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Cassini’s Fiery Farewell

One of my favourite space missions is the Cassini mission to Saturn named after Giovanni Domenico Cassini, an Italian astronomer who discovered 4 of Saturn’s moons and noted the division in rings of Saturn now called the Cassini Division. Launched on October 15th, 1997, the probe arrived at Saturn on June 30th, 2004. Since that time, the probe has studied features of the gas giant such as Saturn’s hexagon shaped cloud formations at its Northern Pole, the cryovolcanoes of Saturn’s Moon, Enceladus where liquid oceans may harbour life, landed the Huygens probe on Saturn’s moon, Titan where we saw images beneath Titan’s mysterious atmosphere for the first time, and sent back the some of the most incredible images of space that we’ve ever seen. Some of these images include Earth (below) as we photobombed Saturn’s rings.

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Earth as a Pale Blue Dot in the Distance Through Saturn’s Rings Cr. Cassini NASA/JPL

Wow! That’s us, that Pale Blue Dot. This is one of my favourite pictures of all time, made possible by the Cassini probe. It shows us…well…us. For all our differences on our world, when we see the planet like this, all our differences become (literally) astronomically tiny and our similarities astronomically large. We all live on this little world floating through the cosmos.

Here are some other stellar images from Cassini through the years:

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Saturn Eclipses the Sun

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Saturn’s Moon Mimas Floats Above Saturn’s Rings as they Cast a Shadow on Saturn’s Northern Hemisphere Cr. Cassini NASA/JPL

Enceladus

Cryovolcanoes of Enceladus Cr. Cassini NASA/JPL

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The Surface of Titan Cr. Huygens European Space Agency

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Saturn’s Hexagonal Cloud Formations at its North Pole Cr. Cassini NASA/JPL

Cassini was placed on an extension mission in 2010 where it made detailed observations of Saturn’s moons and seasonal changes on Titan. Titan is the only other place in the solar system that has climate patterns affected by liquid like Earth does (except liquid methane rather than water). This past April, Cassini entered into a phase of its mission called “The Grand Finale.” As the probe neared the end of its life, the Grand Finale placed Cassini on 22 “daring dives” that passed between Saturn and Saturn’s rings typically too dangerous to have attempted earlier in the probe’s life and which allowed for closer observations of the rings than ever before.

In just a few hours at the time of writing this, Cassini will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, consumed by the very planet it has orbited for 13 years. This fiery finale will prevent the probe from contaminating any of Saturn’s moons; crucial in the future search for life. The predicted loss of signal from Cassini is currently predicted for 7:55am EDT, September 15th but that may change due to contact and friction with Saturn’s atmosphere. (Cassini will have vaporized about 83 minutes before that time; the time it takes for the final radio signals to reach Earth)

So, all that to say:  A probe we launched a billion kilometers into space twenty years ago to peer through the atmosphere of an alien moon, take photos of ice volcanoes, and fly through the rings of a gas giant is going to be consumed by the atmosphere of Saturn as a fireball. My mind is exploding.

Early in our Chasing Atlantis journey, we had the privilege of interviewing one of the engineer’s on the Cassini mission, Kevin Grazier. Kevin worked on the imaging subsystems such as Cassini’s visible light camera which brought us these incredible photos of Saturn and its moons. Kevin is also often tapped by screenwriters as a science advisor where Kevin has worked on shows like Battlestar Galactica and Defiance and movies like Gravity and he’s the author of Hollyweird Science: From Quantum Quirks to the Multiverse. Below is a clip from our interview with Kevin.

Farewell Cassini! Fore more on the Grand Finale check out:

Cassini’s Grand Finale Page

Cassini End of Mission Timeline

And you can watch NASA’s live stream of the Grand Finale leading up to final loss of signal here.

 

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Finding Belonging in Space: Mass Effect Writer, Ann Lemay

Hey Chasers,

Before we even knew that the night sky was filled we stars, we were already filling it with stories. Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations were already creating constellations representing tragic heroes, hunters, animals, and other figures of myth and legend. Some of these constellations remain today, and have shown through history to have a common origin that spread through many cultures such as the Big Dipper and Orion the Hunter. 

Constellation of Orion: Photo by Adam Evans (sky-candy.ca)

Constellation of Orion: Photo by Adam Evans (sky-candy.ca)

Humanity continues to use the night sky as a stage for stories; a giant canvas onto which we paint our hopes and dreams and adventures in the form of science fiction and space fantasy. What is it about space that is so alluring?

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SpaceVidCast – Inspiring Humanity to Look up: North America Tour 2 Continues

Hey Chasers!

I mentioned briefly at the end of the previous post that our interview with Gravity’s Science Advisor Kevin Grazier was shot at the studios of HD Video Podcast SpaceVidCast.

SpaceVidCast is hosted by husband and wife team, Benjamin and Cariann Higginbotham. The show’s mission is to “get all of planet Earth excited about space flight and living amongst the stars.”

Ben and Cariann are in incredible force for space outreach and we were privileged to be able to interview them. We were completely blown away by what they have accomplished with the show. Ben and Cariann eat, sleep and breathe space. They produce, edit, and host the show in addition to working within the space industry itself. They have incredible insight into the space technology currently in development and the political and economic arena of our current space exploration efforts.

