At the time of writing this we are less than 11 hours from the Pluto Flyby!
I missed out on the first images of the distant solar system. When I was old enough to fully realize my interest in space, we had already flown past of all the planets (all 8). Voyager 2 was the first to visit the outer gas (ice) giants Uranus and Neptune in the mid to late 1980’s. I was too young to appreciate what we had just accomplished. We brought planets into focus we’ve known about for decades and centuries but for the first time with detail, colour, textures, and data. These distant points of light pondered by astronomers for centuries were made very real as they clutched our own technology in their gravity.
While Pluto is no longer classified as a planet, knowing that this famous celestial body is about to be imaged at this distance for the first time has me so stoked. New Horizons has given me the opportunity to go back in time during the days of Voyager 2 to see what I missed and have my mind blown. Not only did Voyager 2 provide us with the clearest images of the most remote planets in our solar system, it reminded us that yes…this is where we are! We are in a system of planets and bodies orbiting this incredible ball of plasma called the Sun flying through space on an existential crisis asking what we’re all about and if there is anybody else out there also asking these questions and launching probes. Furthermore, we can blow everybody’s mind in real-time (ish as it takes about 4 hours for messages to get from Pluto plus lag time in bandwidth and processing) as everything that is transpiring over the next few hours will be online. It’s a good time to be taking photos of planets.
An incredible privilege we’ve had in producing this film is interviewing a diverse array of individuals from space station commanders to science fiction writers. Each of them is a larger-than-life personality and has contributed something amazing to our film that has helped us tell our story. Outside of their participation in Chasing Atlantis, our interviewees are contributors in their own fields and it is important for us to keep tabs on them and promote their endeavours just as they have supported ours.
To that end, we wanted to share a new work by one of our most influential interviewees, Ann Lemay, a writer at BioWare studios in Montréal. Ann worked on my favorite video game series of all time, Mass Effect, and is currently writing for the newly announced Mass Effect: Andromeda. Ann’s discussion of narrative design for video game writing and science fiction really shaped the way that we are developing the narrative for our film. In her new work, a book she has co-authored entitled the “The Game Narrative Toolbox”, Ann explores the role a narrative designer plays on a development team to write video game player-centered stories, dialogue trees, and interactive vs cinematic segments of narrative. The book also includes exercises to hone your writing skills, as well as tips for applying for jobs within the industry or creating independent projects. If you ever thought of getting into the game industry as a story writer, this would be the place to start.
Below is a segment from our interview with Ann where she discusses the role of science-fiction in exploring our own sense of belonging in the universe; a theme which has become central in Chasing Atlantis.
Congratulations on the book release and on the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda, Ann!
We are only a few hours away from a monumental experiment in space craft propulsion. Ever tried sailing on sunlight?
The Planetary Society is going to be launching their solar sail space craft LightSail in a matter of hours. LightSail is designed to deploy 32 square meters of 4.2 micron thick sails once in space. The sails literally catch solar “wind”; charged particles emanating from the Sun that will push LightSail through space. (It’s kinda like the “Explorers” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) Anyway, talk about green energy! (Or Yellow) What are the implications? Well according to the Planetary Society says
LightSail represents a major leap forward in the concept and technology of solar sailing. Through this program, we’re making it possible for other groups, including NASA, to utilize this innovative propulsion technique on CubeSats and other small spacecraft—opening the door to a huge variety of low-cost missions throughout the solar system.
As you might know, Bill Nye currently heads up the Planetary Society as CEO. We had the incredible opportunity to interview Bill during the production of Chasing Atlantis. You’ll get to see Bill talk more about space exploration once Chasing hits a film festival near you.
LightSail is currently running a Kickstarter Campaign that you can support for a chance at some amazing incentives ranging from LighSail merch, to cool gear like a Raspberry Pi rigged up to tell you when LightSail is travelling overhead, to lunch with Bill himself!
