Interstellar and Martian Trips

It has been a while since I last posted. I’ve had a difficult time getting active on any of my movie projects. In the last few weeks I have started work on a couple of small projects that should result in something to post soon.

I’ve had a large number of people sign up for my mailing list while I was inactive. I have no idea why.

Red Star Planet Flyby

The Breakthrough Starshot project caught my interest when I first learned of it. ( It is a proposal to send a probe to the Alpha Centauri star system. I would like to see what they find.

Unfortunately for me, they think it will be 20 years to develop the technology, 20 to 30 years to travel to the star and then 4 or 5 years to send back the data. I don’t need to reveal my age for people to realize that I won’t likely be around to see the result.

So, what I have started to work on is a simulated flyby through an alien star system. Then, at least, I’d get some idea what they might see.

I’ve used Blender to create the simulated star system. I haven’t given it a name yet. It is not based on any real star. I gave it 4 planets, 3 super Earths and a smaller planet. The furthest planet is about 7,500,000 km from the star. The size and distances of the planets and the star are all to the same scale.

I need to work on the appearance of the planets. I want them to look realistic. Since my artistic skills are a bit primitive, that is a bit of a challenge. For testing I have just used maps of planets and moons in our system. I’ll come up with something else before I’m done.

The probe is projected to have a speed op about 20% the speed of light. At that speed, it takes about 7 minutes to pass through the system. For my test I sped that up to about 140% the speed of light. That isn’t realistic, but it gave me an idea what the final version would look like.

The test version was a disappointment. The path I laid out for the probe was too far from any of the planets. I will need to change the path, or move the planets.

I wanted to have the camera point at each of the planets at it flew by. I set some key frame locations and orientation of the camera, and let Blender interpolate the other frames. This didn’t work very well. The camera would drift off the planet, then snap back. I am not an expert in Blender, so maybe there is an automated way to do that. If I don’t figure that out, I may need to modify the location and orientation for each frame.

Seven minutes of silence can be boring, so I want to have some sound. I have some ideas, but I haven’t followed up on them yet.

Trip to Mars

I am not actually planning to go to Mars, just do a video about the trip.

I am taking a course in conversational Mandarin. My wife is buried in China, and I’ll need to speak a little bit of the language to travel there. I’m not doing very well with it so far.

I did have some success with a short story I wrote for the class. It is only 5 sentences long. My first idea was to talk about my wife, but I felt I might get too emotional. Instead I wrote about an imaginary trip I took to Mars.

I made a PowerPoint presentation to go with the story. I plan to turn that into a short video. Some of the images I used were copy written, so I’ll have to find something in the public domain. I don’t think I can afford to go to Mars and take my own pictures.

I will record the Mandarin myself, but will include some English subtitles for non Mandarin speakers, and Chinese subtitles for Mandarin speakers who can’t make sense of my poor pronunciation.

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