Though the majority of us will likely never get to leave our home planet, space travel has always been one of humanity’s great dreams, and it continues to be so. From the pie in the sky notion of colonizing Mars to the mysteries of what lies beyond our solar system and the frightening phenomena of black holes, space is both a captivating and mind-expanding subject. As climate change becomes a harsher reality and the likelihood of a Star Trek-style future gets further and further from our grasp, streaming giant Netflix is here to remind us that all is not lost and there’s plenty to discover in their diverse selection of programming. Below are the ten best space-centric docs that you can watch right now on the service.
10 Supermassive Black Holes (2000)
If you thought Christopher Nolan’s conception of black holes in Interstellar was fascinating, you ain’t seen nothing yet! One of the subjects about which human knowledge is most limited, this documentary takes a look at the phenomenon of space and time itself. We have a supermassive black hole right in our own galaxy, and though the documentary posits that it may have had a part in the big bang that created us, it could also be our undoing. Scary, thought-provoking stuff.
9 Secrets of The Solar System (2015)
Though to the layman, it would seem that our solar system is relatively static and unchanging—aside from Pluto’s demotion, of course. This documentary shows how current advances in astronomy are constantly morphing and reshaping our understanding of this small pocket of the universe. Just outside our backyard, new planets are constantly being identified and helping us to re-examine what we know about our own system. Secrets of The Solar System reminds us that our galactic neighborhood is dynamic and constantly changing.
8 Planet Earth (2006)
This Emmy Award-winning, 11 episode documentary series isn’t technically about space, but it’s still the most exhaustive examination of the planet we know best—our own! Five years in the making, Planet Earth is the most expensive project ever taken on by the BBC and remains a high water mark for the nature documentary. It’s sequel Planet Earth II (2006) is a worthy follow up that’s just as good as the first!
7 The Real Death Star (2002)
A much shorter documentary than the others here, The Real Death Star manages to cram quite a bit of info into its running time. Bite-sized and engaging, this 48-minute inquiry into the creation of gamma-ray bursts chronicles explores the various theories surrounding a destructive force that has been known to obliterate entire systems of stars.
6 The Farthest: Voyager in Space (2017)
Released in celebration of the 40th anniversary of one of NASA’s biggest achievements, The Farthest: Voyager in Space charts the history and continuation of the much-lauded Voyager mission. On September 5th, 1977, NASA launched twin spacecraft on slingshot directories to visit the farthest reached of our solar system. Having sent back unfathomable images that altered the course of our study of space forever, the crafts are still traveling amongst the stars after 41 years and will likely still be hurtling through the void long after our planet is little more than a cinder. This documentary tells of the mission’s creation, success, and legacy.
5 Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? (2001)
In our internet era, conspiracy theories rise and fall daily, spreading like wildfire before fizzling out. One of the earliest and most virulent, however, is still going strong decades after it was first posited. In this documentary, skeptics, believers, scientists, and experts present, refute and explore evidence that may suggest that NASA’s 1969 moon landing was faked by the U.S. government. Whether you think this is all hokum or that there may be something worth diving into here, Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon? is a solid primer for one of the oldest and most interminable conspiracy theories in American history.
4 Knocking on Heaven’s Door (2011)
From filmmaker George Carey, this documentary charts the rise of the Russian space program. Released in the year that marked the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s earth-shaking journey to space, the film is a strange, at times surreal odyssey through the Soviet mind—tackling capitalism, communism, immortality, cryogenics—and uncovers how the country’s interstellar ambitions were inexorably tied to a sense of ancient mysticism and destiny.
3 Cosmodrome (2008)
This documentary retells the story of the space race from the Russian perspective as the country attempts to create the most modern and advanced rocket engines in the history of the world. Charting how the Soviet Union’s Elite Design Bureaux endeavored to change the course of the Cold War, Cosmodrome is fascinating for the way it shows a shifting political and commercial landscape as the once-feared Russian engines find their way into American military and space-faring rockets.
2 The Mars Generation (2017)
Particularly piquant and watchable as climate change becomes more of a reality, The Mars Generation explores the potential for developing our neighboring planet into a secondary homeworld for humanity. Depicting the day-to-day struggles of a group of young scientists and engineers dedicated to our Martian future, the documentary shows how far we have yet to go before the planet is a viable substitute for the earthly perfection we already possess, but ultimately presents the future as bright and full of possibility.
1 The Last Man On the Moon (2014)
A biographical documentary which regales the life of Gene Cernan, the eleventh person to set foot on the moon. Though more of a footnote in aerospace history than, say, Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, Cernan’s story is still a stirring one, and The Last Man On The Moon endeavors to salvage the legacies of those who came after those first steps were taken. Maybe the best documentary on the subjective experience of setting foot on a world not our own, The Last Man On the Moon is informative, heartfelt, and manages to be a rousing galactic adventure in its own right.