Next Stop: The Canadian Space Agency and NASA

Hey Chasers,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Following our last post, which found us in Toronto, we headed over to Montreal to film at our own Canadian Space Agency. The CSA has been in the news a great deal lately with Chris Hadfield’s launch to the International Space Station in December. Paul was able to capture the launch celebration at the CSA with Jenny Chan, one of our associate producers. At the event, Paul met several key CSA personalities, and we thought it fitting to make a return journey to do some interviews at the CSA, and learn more about the role that Canada plays in the exploration of space.


A shot of the Canadian Space Agency. The building is amazing. I wanna have an office there.

One of the very cool things about doing interviews at the CSA is that we were the first to use their new green screen setup. Not sure what the backdrop will be once post production is completed (Something spacey of course) but I’m looking forward to playing with this coolness later. Essentially we were George Lucas that day.

Natalie Hirsch

Matt Interviews Natalie Hirsch while Paul grabs a shot of the green screen setup and his camera. Turns out astronaut food is much tastier than I had anticipated. Timmies? Really!?

Benoit Marcotte: Director of Operations Engineering and Program Manager for the Canadian Space Station Program.

Marilyn Steinberg: lead of the Academic Development Group which provides grants and academic support to universities across Canada looking to engage students with space sciences.

Marcus Dejmek:Is the Program Scientist for Space Physical Sciences. He is also Canada’s lead authority for ground-analogue studies (essentially simulating environments future astronauts may encounter such as the surface of the Moon or Mars…very very cool).

Natalie Hirsch: Program Officer for Space Food at the Canadian Space Agency. She ensures the Astronauts are being properly nourished including both before and during their journey.

These were some of my favorite interviews to-date with Chasing. Benoit took us for a historical tour of the CSA’s formation in a large display in the Agency. Marilyn talked about the importance of educating the future generation of astronauts. She also had a connection to Ryan Kobrick, whom we met in Florida this past November during the Atlantis Roll-out. The Agency had provided Ryan with funding as a Canadian Citizen to attend several space-related conventions. Marcus talked with us about the importance of studying the effect of gravity, especially on humans, to understand what would happen to people on long duration space flights. Turns out he is also a huge Star Trek fan so we talked about that as well. Finally, Natalie spoke to us about astronaut nutrition and even laid out a sample of astronaut foods which included…smoked salmon and Tim Horton’s Cappuccino!? Turns out Astronauts aren’t roughing it as much as we thought they were.

Following our interviews, we were able to get access to a few locations in the building usually off limits. These included a full sized mockup of the Canadarm2 used aboard the International Space Station, a training simulator room used to train astronauts on how to operate the arm, and the central Canadian Space Command Room where controllers can actually operate the arm remotely and monitor other activities aboard the ISS. Honestly, my ignorance showed through here. I thought the CSA was more an administrative setup, I didn’t realize that not only is their research and development being conducted there (currently on new Mars and Moon Rovers), but that actual command of space assets was being done in real-time.


Canadarm Simulator at the Canadian Space Agency


Control Room at the Canadian Space Agency

The Canadian Space Agency was amazingly accommodating. A huge thanks to the Agency and to Samir Goulamaly from CSA Media Relations who was our guide and support the whole time we were there, organized all of our interviews and ensured we stayed hydrated. The hospitality from the CSA was absolutely outstanding and we were very encouraged by their desire to also reach out and connect with the wider space/sci-fi community and help us in doing so.

After Montreal, we were off to Buffalo and then on a plane to Florida to reconnect with some familiar faces here and do another tour of the Kennedy Space Center’s new Atlantis Facility.

First, we conducted an interview with John Horan. John is father of Ryan Horan, one of the first contacts we made in Florida and who helped us get into the Vehicle Assembly Building in October of 2011 to see Endeavour. John is now the president of Technical Applications Unlimited and has a long career serving NASA within the Shuttle Firing Rooms themselves. John was only 2 miles away from the first launch of Shuttle Columbia and actually met the astronauts who flew the first shuttle mission, John Young and Robert Crippen. John was pivotal in our securing press passes for Atlanits’ Roll-Out in November as well, but we never had a chance to interview him until yesterday.


John Horan with Matt and Paul…and an Astronaut apparently

We were also able to reconnect with Ryan Kobrick. Ryan is a project manager at Space Florida whom we met up with in November during the Atlantis Roll out. At the time we spoke to Ryan about his astronaut candidacy and the importance of his work at Space Florida which is helping to stimulate the growth of the aerospace industry in the state. Ryan gave us an update on the state of his astronaut candidacy, but also took us for a tour of his very cool “Space Museum” in his house.


Paul and Matt with Ryan Kobrick and his awesome in-house space museum including some vintage toys, images of his Mars Simulation Training and many signed photos from both Apollo and Shuttle Astronauts

While most of the trip has been amazing. We have run into a snag. We are hitting a wall at gaining access to the new Atlantis Facility. It wasn’t a sure-fire guarantee that this would work out before we arrived, but we were hopeful. We seem to be getting a great deal of push back from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center side of things and we are not completely sure why. Our relations with NASA have been good. But it seems that there is a concern in showing the facility while it is still a work-in progress to the public. We are working the angles and we have some contacts inside that are trying to help us out. Today was the day that we would probably have done the shooting, but instead, Paul and I are using the day to catch up on e-mail, write blog posts, and shoot some B-Roll. It is rather disappointing to come across a wall like this…and one which we hit rather hard. But this whole trip has been about meeting people we never thought we would have the chance to meet and gaining access we thought we would never have. We have also seen how when one opportunity closes down, usually there are others that appear we can take advantage of. So, in the meantime, I am hopeful that while we may not get to see Atlantis in person again, there may be other surprises on the way we hadn’t even anticipated.

Tomorrow we leave Florida for San Francisco! Stay tuned!



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