Monday, May 14, 2007

NASA short "films" on the planets

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offered a “movie trailer” on the Washington Mall last week, with a show: “The Moon, Mars and Beyond,” in two parts. The first part was a generic introduction to the space voyages, with interactive atlases of the Moon and Mars. But the second part of the show offered cyclorama like film clips of the Moon and Mars, and the a brief artists rendition of what it would be like to stand on the surface of Titan, moon of Saturn, and the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere.

Mars looked a bit like Iraq, and Titan had a gray-brown surface with frothy pools and foggy twilight sky. There is a question of how much light would reach the surface, with the weak sun; much of the light would have been reflected off Saturn, which could hardly be visible through the thick clouds. If there were geological activity underneath the rock and methane ices of Titan, perhaps there would be self-replicating organic chemistry (thiolins).

On the floor, there were images of balls like langoliers (as in the Stephen King movie from 1995) that kids could kick around as in grade school circle soccer.

In time Hollywood (maybe even “Hollywood Pictures”) will want to portray the surface of Titan as if probably really looks.

Another interesting world could be Triton (a moon of Neptune). Of course, Europa might have life in water underneath the ice cap (perhaps Ganymede also). Europa was the subject of the Arthur C. Clarke film "2010."

There is a DVD from AIX and RCA, “The Planets—Epoch 2000” made in 2000, with simulated art of the major planets to the symphonic suite by Gustav Holst. The review is here, and the page includes reviews of some other IMAX films about the planets.

National Geographic had a one-hour program “Extraterrestrials” in which it posted that an earth-like planet orbiting a red dwarf would have one side facing the star but could be in the right range of temperature to support life, however bizarre. Such a planet around a distant red dwarf, 20 light years away, may have been found recently. Review is here.

NASA's main web page on the Cassini mission is here. In May 2007 Cassin will do a flyby to determine if those dark areas on the poles are really Minnesota-like lakes (of methane and ethane).

Here are some good Titan pictures.

Here is a chart of time for light to reach various planets.

Here is the abstract (and text) of my experimental screenplay "69 Minutes to Titan." Some material is not shown completely in free public display for various reasons.

Here is another script (PDF) of an experimental short film about Titan (mine), "Surprise Planet."

Pictures: NASA probe on Mall; the "Tower of Ned" from my Titan screenplay.

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