Tag Archives: Space

Humans Explore: We Are Capable of Greatness, a new short by Space City Films

1 Jan

A new short film by Space City Films beautifully combines images from EFT-1 – the fist test flight of NASA’s Orion capsule on December 5, 2014 – with Carl Sagan’s passage We Humans Are Capable of Greatness.

Turn on the HD and watch:

These are Carl’s words:

We were hunters and foragers, the frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the earth and the ocean and the sky. The open road still softly calls. Our little tarraquest globe is the madhouse of those hundred, thousand, millions of worlds.

We who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds; are we to venture out into space?

By the time we are ready to settle even the nearest other planetary systems, we will have changed. The simple passage of so many generations will have changed us. Necessity will have changed us.

We’re an adaptable species. It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars, it will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses. More confident, far seeing, capable, and prudent.

For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallabilities, we humans are capable of greatness.

What new wonders undreamt of in our time will we have wrought in another generation and another? How far will our nomadic species have wandered by the end of the next century and the next millennium?

Our remote descendants safely arrayed on many worlds through the solar system and beyond, will be unified. By their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the universe, come from Earth.

They will gaze up and strain to find the Blue Dot in their skies. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was.

How perilous our infancy. How humble our beginnings. How many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.

– Carl Sagan

It is always remarkable how well Carl captures the contrast between our problems here on the Pale Blue Dot and the potential for what we can accomplish.

The filmmaker, Marc Havican, tweeted that this film is the first in a series he and Space City Films are creating called Humans Explore.

Can’t wait to see the next one!

Daydreaming about exploration wearing Mars-coloured glasses

29 Dec

The frontiers of exploration have had many faces throughout history. In ages past, what is today London, England would have been a striking, though desolate, find. Today it’s a central hub of the Western world.

Ditto my hometown of Toronto, Ontario. Just 300 years ago it was wilderness. And you don’t have to venture very far from the city limits to return to that untamed world.

And there are many places around the world that are still, in the truest sense of the word, frontiers of exploration.

Antarctica, the Amazon rainforest, the ocean floor (a massive ‘new world’ right here on Earth), Madagascar, the high Arctic – all places that most human will never venture and no doubt hold secrets that could both amaze and bewilder our understanding of the world and perhaps life itself.

Overlooking the frozen shores of Lake Nipissing in North Bay, Ontario

Overlooking the frozen shores of Lake Nipissing in North Bay, Ontario

Consider for example the extremophiles (life that exists in extreme environments) that live inside rocks many kilometers beneath the surface – far from any sunlight – that use the rock itself as an energy source.

Or the life that persists on volcanos.

Or the life that flourishes in Lake Vostok – an underground Antarctic lake that has been cut-off from the outside world for perhaps 15 million years beneath 4km of snow and ice.

These discoveries have changed how we think about life, and rightly so. We have learned that life can persist – and proliferate – in places that only a few years ago were considered too harsh.

The goldilocks zone right here on Earth has ballooned.

Places that were once thought of as too extreme in some way – too hot, too cold, too dry, too little sun – are now all environments where there is life.

And significantly, they’re not just places where life is theorized. It’s not just that someone says there ‘could be’ life there.

There really is life there. We have seen it. Measured it. Tested it. Compared it.

Our exploration has taught us an important lesson for Planet Earth: life finds a way.

And as I sit in my chair explore the ice world I see out the window of the house Ashley grew up in, those four words stick with me.

Life finds a way.

I know gazing out the window that my view is teeming with life.

In the sky, under the ice, in the snow.

Everywhere there is life, and it’s abundant. Our exploration of Earth has proven this to be true.

Then I put on my Mars-coloured glasses, and start to think…

When the first people arrive on Mars in the next decades, the view they’ll be faced with may be remarkably similar to what I see here, sitting in North Bay on the shore of Lake Nipissing.

A landscape shaped by the cold, by wind, by water – by weather.

It’s a landscape that is utterly beautiful, but also incredibly harsh.

Lake Nipissing or Mars?

Lake Nipissing or Mars?

The one I see is a present day lake and the one on Mars will be an ancient lake – one that has long since dried up. But I’d be willing to bet that the first people to visit Mars will touchdown at a place where we’re confident there used to be water (and maybe still is, just trapped under the surface in permafrost).

