Southeast graduate reaches for the stars in new documentary '250 Miles Up'

Friday, August 25, 2017
NASA astronaut Linda Godwin, center, and team pose for a photo during a space expedition.
Submitted photo

John F. Kennedy's goal was for the United States to get to the moon before the 1960s were over, and sure enough, we made it. Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Morgan Johnson's goal is to make it in the film industry -- and he's hoping his short documentary "250 Miles Up" will help get him there.

"The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time!" the famous JFK quote reads across the documentary banner.

The documentary is about the work of Linda Godwin serving as an astronaut for NASA for 30 years. Godwin grew up right outside of Jackson and is an alumna of Southeast.

Godwin joined NASA in 1980 and became an astronaut in 1986. She is a veteran of four space flights and has logged more than 38 days in space. Godwin is part of a group of 60 women who have been in space.

She now teaches physics and astronomy at the University of Missouri.

"She's always been a big hero of mine," Johnson said. Growing up in the same hometown, he had always known her name and admired her work, he said.

One day, Johnson thought of combining his interest in space exploration with his passion for filmmaking and got in contact with Godwin to ask whether she would be interested.

She obliged.

"250 Miles Up" is entered in the Cinespace film festival hosted by NASA and is one of several hundred submissions being reviewed. The documentary is under 10 minutes because that is the required timespan for the festival.

"It's really competitive. They get videos from all over the world, and it's very selective," Johnson said. "It will be hard, but the film is really good, so I think I have a really good chance."

The documentary is a compilation of Godwin responding to questions Johnson asked and footage from NASA's archive from her mission and from the International Space Station.

On top of covering Godwin's career, the documentary also includes a special guest star; however, Johnson refused to reveal the name, saying it will be a surprise for the audience.

Besides Cinespace, Johnson is entering the documentary in six other film festivals that host films based on women in science. He said one of his major goals with this documentary and in his filmmaking career is to showcase women within the science industry.

The documentary has been in the works since October and will be released Sept. 10.

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