NASA's 'Footprints' movie walks to US museum theatres



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Imagine looking at thunderstorms on your television meteorologist's radar screen as they sweep through your home state. Now imagine what they'd look like if you were in orbit around the Earth, looking down from space. That's how NASA's new movie "Footprints" lets you look at all kinds of things on Earth and on other planets.

What's really cool about NASA's "Footprints" movie is that it shows things like hurricanes, how satellites collect data from space, changing ocean temperatures, a close-up of Earth's moon and other planets—all projected on a spherical screen hanging from a ceiling in museum theatres.

It's like sitting in a spaceship and watching the changes happening on Earth or on other planets right underneath you, as the sphere that the movie is played on is in the middle of the theatre, surrounded by chairs.

"Footprints" is currently being shown at the NASA Goddard Visitor's Center in Greenbelt, Md. and will be released nationwide on December 7 in the cities of Norfolk and Harrisonburg Va., St. Paul, Minn., Honolulu and Hilo, Hawaii, San Jose, Calif., Baltimore, Md., and Alpena, Mich.

This film was created at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Using an advanced media projection technology called "Science On a Sphere" developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "Footprints" is the first fully produced film of its kind.

While watching the movie, viewers will see satellite data and other visual effects projected on a globe. During scenes when nighttime falls on the face of the Earth viewers will see city lights around the world come to life. In another scene a hurricane will be born and race across the Atlantic making landfall in the U.S.

Other moons and planets make exciting cameos too, with special presentations about Earth's moon and Mars.

During this 16 minute film, viewers will get an understanding of what scientists at NASA and NOAA study and what motivates them to explore. The film is narrated, and scored with a sleek soundtrack; audiences can connect with the movie's content and well as get swept up in the drama and excitement of humanity's drive to explore.

NOAA invented and developed the sphere within the past few years. Dr. Alexander MacDonald, a NOAA scientist at the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. originally conceived of Science on a Sphere. He said it's intended to present global science as it should be presented and to get students interested in learning more about the Earth's environment and the solar system. NOAA originally used the system for projecting satellite data so scientists and educators could get a true picture of how Earth's atmosphere and oceans were changing. When Michael Starobin, a Senior Television Producer at NASA Goddard, learned of the Science on a Sphere, he had an idea. That idea was to create a movie built largely of real satellite data with the intention of telling a compelling story about Earth and space exploration.

"It hadn't been done before," said Starobin, "so no one really knew how high the mountain was we had to climb. But it turns out that the view from the top is spectacular." Starobin and his team delivered not only a first-of-its-kind feature, but also a new set of tools and rules for making more features down the road.

Now, for those fortunate enough to live in the cities where "Footprints" is going to be shown, they can actually see the Earth and planets just as if they were astronauts.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson