Not Your Grandparents’ Apollo: Planetarium Film Captures NASA New Moon Missions | CU Boulder today

Banner image: NASA’s Orion spacecraft is expected to carry the first humans to leave Earth’s orbit in more than 50 years. (Credit: NASA)

The Fiske Planetarium at CU Boulder is run Cheeky! To the Moon.

This Friday, the planetarium will host the public premiere of a new science film – a 30-minute adventure in the Artemis program, NASA’s campaign to send human and robotic astronauts to the surface of the moon this decade. It’s an experience like no other: viewers will jump into the cockpit of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft, visit a futuristic colony on the lunar surface, and learn about CU Boulder’s upcoming moon research. They will also enjoy sitting in the immersive experience of Fiske’s full-dome theater.

“It’s not your grandfather’s Apollo program, and it’s not your grandfather’s planetarium,” said Jack Burns, a professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences who secured funding and helped to create the movie.

Cheeky! To the Moon is a collaboration between Fiske, the NASA-funded Network for Exploration and Space Science headquartered at CU Boulder and Tend Studio in Fort Collins. It was funded by NASA and Lockheed Martin. And if you can’t make it to Boulder, don’t worry, Fiske will begin distributing the production for free to hundreds of planetariums across the country in April.

Burns and John Keller, director of Fiske, presented Cheeky! To the Moon at a screening for members of the space community earlier this month. The scientists kicked off the event by giving the public a word of caution: don’t say NASA will return towards the Moon.

“This is a whole new set of scientific travel and exploration that we’re doing with new technology,” Burns said. “That’s why we’re talking about moving forward to the moon.”

robots and people

The film, narrated by Kari Byron of MythBusters and World of crash tests, opens by dropping audiences into the middle of the moon’s Taurus Littrow Valley – a vast expanse of gray surrounded by cliffs that rise thousands of feet above the lunar surface. In a voiceover, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt calls the terrain “one of the most magnificent valleys in the solar system.”

It’s a powerful reminder: Schmitt was one of the last humans to leave Earth’s orbit nearly 50 years ago. The next missions to the Moon will be very different. Cheeky! To the Moon takes viewers inside the Lunar Gateway, for example, a NASA space station that will orbit the Moon by the middle of the decade.

“I was immediately impressed when I heard Jack’s description of the film – that it was going to tell the story not only of astronauts, but also of robots and astronauts who will explore the Moon together,” said Keller.

The film also previews some of CU Boulder’s research that will take place on the surface of the moon in the years to come. In just a few months, a new scientific instrument will land on the near side of the Moon as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Burns and his colleagues helped design the instrument, called Radio wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the photoElectron Sheath (ROLSES), which is led by Robert MacDowall of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Two other CU Boulder-affiliated instruments, the Lunar Surface Electromagnetic Experiment (LuSEE) and the Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS), are also scheduled to land on the moon in the coming years.

Artist’s rendering of a CLPS lander that will carry scientific instruments to the Moon for years to come. (Credit: Fiske Planetarium)

“What’s exciting about the film is that this exploration is happening now,” Keller said.

Energizing spirit

There is a lot of excitement going around. NASA promised that Artemis would send the first woman and the first person of color to the moon.

Attendees at the Feb. 2 preview celebrated this new face of the space program. The evening included a panel discussion with Tom Ludlow from Tend Studio, Danielle Richey from Lockheed Martin and Joel Kearns and Amit Kshatriya from NASA.

Kshatriya, who previously ran operations for the International Space Station, explained how the Apollo program played a role in her own family’s history.

“My dad, one of the reasons he studied engineering and came to the United States was because he witnessed the moon landing when he was young,” he said. during the round table. “We’re trying to spread this as far as possible to energize the minds of the world to support what we’re doing.”

The team behind Cheeky! To the Moon hopes the film will help spread that energy and get young people from all walks of life excited to put on their space helmets.

“I often tell people that in Tend we went on space walks, but we got back in time for dinner,” said Ludlow, founder of Tend Studio. “It’s exciting to be able to share our two-year lunar mission with the world.”

Arline J. Mercier