CAPRICORN ONE: AMC'S Academy 5, Beacon Mall, Jennifer Cinema 1, Landover 3, Mercado Cinema, Pike, Roth's Tysons Corner and Springfield Cinema 2.

"Capricorn One" takes it for granted that an audience will believe the United States government capable of massively evil deeds against its own citizens on the slightest excuse. There shouldn't be any problem with that. In fact, "The Fury," earlier this season, was based on the same premise.

What will be hard for some people to accept in "Capricorn One" is applying it to that beloved bit of Americana known as the space program. But for those of us who looked at the moon landing on television, then looked up at the moon in the sky and failed, deep in our unscientific hearts, to make a connection, it's easy. What if the whole thing - not the moon landing, in this case, but a Mars landing - were faked for political reasons? Then those of us who couldn't understand what happened would look shrewd, instead of obsolete.

If you can buy that, "Capricorn One" is an amusing adventure story. Three astronauts are plucked from their technically inadequate spacecraft minutes before take-off and told that their taks is to save public morale and the NASA budget by making their Mars landing in a secret television studio. The step that they try to take for mankind is toward simple truth.

The style of the movie is mostly low-key bumbling, with some nice scenes of Elliott Gould and Karen Black as a couple of bored reporters assigned to the inevitable sidebar story on astronauts' families, and of Brenda Vaccaro as a widow without the luxury of indulging in dramatics. And it's good to see astronauts not as goody-goody nostalgia figures, but modern heroes - battling for truth against image.