Thanks to repeated showings on cable television and home video, this speculative thriller has built quite a loyal following since its release in 1978. The provocative "what if?" scenario still packs a punch, even if it is not always believable. James Brolin, Sam Waterston, and O.J. Simpson star as three astronauts who agree to spare the government embarrassment by faking their historic landing on Mars after their spacecraft is determined to be unsafe for blastoff. When a scheming mission controller (Hal Holbrook) plots to kill the astronauts in a staged capsule fire, the trio embarks on a dangerous mission to expose the truth. Elliott Gould costars as the journalist determined to crack the conspiracy, and director Peter Hyams turns up the tension with an exciting chase sequence involving Telly Savalas as an eccentric barnstormer who comes to Gould's aid in his attempt to rescue the hoax mission's sole survivor. --Jeff Shannon
What If One Of The Greatest Space Adventures Was Really A Hoax? When The Head Of Nasa'S Manned Mars Mission Discovers That The Capsule Meant To Carry The Astronauts Will Suffer A Catastrophic Failure, He Forces Them To Participate In A Hoax By Broadcasting Their "Mission" From A Studio Built In An Abandoned Air Force Base. Over Many Months, The Astronauts Are Forced To Film Broadcasts On Their Progress. All Is Going Well Until They Learn That The Only Way For The Hoax To Be Maintained Is For Them To Die Upon Re-Entry. Their Only Chance For Survival Is To Make A Desperate Attempt To Escape. Throughout This Period, An Investigative Reporter Gets Wind Of The Fact That Something Is Amiss And Slowly Puts Together The Pieces Of The Mystery.