February 24, 2009

Unusual NASA film opens this week

The U.S. space agency has produced a short film called Return to the Moon that opens in science museums and elsewhere nationwide this week.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said a television production team at its Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., used Science on a Sphere imagery and data sets from various space missions to give the impression of the moon hanging magically in the center of darkened theaters.

During the 5-minute film, viewers will witness NASA's legacy of lunar exploration and come to understand the rationale for the agency's ambitious plans to return to the moon, beginning with a robotic mission called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or LRO, the space agency said.

Return to the Moon is the latest in a series of films from the Goddard television team employing the Science on a Sphere platform. Goddard released the world's first major spherical film in 2006 called Footprints.

Spherical filmmaking brings the moon and planetary science down to Earth, said Michael Starobin, the film's producer. The subject is often difficult to relate to because the scale is so large or out of context with people's lives. However, when you project it on a sphere, people suddenly understand the size of regional events while also comprehending the global connections of the science being introduced. Pure data fall flat but spherical films make planets approachable.

Return to the Moon opens across the nation Friday.