The main LightSail website can be found here where you can also watch the launch live at 10:45am EST today (May 20th). This launch will be a shakedown cruise to ensure LightSail survives orbital insertion and to test the sail deployment system. The test of the solar sails themselves will occur on the next launch scheduled for 2016.
“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”
– Sir Fred Hoyle, 1948
When we set out to shoot Chasing Atlantis, we thought our film would primarily focus on the legacy of the Space Shuttle. However, Paul first noted how frequently our journey turned introspective, examining space’s impact on my own life. For example, I hadn’t anticipated that a road trip to see the last shuttle launch would result in interviews with my grandfather and his repairing the old telescope we used to look at planets when I wasn’t much taller than the tripod.
Seeing myself reflected in our journey made me uncomfortable. This wasn’t supposed to be a film about my story. This was a film about space’s story. And that discomfort sat with me until I read a quote from Astronaut Jim Lovell of both Apollo 8 and 13: “We learned a lot about the Moon, but what we really learned about was the Earth…and how insignificant we really are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of Earth itself.”
“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marvelled at the beauty of our planet.
People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!”
— Yuri Gagarin, 1st human in space.
It’s Yuri’s Night! Today, April 12th marks the 54th anniversary of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s epic journey into space; the first time a human ever ventured across the threshold of Earth’s atmosphere into the Cosmos.
One of my fav bloggers/science evangelists/astronomers is Phil Plait AKA, the “Bad Astronomer” said that:
This past weekend we had front row seats to a conjunction of the Moon, Mars, and Venus; our three closest celestial neighbors.
One of the advantages of my day job working on campus at Simon Fraser University is having a roof access key to the residence dorm towers. It made for a great view of the conjunction especially as it approached the horizon. Here is a collection of some of my favorite shots from this past Friday and Saturday. By Saturday, the Moon had moved away from Mars and Venus in the sky, but it still made for a spectacular view. The shots were taken with 24mm, 50mm, and 300mm lenses on my DSLR. The last photo of the Moon and Mars was through my 80mm telescope at 600mm focal length also using my DSLR.
Happy New Year, Chasers!
The last few months have been absolutely amazing as we have headed into closing our primary videography for Chasing Atlantis. In October, we shot an amazing interview with Star Trek’s Rod Roddenberry, and more recently, through November and December, we “caught” Atlantis in her new home at the Kennedy Space Center as well as witnessed the historic launch of the Orion capsule.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, Chasers!!
A friend of mine sent this to me today and I wanted to share it with all of you! It is “Happy Holidays” written out by early galaxy formations! So Awesome. Below the image is a link that provides info on each of the galaxies as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey!
Wishing you and yours all the best this Holiday Season and an epic, adventurous, creative and Final Frontier breaking 2015!
Just a quick update to let you know that we’re in Florida for the Orion Test Flight! The launch is set for 7AM EST today and we have press passes. We’ll be about 10KM from the launch site. This is even way closer than we were for the Atlantis lift off 3 years ago.
Orion’s flight is exciting for a few reasons both historical and personal. Historically, this launch represents the next steps on the path to bringing humanity further into the Solar system, perhaps even to Mars which is the current plan. But personally, it is huge that we were able to get press credentials for this launch. 3 years ago, when we started this journey, we had made little inroads yet with the space community here in Florida. We were just a group of travelers on a road trip to see a space shuttle. So much has happened since then and we’ve met so many people who have opened so many doors for us. And now, here we are on the eve/morning of this historic event with front row seats. One historic launch to another.
Be sure to tune in to the launch live! You can watch it here on NASA TV In fact, there is a live view of Orion on the launch pad right now. We’ll be there as well so if you’re around at the cape, be sure to Tweet me @chasingatlantis or @nobordfromorbit
Keep Chasing and Go Orion!!
Hey Chasers! In case you hadn’t already heard the news, we’ve landed on a comet!
This morning the Rosetta mission landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Huzzah for space! You can check out the story on CBC here and be sure to follow the Rosetta mission twitter thread @ for more updates including images from the comet’s surface!