March 09, 2016
  • The futuristic space plane Orion III from the science fiction movie epic "2001: A Space Odyssey" has landed in Space.com's offices.

    Our resident infographic master Karl Tate is what we'll call a megafan when it comes to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey." So we weren't surprised when an extremely detailed model of the Orion III space plane appeared in his office. But we were impressed to learn that it might be the most accurate model of its kind in existence.

    You can see photos of the model here and a clip of the film that includes the ship's exterior here. This was an entirely fan-made item; there are no officially licensed models of the ship available for purchase (or of any of the other ships from the movie, for that matter). The attention to detail is impressive, especially considering that the actual model used in the film was destroyed, so there was very little information to go on when re-creating it. [Stanley Kubrick's Iconic '2001: A Space Odyssey' Sci-Fi Film Explained]

    In the film, the Orion III spaceship carries passengers from Earth to a handful of nearby destinations, including the Space Station V.

    The ship is where Kubrick executed one of his many tricks to create the illusion of weightlessness: the floating pen was achieved by sticking the pen to a pane of glass (larger than the camera frame) and moving the glass in such a way as to make it look like the pen was floating in the air.

    However, the interior scenes of Orion III were shot on a set; the exterior shots of the spaceplane were created using a photograph of the 4-foot-long (1.2 meters) model.

    The Orion III model that appears in Tate's office started with this resin model that is available for purchase. The resin molds were made from a wood model carved by aerospace engineer Adam K. Johnson, who is also the author of "2001: The Lost Science," about the scientific infrastructure of the movie created by the filmmakers.

    But customers who order the resin model won't get the same ship that Tate owns. That model was given a makeover by professional prop-maker Stephen Dymszo (who also made one for himself). Using various source materials, including some high-resolution images of the original model and blueprints for the cockpit interior, Dymszo said he added 286 additional parts to each model, and spent roughly 280 hours on each of them.

    Some of the additional details include two probes that extend off the very back of the ship. Tate, a graphic designer, created blueprints for the probes, and the pair had them made out of stainless steel from a machine stop. The model also has stainless steel reinforcements to make it more durable, Dymszo said. Most of the additions were plastic strips and sheets for the exterior. Tate also made the Pan American logos, and created the designs for some of the other surface details.

    Kubrick used extremely harsh lighting for the space shots (to mimic direct sunlight), which tended to wash out any details on the model, so the original creators used a colorful, patchwork paint job to give the ship more contrast. In the finished film, however, the ship looks almost uniformly gray. Dymszo's paint job is meant to look like the model itself; Tate said he is fully aware that the pastel colors might draw comparisons to Easter eggs.

    Dymszo said this model might be the most accurate re-creation of the original model in existence, even though Tate pointed out that there are some obvious differences in the overall shape of the two ships. The Museum of Science Fiction, set to open in Washington, D.C., has a 6-foot (1.8 m) model of Orion III that might be shaped more accurately, but it is also 2 feet (0.6 m) longer than the actual movie model. The museum's version is also painted entirely in shades of grey, instead of the colorful patchwork of colors that Dymszo used.

    "I've been making models and miniatures since I was actually very young," Dymszo told Space.com. "And most people sort of grow out of [model making] when they're ten, twelve years old, and they move on to other things. I never stopped. Literally. So I've built thousands and thousands of models."

    "But back in the 90's I realized you could actually make money building models," he said. "So I started doing it professionally and it's been going on ever since. We've done work for Sony studios; I made 45 weapons for the movie 'Blade II'; helped MGM with a [James] Bond commercial one time. So I've been doing all kinds of crazy projects like that since about 1995."

    Photographs of the original model of the Orion III space plane used in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

    Photographs of the original model of the Orion III space plane used in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

    Credit: MGM

    Unless you're lucky enough to have Dymszo as a friend, you probably won't be able to get your hands on one of these anytime soon (although you might be able to find one of these Orion III models made by Aurora). In fact, licensed merchandise from "2001" was very limited until recently. In 2014, Taschen books released a four-volume book that, according to the company's website, is "the most exhaustive publication ever devoted" to the film. There is also a single-volume version of the book. Then, earlier this year, Go Hero began selling two extremely detailed licensed collector figures from the movie: astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole. Perhaps fans of this space-movie epic will start to see licensed merchandise become available.

    Editor's Note: The Orion spaceplane did not travel directly to the moon, as this article previously stated.

    - See more at: http://www.space.com/32136-2001-space-odyssey-orion-ship-model.html#sthash.QtFUDtDK.dpuf

    March 10, 2016
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    May 02, 2016
  • Summer is a perfect time to learn about space. Even if family vacations don't include stops at a NASA center or an air and space museum, kids can gaze at the stars deep into the night without worrying about the cold, and they can spend long, lazy days reading about the final frontier.

    Here are a few of OiiOSpace.com's favorite space books for children and young adults. The following list is just a sampling, of course; to learn about many other great titles, check out reviews by the National Space Society and the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla.


    April 29, 2016 07:00am ET
    May 02, 2016
  • The new IMAX documentary "A Beautiful Planet," filmed by astronauts on the International Space Station, illuminates life on the station and the beauty and fragility of the Earth it overlooks.

    The film, which will be shown in IMAX theaters on April 29, incorporates 15 months of footage from the space station, and offers a rare glimpse of Earth from afar as well as insight into the day-to-day activities of the crews that lived and worked on the station during that time. The film's narration, by Jennifer Lawrence, also delves into the impact of humans on Earth and its potential analogues elsewhere in the Milky Way.

