Filmmaker On A Mission For The Astronaut's Secret

Rich Clifford
Rich Clifford
Photo courtesy of Zach Jankovic

Local filmmaker Zach Jankovic wants your help in making his documentary. The Astronaut's Secret is about former astronaut Rich Clifford. What makes Clifford's story different is that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease prior to participating in a mission for NASA.

Clifford's neurologist and NASA both gave him permission to go on the mission. Only the general public was kept in the dark about his diagnosis.

Jankovic has set up a page through Kickstarter.com, a website that allows filmmakers and other artists to appeal to the public in order to raise money for their ventures. His goal is to raise $48,000 by November 18. As of October 14, the amount contributed towards his film has reached more than $13,000 with the help of 110 backers. Only 30 percent of the project has been filmed.

He plans on traveling to Washington D.C. to interview General David Petraeus, Clifford's roommate at West Point. Also on the itinerary is to follow Clifford on speaking engagements where he discusses his battle with the disease.

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"A lot of the money will cover travel costs, graphics and post-production, " says Jankovic.

Clifford was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1994 by, Jankovic's father, neurologist Joseph Jankovic M.D. It was through his father that Jankovic first heard of Clifford's story and his role in STS-76 which docked with the Russian space station, Mir, in 1996. In April 2011, Jankovic approached Clifford and his wife, Nancy, to see if they were interested in being the subject of the documentary.

The film will focus on coming to grips with the disease and how it affected the physical standards needed to be an astronaut. It will also stress the importance of early detection.

"I want this to be an inspiration for those that have a debilitating illness," Jankovic adds "they can have a fulfilling life despite their obstacles."

For information on the documentary and how to donate, click here.


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