What is “The Astronaut’s Secret”?
In 1996, during NASA’s Space Shuttle Mission, STS-76, Michael ‘Rich’ Clifford performed the first American spacewalk while docked to the Russian Mir Space Station. It was a flawless performance that paved the way for future spacewalks. Fifteen years later Rich Clifford reveals that he had Parkinson’s disease while performing that spacewalk and with NASA’s knowledge of his ailment. THE ASTRONAUT’S SECRET explores Rich’s career as an astronaut and how he and NASA kept his disease a secret for more than fifteen years. The film also follows Rich as he begins to speak publicly about Parkinson’s disease and becomes a source of inspiration for others suffering from the neurodegenerative disease. His story shows that with passion, dedication, and determination one can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and reach for the stars.
Why are you doing this project?
This project came to me by way of my father, Dr. Joseph Jankovic. He’s the neurologist who diagnosed Rich in 1994 and has been crucial in Rich’s decision to go public about his disease and his story.
My interest in Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders was peaked by discussions with my father. I knew I wanted to explore the use of film in developing awareness and telling the stories of patients and their struggle with their diseases and overcoming the stigma and pursuing dreams and goals. To this end I followed my passion for film and studied documentary filmmaking at The University of Colorado at Boulder.
Growing up in Houston, TX, NASA Astronauts were always considered the best of the best. So when I heard about Rich’s story I knew I had to go after it. I contacted Rich and went to dinner with him and his wife, Nancy. That night I told Rich what I wanted to do, he took a look at Nancy, looked back at me, and said, “You’re the man for the job.” And we were off and running
Where will I be able to see this?
It is my hope that this film will be selected for film festivals worldwide and will be screened on your local PBS Station (a letter of interest has already been received). And then finally the film will be made available in DVD/Blu-Ray and Digital Download.
The Overall Purpose of the Film?
Rich’s story will serve as inspiration to all the people out there that have been affected in one way or another by Parkinson’s. It is my hope that Rich will be seen along side Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox as a great spokesperson for Parkinson’s Awareness.
If you have any other questions