Palisadian Steven Barber is Leading the Apollo Monument Project
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
He has never walked on the moon but Palisadian filmmaker Steven Barber has met the brave men who have. Now, he is devoting his time and energy to making sure they are remembered by spearheading the Apollo Monument Project at the Kennedy Space Center and Johnson Houston Space Flight Center.
As project manager for the crew of the Apollo 11 monument featuring Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins, Barber and his team recently unveiled a similar monument for the Apollo 13 crew, a bronze statue sculpted by artists George and Mark Lundeen and Joey Bainer depicting the triumphant moment Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise stepped off the recovery helicopter onto the USS Iwo Jima on April 17, 1970.
Barber raised $750,000 to create the sculpture honoring the astronauts of the Apollo 13 mission.
“In a span of 67 years we went from the Wright Brothers to the moon,” Barber shared of America’s history. “It’s unfathomable. And now we’ve got a roving machine on Mars. We’ve come such a long way in such a short time.”
President John F. Kennedy’s address to Congress in May 1961 resonates with Barber to this very day and explains the zealousness he has for creating sculptures honoring the men who made the dream of walking on the moon a reality. After all, to that point the total time spent in space by an American was a mere 15 minutes.
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” Kennedy concluded. “No single space project will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important … and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
Barber put the achievement into perspective.
“When President Kennedy made that speech we didn’t have a booster, we hadn’t gone into orbit,” Barber said. “It got people talking, NASA’s budget increased tremendously and as a result, we won the race to the moon. It’s a great story and it’s true.”
A self-acknowledged space junky, Barber kept a scrap book in the 1960s with every space-related article published in the Los Angeles Times. He has worked on many projects in his 60 years but his monuments are his pride and joy.
“The two Apollo monuments that I’ve built came together quite magically when I had a vision to build monuments two years ago for the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing,” Barber said. “After the success of that project I was able to raise another $750,000 to build Apollo 13, and now I’m on a mission to do all of the Apollo monuments.”
Barber has produced nine feature documentaries. The latest, available on Amazon Prime, is titled “The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route.” It was filmed in Afghanistan and is narrated by former journalist Steve Kroft.
“I have two docs I’m shooting right now, and I’m working on building the Apollo 14 monument along with one for Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space,” he said. “I’ve done quite a few World War II films, and when I was out fundraising … I was able to get $5 million in 10 years.”
Having been a cruise director who worked on 19 cruise ships all over the country, Barber is a people person and thus has been able to get A-list actors like Ed Harris, Josh Brolin, Kelsey Grammer, Dan Aykroyd, Patrick Warburton, Joe Mantegna and John Savage to narrate his films.
He has sold all of his films to Hulu, Netflix, Discovery and the History Channel. Three of his projects have made the Oscar short list and his inspiring 2009 movie “Unbeaten” is on Time Magazine’s Top 10 Summer Olympics Documentaries of All Time list, right next to fellow Palisadian Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”
A Palisadian for seven years, Barber resides in the Huntington neighborhood, sharing that he likes the cool ocean air and the safety the Palisades offers.
“My dad worked at Rockwell International in El Segundo and worked on the moon buggy, so I got to meet all of the astronauts as a kid,” Barber shared. “I was at an event one night with Buzz Aldrin and that gave me the impetus for this project. My original thought was to build monuments for all 12 of the moonwalkers, but when I pitched it to NASA they said, ‘We don’t do this, we put people in space.’”
Not taking “no” for an answer, Barber contacted the Kennedy Space Center and, to his surprise, the man who picked up the phone was a U.S. marine who had seen two of Barber’s movies, and that started the ball rolling.
Barber’s fundraising has put him in contact with many successful people in the world of sports, business and politics—he has even met with Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Asked if the 1995 Ron Howard-directed docudrama “Apollo 13” about the mission considered the greatest successful failure in the history of space flight is a true account of what happened, Barber has this to say: “Jim Lovell told me there was never any fighting ever, so the dynamic between the astronauts is dramatized. However, the stuff on the ground is more accurately depicted and Jim did actually use the window to fire the retros.”
The harder Barber works, the more hurdles he has to clear, the more satisfying his mission becomes.
When he began this ambitious endeavor he never dreamed it would get this far, but only 60 years ago few dreamed a human being would ever walk on the moon and yet … the Eagle has landed.
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