Our Martian explorers will lift the veil on some of the secrets of the Red Planet. They will walk and rove. They’ll set up camps and hunker down when dust storms approach. They will keep warm on the cold Martian nights.

And as I think about the incredibleness of discovery that awaits our pioneers, it occurs to me that we’ve been here before. This has already happened.





Earth used to be the undiscovered country (and in a meaningful way, we’ve only scratched the surface of it).

We are born to explore, and now there is a new frontier that tugs at our souls – and our emissaries are already there. But they are only wetting our appetite.

Missions to Mars have been flying for five decades. They have answered some fundamental questions – about water, about canals (or lack thereof), about volcanos, about the atmosphere and ancient environment.

They have also raised poignant questions, the latest of which – the origin of methane spikes detected by MSL – often circle around the question of life.

Was it ever there? What was its nature? When did it emerge? How long did it survive? Is it still there today? Are we related?

The answers to these questions – significant in their own right as they help us to understand the history of Mars – are also fundamental in determining our place in the cosmos.

Are we alone? Does life jump from planet to planet on asteroids? Is the chemistry of life common?

Answering these questions – in either the affirmative or the negative – will have profound impacts.

Exploration in the 21st century will take us to new frontiers, but it will similarly be true to our history. Humans yearn to explore, and this is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago.

The names of the explorers may be different, the frontier’s further afield, and our ships different in appearance, but these are only superficial transformations.

The essence is the same.

We want to explore new challenges, new destinations, new landscapes, new people – new worlds.

What do those places feel like? How do they smell? Is there life? Are there resources that will help people survive and travel on further?

Mars, like Earth, is a place that offers endless possibilities of exploration.

I wonder what we’ll find.

North Bay, Ontario or Nipissing Landing, Mars?

North Bay, Ontario or Nipissing Landing, Mars?

I can’t stop comparing these two images

4 Dec

I realize they don’t look identical, and I realize they’re taken in roughly the same place (so of course they look similar!) — but there’s something more to it than that.

One is Apollo 17 on the launch pad in December 1972, prior to it’s flight – and the last flight that took humans away from home.

The next is Orion on the pad this morning, prior to its first flight into space – part of a major step that will again take us away from home.

Apollo 17 sits atop a Saturn V on the launch pad in December 1972

Apollo 17 sits atop a Saturn V on the launch pad in December 1972

Orion sits atop a Delta IV Heavy on the launch pad in December 2004

Orion sits atop a Delta IV Heavy on the launch pad in December 2004

Just wait for Space Launch System!


Sights waiting to be seen by human eyes: Epic short film ‘Wanderers’

2 Dec

Wanderers, a short film by a Swedish man named Erik Wernquist shows a possible future for humanity.

It’s epic, and the best part? It’s inspired by reality.

Many of the images in the film likely appear familiar to space-watchers. The Sunset on Mars, for example, is based on a famous picture taken by the Spirit Rover in May 2005.

But it doesn’t stop there.

According to Wernquist:

– The image of a large spacecraft flying over Earth’s atmosphere is based on a famous image taken from the International Space Station in July 2003 during Expedition 7.

– The textures on Jupiter are based on Voyager 1 data from the 1979 fly-by.

– The geysers from Enceladus were discovered in 2005 by Cassini, and imaged since then – including identifying 101 individual geysers.

– The blimp arriving at an airport on Mars scene is inspired from a photo taken by Opportunity 2006.

– A colony on the Saturnian moon Iapetus features a great ridge only discovered (again by Cassini) in 2004.

– Hikers (or perhaps cross-country skiers?) moving across the surface of Europa was inspired by this image taken in 2001 and this one of Europa.

– The view of people gliding around the sky of Titan is inspired by the landing of the Huygens probe on the surface of the Solar System’s largest moon in January 2005.

– BASE jumping on Miranda, the largest moon of Uranus, is inspired by an image taken by Voyager 2 in January 1986.

And of course using words by the one-and-only Carl Sagan provides a nice touch. His words, part science and part poetry, stir the soul.

Wernquist also says the film doesn’t have any story of his own, rather he prefers that views insert their own meaning to it.

I choose to think of it as an example of what the future might hold, and the sights waiting to be seen by human eyes.

Floating among the clouds of Saturn, looking up at the Ringshine

Floating among the clouds of Saturn, looking up at the Ringshine