failure of the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle on May 6, 1968 
  •  Armstrong explains what a program like Apollo means to him 
  •  Benefits of space exploration 
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Produced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, this government film stresses the life-or-death stakes of space exploration and the corresponding importance of quality control. To illustrate this, the film first compares the experience of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong with that of oil well firefighter Red Adair. Then, the film turns to Armstrong himself, who explains what the Apollo program means to him. Speaking directly to the “Apollo team”—the laborers, technicians, and engineers working at plants across the country—the film finally highlights their crucial contributions to the space program and commends their commitment to excellence.
Paul Neal “Red” Adair was born in Houston on June 18, 1915. He began his career as an oil well firefighter in 1939 when he became working for Myron Kinley, an industry pioneer. Twenty years later, Adair founded his own business. Through the Red Adair Company, he became a pioneering innovator himself, developing highly effective firefighting techniques and equipment. 
Adair gained an international reputation as the best in the business in 1962 when he blew out a gas field fire in the Saharan Desert. Nicknamed the Devil’s Cigarette Lighter, the 450-foot pillar of flame had been burning for six months. The feat served as the inspiration for the 1968 film Hellfighters, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and starring John Wayne. By his retirement in 1994, Adair had battled more than 2,000 land and offshore oil well fires. 
Adair died in Houston on August 7, 2004. He was 89.