Good entertainment. It plays on the old "the moon landing was all a giant hoax" conspiracy theory. There are people who still believe that, and this film is built on the same plot. The trip to Mars was a failure, and so the "power brokers" stage it with real astronauts who have to be killed in the end, and movie and television tricks.
Hal Holbrook plays the heavy (bad government guy in charge of the hoax, including killing folks). Elliott Gould is the plucky young reporter (Caulfield) who is being set up by the government because he knows too much, and suspects more than he knows. The three astronauts are played by James Brolin, O.J. Simpson and a young Sam Waterson. They are supposed to be killed when their heat shield fails on re-entry (to avoid any embarrassing leaks later), but they escape from their southwest location. Even Telly Savalas gets a part in the solution, as Elliott Gould closes in on the bad (read "government") guys who are caught red-handed in their hoax on the gullible American people (aren't they always?).
This film has the whole schmeer, including the black helicopters, bad politicians (probably Republicans, of course), car chases, gun battles from airplanes, and the bad guys getting their comeuppance in the end.
It's good entertainment.
Joseph (Joe) Pierre
author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books