    NASA has partnered with IMAX many times before to create documentary films, including "The Dream Is Alive," about the space shuttle program, and "Blue Planet," which shows the changing Earth from space. Veteran astronaut Marsha Ivins, who flew five shuttle missions and also filmed for IMAX from space, shared tips with the astronauts before launch on what to expect when filming in microgravity. The medium offers unique challenges, but also unique rewards to the viewer. ['A Beautiful Planet': Film Shows Earth from Space in IMAX 3D (Gallery)]


    "A lot of people, I'm amazed: They think outer space, the moon, Mars, it's all the same," Myers told Space.com. "People don't realize, just to get to Mars is 49 million miles, [and] another Earth is — we're light-years away from having the technology to get there."

    Instead of that fact leading to hopelessness, Myers said, she hopes that understanding will inspire people to take care of Earth and look for solutions: "There's a couple of examples where human beings have got together and actually done some improving," she added, so she's hopeful.

    Myers also directed "Blue Planet" back in 1990. While much of the process is the same, with astronauts orchestrating their own shots and getting crafty with how they set up and move throughout the station, this is the first time it's been shot with digital cameras. Consequently, it's the first time that the members of the crew have been able to shoot footage for IMAX of the lights of human habitation on the Earth at night, or the swooping auroras that can cover its surface.

    "I shot some aurora," astronaut Kjell Lindgren said at the roundtable. "And it looks unearthly — it looks like a special effect, and it's not. You're floating there, and you're watching this, like, 'My goodness. I can't believe I'm seeing this.' And then you also realize that it's because of radiation that's coursing through your body."

    The astronauts' shots also captured how the Earth is changing, said astronaut Butch Wilmore. "When you think of deforestation or fracking fires, those types of things, before this film, what did you have to compare to?" He and the other astronauts filmed deforestation in Madagascar and fracking fires in southern Texas, along with other sights that highlight humanity's mark on the world, like the stark borders between countries in conflict.

    Ultimately, in describing the film, the astronauts came back again and again to how much it conveyed the feeling of being in space as fully as possible: "It's impossible to share the whole thing without actually being there, but I think this is probably the closest you can get without doing that," astronaut Terry Virts told Space.com.

    "We live on the space station, and it provides us food and water, protection from radiation — it's our place to live, what we call home," Lindgren said. "When you look at the Earth from that perspective, and you can stick your head into the cupola and you can see the full face of the Earth, you see that it is this beautiful blue and white ball hanging in the cold void of space. And it provides us with food and water, protection from radiation — it's our home. And yet we don't spend anywhere near the amount of time taking care of it that we do of the space station."

    "It's kind of a profound realization that you really don't get to experience when you're living here on it," Lindgren said. "You look up at the blue sky, and it's beautiful, but when you look back at the Earth you see that it's unique, and fragile."



    May 04, 2016
  • The new IMAX film "A Beautiful Planet" depicts Earth from an astronaut's-eye view, and it also painstakingly recreates the entire Milky Way in a realistic visualization. And you can learn how the filmmakers tapped supercomputers to create the stunning scene in this exclusive clip.




    In the video, Donna Cox, the director of the Advanced Visualization Lab at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at University of Illinois, describes working with scientists to visualize their data and telescopic images cataloguing the universe. She is joined by the center's visualization designer Robert Patterson.

    "Her team works with real astronomical data — this is not CGI, this is not made-up stuff," Toni Myers, director of "A Beautiful Planet," says in the video.

    In "A Beautiful Planet", the visuals "take the audience where cameras can't go," as Patterson puts it — audience members are immersed as the view zooms out and through the Milky Way, showing an Earth-like exoplanet and other features. Every known Milky Way star is taken into account in the realistic view and the simulation that created it.

    "Today, more than ever before, we're seeing a kind of renaissance of artists and scientists working together to bring the visual to people and the accuracy of science to be embedded in that visual," Cox said.

    "A Beautiful Planet" opens in IMAX theaters on Friday, April 29.


    October 24, 2016
  • A new documentary short looks back at the last time humanity ventured beyond low-Earth orbit.

    "The Last Steps," which premiered on Saturday (Oct. 8) at the Hamptons International Film Festival in East Hampton, New York, chronicles the journey of Apollo 17, the United States' sixth and last moon landing in December 1972.

    "The theme of our mission is that this isn't the end," says Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan in a rarely-seen pre-flight interview that is playing as "The Last Steps" begins. "We've just begin [sic] to crawl with the Apollo program as mankind. We're just now hoping that we can learn to walk and then press onto the future."

    Produced by CNN Films and Great Big Story, CNN's video network, "The Last Steps" relies solely on original NASA footage — most of it having been shot by Cernan and his Apollo 17 crew mates, Harrison Schmitt and Ron Evans.

    "Unlike other films that have blended archival footage with interviews or narration from today, our film is unique in that we use only archival material, in other words transmission audio, original still photography and original film captured by the astronauts," said Todd Miller, "Last Steps" director, in an interview with collectSPACE.com, "thus giving the viewer a truly direct cinema experience of our last trip to the lunar surface."

    Launched from Earth on Dec. 7, 1972, Cernan and Schmitt spent three days on the moon, exploring the Taurus-Littrow valley over the course of three moonwalks. They were the last to drive a lunar rover and collected 741 rock and soil samples. Evans made the last deep space extra-vehicular activity .