navy test pilot lt dan prescott, in the experimental rocket-plane y-12, breaks through the ionosphere, the controlability zone and out to the edge of the atmosphere before returning to the terrestrial. the rocket is badly damaged, but the controls are salvageable. prescott, after the experience, is described by local cops as funny. lt prescott’s commanding officer (who also happens to be his brother) asks for a definition of funny. “like high,” the cop reports. lt prescott has disappeared after the crash. com prescott finally finds lt prescott (remember: they’re brothers) making out on the couch at his girlfriend’s apartment.
the paper the next day leads with lt prescott’s picture and reads “the highest man in the world”.
the pentagon sees the headlines and fast-tracks y-13’s test launch which will put lt prescott just barely into space — (the) first man in space, as the movie is titled. but first lt prescott will need to spend some time at the scientific section of the navy’s division of space medicine in mew mexico. they need to test the effects of zero gravity, extreme altitude and space on lt prescott’s mental and physical health. it turns out there are some serious negative side-effects to near space travel.
like the next time lt prescott gets to the edge of space (in rocket-plane y-13), he freaks out. the problem: lt prescott is addicted to space. it’s exhilarating (especially the way the sequence is shot) — a rush of adrenaline, endorphins, dopamine , etc (i’m guessing). lt prescott just wants more of it; he refuses to listen to commands, employs his back up boosters and blasts 250 miles into outerspace. then this alien cloud engulfs y-13 and lt prescott (“it was like 50,000 machine guns going off at once”) sending them crashing back to earth. the alien cloud has now solidified around lt prescott which also makes him a blood-thirsty maniac because (for some reason) he’s lost all his blood in space and needs to drink fresh blood to stay alive.
i think the movie is about early military development and testing of psychedelic drugs.
also, there were at least two dozen telephone conversations in this movie. as well as numerous intercom systems.