Capturing the Final Frontier: NASA Animation and the Movies

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The Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, recently presented Capturing the Final Frontier: NASA Animation and the Movies, a tribute to Hollywood’s love affair with Space and the worlds beyond.

Held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater the evening was hosted by Frank Marshall, producer of such incomparable films as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE BOURNE LEGACY, ROVING MARS and WAR HORSE, the evening was a mix of discussion accompanied by film clip presentations and went on to introduce to the sold out audience glimpses of how Hollywood is embracing the final frontier as space themed films and documentaries bring audiences to the edge of the universe and beyond.

The Academy brought together an eclectic group of panelists including Eric De Jong, a planetary scientist at Pasadena’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory specializing in visualization of the earth, sun and plant surfaces; Scott Farrar, Visual Effects expert and academy award winner for TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON; Bobbie Faye Ferguson, Director of Department of Homeland Security office of Multimedia, the official point contact for entertainment projects; Tom Jacobson, veteran entertainment  executive Producer of MISSION TO MARS; Dave Lavery, NASA executive overseeing the design and development of the next generation of exploration spacecraft; Dan Maas, NASA Space and 3D animator; Lisa Malone Director of Public Affairs at Kennedy Space Center; Toni Myers, veteran IMAX film director with over 20 titles to her credit and Director/Writer of Warner Bros HUBBLE 3-D; Frank Summers, astrophysicist specializing in scientist visualization and writer, science advisor and scientific visualization supervisor for Hubble 3-D and Burt Ulrich, NASA Multimedia liaison.

Film clips accompanying each panel discussion included MISSION TO MARS, ROVING MARS, HUBBLE 3-D, and TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.  Notable guests included Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot, and second man to walk on the moon’s surface, and Hollywood's First Lady of Space Exploration, Academy member June Lockhart of LOST IN SPACE fame as well a host of Academy members.

Featured from the vast film library included HUBBLE 3-D, the docu-drama shot partly in space during the actual shuttle mission to repair the Hubble telescope. The panel, Toni Meyers and Frank Summers, explained the particular obstacles in bringing HUBBLE 3-D to audiences. 

Having attended the premiere at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C. two years ago the HUBBLE 3-D experience has not lost its impact from the first showing at The Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater.  

The images taken by Hubble, post repair, through infrared depict red-beige cumulous cloud beds, deep womb like caverns, vacuums, which are considered the birthplace of stars. These images, without assistance of Hubble, could never be seen by man. If these pictures are accurate then the birthplace of the star, the countless trillions of stars that make up the galaxies, are these caverns of deep red-beige planetary clouds. Hubble’s images show the origin of the star as having a sheath like appearance, similar to a Jellyfish, with a single glowing eye, housed in a nursery of stars, that are released to live, from their celestial birthing home, for a limitless or limited time, either burning out or sustaining light and life through infinity.  The film clips and images, were awe-inspiring and would not have been possible without the dedication of NASA, Shuttle Astronaut Mike Massimino, Warner Bros and Toni Myers and her team.

Each of the evening’s presentations highlighted the advancements of both NASA and the animators who strive to mirror in exactness the scientific discoveries and none so vividly as the definition of a universe and the galaxies within a universe.

As laymen look to the stars, the vastness of space, from beginning to end is simply the universe; to astronomers and scientists space is like a grid map: Each grid a universe and within the grid a galaxy. There are ten billion grids, to date, with galaxies each vast, with planetary influence and distinctive component resembling the larger stars and patterns seen to the naked eye in the nighttime sky.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, in Pasadena, California was also represented bringing the evening to a climatic ending as it was announced, for those who did not know, the CURIOSITY ROVER, launched in November 2011, will land on MARS August 5, 2012 at 10:31PM PST.

The depictions from MARS are based on actual images obtained through previous unmanned ROVER missions. The images already obtained from previous explorations lend substantive credence to the possibility of life, clearly as water marks on fossils in MARS craters were found, and as water, the single most necessary element to sustain human life, one can comfortably. Lending credence to the theory of a civilization of some level could have sustained life on MARS.

With CURIOSITY ROVER due to land next month JPL also revealed the newest landing apparatus which will encapsulate rover until a parachute releases to slow the decent ensuring its safe landing. JPL, Griffith Observatory, NASA will all be providing viewing opportunities.

To find out more about viewing this historic event please visit:

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