SpaceVidCast Logo

SpaceVidCast Logo

Ben and Cariann are true examples of the show’s tagline “For the space geek in all of us.” They were the first interviewees we met whose variety of geeky T-shirts rivaled our own. Ben greeted us in the parking lot for their apartment building wearing a set of pair of Google Glass(es) where we were introduced to the team’s studio which they designed themselves. From there the team introduces the show’s viewers, through 45 minute monthly programs, and 5 minute “SpacePods”, to a range of topics from launch coverage and updates to the feasibility of initiatives like Mars ONE, promoting cool space-based Kickstarters like Planetary Resources’ ARKYD Telescope or upcoming video game Lacuna Passage, and debates on Science Fiction vs Science Fact. The team also posts videos from out-of-studio adventures to space craft launches as well as from space-related conferences and events.

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Two Years of Chasing Atlantis

Hey Chasers!

July 8th marks the second anniversary of Atlantis’ final liftoff from Earth.  Just a few days ago, Atlantis’ new home was opened to the public as she rests at a precise 43.21 degree angle, proudly displaying both her scored heat shielding and open cargo bay in celebration the Shuttle’s legacy. Oh yeah, and that’s the Canadarm extending from the bay if you hadn’t noticed it. (Below)

Shuttle Atlantis in New Shuttle Exhibit cr. Ryan Horan

Shuttle Atlantis in New Shuttle Exhibit cr. Ryan Horan

Two years ago, we were tightly huddled within a forest of tripod legs anxiously waiting to see if Atlantis would fly. Literally one million people stood beneath rain clouds in hopes of a patch of clear skies that would be needed to avoid a scrubbed mission. We only had one shot to capture the launch on film. If the mission were scrubbed, we didn’t have the funding at the time to make a return journey. Despite the weather and the risk, the million gathered on the shores; some having traveled much farther than us to witness this (potentially) historic moment. As you might know by now, the clouds did part, and just in time. At T – 30 minutes, those gathered around radios heard “Atlantis…you are go for launch” crackle through the radio. The roar of the crowd in celebration was second only to the  exuberance of the launch itself.

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Grand Opening of New Atlantis Exhibit

Hey Chasers,

Today marks the Grand Opening of the new Atlantis Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

In November of last year, Paul and I joined a media circus in watching Atlantis as it moved out of the Vehicle Assembly Building from the last time and began a full day journey to the New Atlantis complex at the Visitor Center. At that time, the Atlantis Facility was only partly completed. One entire side of the building was intentionally left open so that Atlantis could be rolled into the building. The structure was completed by literally building it around the Atlantis Space Shuttle.

Earlier in February, Dr. Ryan Kobrick, one of our interviewees, and Executive Director of Yuri’s Night, sent us the photo below of Atlantis as the world’s largest shrink wrapped space craft.

Atlantis In Shrink Wrap being prepared for New Facility cr. Ryan Kobrick

Atlantis In Shrink Wrap being prepared for New Facility cr. Ryan Kobrick Feb 2013

 

Two days ago, another of our Florida space friends, Ryan Horan, was able to get early access to the facility. The shot is from a very similar angle and demonstrates a great “Before and After”

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We’re Headed to the Constellation Awards!

Hey Chasers,

The 2013 Constellation Awards are this Saturday, June 22nd, at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Toronto-Markham…and we are going to be there…presenting!!!

TCON Banner

TCON Banner

The Constellation Award’s are Canada’s annual science fiction awards focused on rewarding excellence in science fiction film and television. This year marks the 7th anniversary of the awards to honour the actors, writers and artists who create all the cool sci-fi film and TV that is currently out there. The great part about it is that the awards are selected by the viewers.

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Planetary Resources Launches Campaign to Fund Revolutionary Telescope

Hey Chasers,

We wanted to share an incredible project that has been started by Planetary Resources.

A few months ago, you might recall that we had the amazing opportunity to interview Chris Lewicki and Chris Voorhees of Planetary Resources. 

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Both Chris’ discussed the company’s mission to explore space and secure “resource-rich” asteroids that are within our solar system. The goal:  mine those  asteroids for those resources (kinda like in cool space video games…but in real life!!) Both Chris’ have a wealth of engineering experience and have worked directly with NASA. In our interview with Chris Voorhees, he talked about being the last human being to actually touch the Opportunity rover before it landed on the surface of Mars and the profound impact that had on him being a star gazer and knowing that something you helped construct is actually on the surface of another planet. Chris Lewicki actually has an asteroid named after him.  (We are hoping to unlock this achievement ourselves depending on the success of the film 😉 )

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Chasing At Fan Expo Vancouver

Hey Chasers!

Tomorrow marks the start of Fan Expo Vancouver running both Saturday and Sunday. If you are headed to the convention, be sure to come and find us. You can:

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1) geek out about space

2) pick up a sharp looking Chasing Atlantis Tee

3) win a sweet limited edition Lego space shuttle set

4) end up in our film!

So we hope to see you there. Just look out for one of us in a booth wearing a Chasing Atlantis Tee!

Yuri’s Night in Review

This past Friday April 12th marked the 52nd anniversary of human space flight with Yuri Gagarin’s breaching of the Earth’s Atmosphere into the final frontier.

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Shuttle Trainer at the Seattle Museum of Flight

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Chasing Atlantis Yuri’s Night Celebration Trailer

In celebration of Yuri’s Night, Chasing Atlantis released a new trailer that yesterday was exclusive to those who participated in one of the over 300 parties around the world to celebrate humanity’s entry into the final frontier.

Today we are releasing the trailer online! Be sure to check it out!