We’re continuing with the updates of our amazing second North America Tour of late July/Early August that are “backblogged.” Apologies for the delay. Real life caught up with me for August/September orientation and student move-ins at Simon Fraser University. Now that all the new generation of students have arrived on residence, where I live and work, it was time to review the rest of the incredible locations/interviews of this recent trip. (By the Way. Simon Fraser University is considered to be like Sci-Fi Headquarters. It has been a filming set for Battlestar Galactica, Halo: Forward Unto Dawn, Underworld. Very cool place to visit if you are in BC)
Following our meetup with Bill Nye (BILL BILL BILL) in Los Angeles we headed North to the Seattle Museum of Flight. Within the Museum’s many awesome exhibits ranging from WWII combat aircraft, an actual retired Concorde, an SR-71 Blackbird, and hands-on simulator experiences is the Full Fuselage Shuttle Trainer.
The Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT) is a 1:1 scale replica of the Shuttle itself used to train every astronaut who ever flew to space on any of the shuttle missions. From Chris Hadfield to Story Musgrave to John Glenn, all these astronauts stepped foot in the FFT. It is as close as one can get to being in the shuttle without actually being in the shuttle; something that nobody will ever do again.
The Museum of Flight let us get inside the trainer and grab some incredible footage. While we were filming, Paul asked me to sit down in the command chair; the left seat in the cockpit. Seated before the accurate controls of what one would find in the shuttle, I was thrust into the life of what might have been; the life of a space-farer – an astronaut. The moment hit me harder than I had anticipated, which Paul keenly captured on film. It struck me that while the astronaut that I had always hoped to be was a driving force behind this film, that dream has also been a source of shame; that I had, in a sense, failed. I have always been vaguely aware of this sentiment toward my not becoming an astronaut. There is often a lingering sense that I made an error, or should have done something differently. Trying to determine all of one’s motivations for decisions made over a decade ago is difficult. I believe that, at the time, I choose to study arts rather than sciences, I did so for the right reasons and intentions.
However, while staring out the windows of the cockpit, where hundreds of other astronauts had trained, I began to wonder if perhaps there are moments in our lives where the environment is just right to confront something about your past, to find a sense of peace you have missed. It is as if you had a wormhole at your disposal to have a conversation with your past self and reconcile something that your past and present selves just didn’t quite understand about each other. As my young self looked forward to his future puzzled as to why I wasn’t whipping about in orbit, my present self was finally able to look back and say “You can live like an astronaut without necessarily becoming an astronaut” and those were the words that came out to Paul on camera. In a sense, while saying that sentence in response to Paul’s question “how are you feeling?”, those words were really a response to my past self, and a question from that past which translated to a sense of failure in the present. What is an astronaut but an explorer willing to take risks? They see a larger perspective and share that perspective with others so that they too are inspired to explore take risks and ultimately achieve something we really need…a reminder of how we are all profoundly connected together on this tiny blue world.
A striking example of how one can really live like an astronaut without ever leaving the confines of this planet was beautifully displayed right next to us as we sat in the cockpit of the trainer; an epic 120 foot long mural of the Milky Way by photographer Nick Risinger at the Museum. The image is literally as if somebody peeled the night off the sky itself and glued it to a wall. The mural is a mindblowingly awesome composite of 37,000 images of the night sky taken from across the globe by Risinger himself all stitched together into a 5 Giga Pixel image. Besides being a genius display of astrophotography, the work accomplishes exactly what I hoped to capture as as astronaut, and now as a filmmaker; a clear sense of the human condition in its truest form; that we share such a tiny and humbling and yet beautiful corner of the Universe…together. In a sense, I think anything we do, from physics, chemistry, astronomy, to music, paint, and dance all reflects us trying to remember that. If you’re not at the Museum itself, you can check out Risinger’s “Photopic Sky Survey” of the Milky way online. Please please take the time to explore the image. Below is a much much smaller version of Risinger’s beautiful photo.
Our sincerest thanks to Mary, Ted, Tony and JD at the Museum of Flight for making our two days there unbelievable cool.
Over the next few days, stay tuned for updates on our journey to Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama where we met up with Astronaut Abby , and a return journey to Los Angeles where we interviewed Kevin Grazier – Science Advisor to Battlestar Galactica and the upcoming movie Gravity, Ben and Carianne Higginbotham of online show SpaceVidCast, and Michael Okuda – Set and Visual Designer of Star Trek TNG VOY and DS9.