Stowaway to the Moon (film)

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Stowaway to the Moon
Stowaway to the Moon (film).jpg
Original newspaper ad
Genre Sci-Fi
Written by Jon Boothe
William R. Shelton (novel)
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring Michael Link
Lloyd Bridges
Jeremy Slate
Jim McMullan
Morgan Paull
Music by Patrick Williams
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) John Cutts
Carl Kugel
Location(s) NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida
20th Century Fox Studios - 10201 Pico Blvd., Century City, Los Angeles, California
Cinematography J.J. Jones
Editor(s) John Schreyer
Running time 100 minutes
Production company(s) 20th Century Fox Television
Distributor CBS
Original network CBS
Original release January 10, 1975

Stowaway to the Moon is a 1975 made-for-TV movie, starring Lloyd Bridges among others. The basic plot centers around a pre-teen boy who stows away on an Apollo mission to the moon. The movie also features Pete Conrad, the third person to walk on the Moon. The movie was based on the novel of the same name written by William Roy Shelton.


Eli ("E.J.") Mackernutt (Michael Link) is an 11-year-old boy who dreams of traveling in outer space. He and his best friend Joey are building a large scale model of a space capsule, and in order to raise money do they do odd jobs for the elderly Jacob Avril, who owns property adjoining the Kennedy Space Center facility.

Avril's close proximity to the Space Center gives E.J. the idea of stowing away on the upcoming Apollo moon launch. He gains access to the space center by cutting across Avril's adjacent land, and gets into the launch complex simply by wearing a hardhat and fake security badge, and carrying a toolbox.

E.J. makes it inside the command module just before the astronauts arrive for the flight, and hides inside a trash compartment. As the astronauts work through their preflight checklist, Mission Control informs them that the spacecraft is overweight by exactly 89 pounds. They are unable to resolve this discrepancy but decide it doesn't present any danger to the mission, and the countdown proceeds.

Meanwhile, E.J.'s father Eli is leaving the house to go to work, and in his car discovers a note written by E.J. telling him of his intentions. The note further explains that by the time his father reads the note, it will be too late to prevent him from carrying out his plan. Eli and his wife Mary race to the Kennedy Space Center and insist to the gate staff that their son is on the rocket that's about to launch, but no one believes them and they are forced to leave.

The rocket launches on schedule and shortly is on its way to the Moon. Opening the trash compartment, astronaut Ben Pelham is astonished to discover that E.J. is on board. Sheepishly, E.J. recounts his story to the astronauts, who now must decide what to do with him. They contact Charlie Englehardt, the flight director, and explain their predicament. Englehardt tells the crew that the mission is essentially scrubbed and that the spacecraft will have to make the quickest return to Earth possible. He also tells the astronauts that they must keep silent about the stowaway until the ground crew comes up with a plan for their return home.

However, when the crew does its scheduled live TV broadcast from space, they introduce E.J. to an astonished world. On live television, E.J. apologizes for his stunt and asks that his actions not jeopardize the crew's important mission. Englehardt is angered by this, but he recognizes that E.J. has charmed the public and made a strong case for the mission to continue. He gives his consent for the planned Moon landing.

E.J. becomes something of a mascot for the crew, and does what he can to help clean the cabin and perform other chores. Once in lunar orbit mission commander Rick Lawrence and lunar module pilot Dave Anderson prepare to undock from the command module and descend to the surface. But E.J. notices that Ben Pelham, the command module pilot, is ill. Ben insists that it's just a slight fever and asks E.J. to say nothing to the others.

The lunar module crew departs but Ben's condition deteriorates rapidly. With the ground crew's help E.J. cares for the ailing Ben and also helps pinpoint the location of the lunar module, which has landed far off course. The astronauts are able to make it back to the command module, knowing that without E.J., Ben would have died and a rendezvous with the other ship would have been impossible.

On the way back to Earth a stuck valve bleeds much of the oxygen from the ship. The astronauts remain in their spacesuits until the return to Earth, while E.J. must retreat to a frigid lunar module for the remainder of the voyage. Despite the low oxygen and freezing temperatures, E.J. never loses faith in the dream of space travel, vividly describing the Earth from space.

Some time later, safely back on Earth, E.J., Joey and Avril watch the full Moon from Avril's property. As E.J. watches the sky, he remembers Rick Lawrence's words: "Kid, you got us off the Moon. If it wasn't for you we'd be part of those rocks and rilles down there forever! Now we're going home, and we've got you to thank for that".[1]


  1. ^ Stowaway To the Moon. Perf. Lloyd Bridges, Michael Link. 1975. Film.

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