Imagine crashing through the acid storms of Venus, taking a space walk in the magnificent rings of Saturn, or collecting samples on the disintegrating surface of an unstable comet. From the makers of Walking With Dinosaurs, this magical new drama-documentary series, narrated by David Suchet, takes viewers on the ultimate space flight and, by pressing the red button on the remote control, transports them right to the heart of the European Space Agency's mission control room. Seen through the eyes of five astronauts on a six-year mission to the new frontiers that make up our solar system, it reveals the spectacle - and the dangers - they face when landing on and exploring the exotic worlds of our neighbouring planets. Using the latest scientific findings and feature film digital effects, Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets is the ultimate grand tour, brought to life in a beautiful and moving journey packed with peril and excitement.
Along the way, it uncovers the immense physical and emotional challenges that would affect those taking such a trip. From a daring fly-by of the Sun, to a marathon mission to the frozen realms of Pluto, this epic voyage takes viewers on the adventure of a lifetime. In a first for a TV series, the actors were filmed on parabolic flights to simulate zero gravity conditions so that they really are floating weightless in some of the scenes. Back on the ground, filming took place in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth to create a very real sensation of what it would look and feel like to walk on alien worlds.
Award-winning film score composer, Don Davis, has created a spectacular soundtrack which brings the action, the drama and the sheer beauty of the scenery to life. Executive producer, Tim Haines of Impossible Pictures, explains: "In a unique collaboration between Hollywood's entertainment industry, the world's main space agencies and the cutting-edge digital effects talents of Framestore, this series is the most accurate vision of a human exploration of our neighbouring planets ever created." Series Producer, Chris Riley, continues: "We worked closely with cosmonauts, astronauts and space agencies in Russia, Europe and the USA to bring a gritty reality to the series that reflects over 40 years of their experience of human space flight and robotic exploration of the planets of our solar system."
Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets is an Impossible Pictures production for the BBC, Discovery Channel and ProSieben.
Space Odyssey: The Robot Pioneers is an Impossible Pictures production for the BBC, Discovery Channel and ProSieben in association with the Science Channel.
DVD Review: Voyage to the Planets and Beyond
By Tariq Malik, Staff Writer for Space.com
posted: 7 June 2005
Most television science fiction shows fling humans out to the vast reaches of the galaxy, but a new DVD is content with exploring our own planetary backyard. Originally entitled "Space Odyssey" during its airing on the British Broadcasting Co. (BBC), "Voyage to the Planets and Beyond" follows five astronauts on a mission to explore the Solar System aboard their vast spaceship Pegasus. A DVD version of the two-hour program is available from BBC Video.
The mock-documentary chronicles the Pegasus crew and mission flight controllers during a grand tour that swings past Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, with a final reach toward Pluto and a comet before heading home. Developed by the makers of "Walking with Dinosaurs", "Voyage" combines spectacular images of spacecraft and landers with live actors interacting - sometimes under actual weightless conditions aboard parabolic-flying aircraft - with one another on a long-duration spaceflight.
While its six-year mission timeline, among other things, seems a bit unrealistic - it took NASA's Voyager 2 probe twice that long just to swing past the outer gas giants - "Voyage" does offer a compelling look at how humans might explore the planets and the challenges they could face.
Radiation hazards and homesickness, as well as the closeness among Pegasus' astronaut crew and the near identical look of the ship's science bay with the interior of the International Space Station (ISS), all point toward a focus to recreate what today's space agency's could accomplish if they put enough money and man-hours to the task.
"One of our guiding principles was to get as close to the truth as possible," said Tim Haines, "Voyage" executive producer, in a telephone interview. "We have someone die of radiation sickness simply because it would be impossible to be out there that long without some problems."
A failed probe aimed at Saturn's moon Titan was another deliberate choice to illustrate that things don't always go as planned during space missions, Haines said. But, he added, there was an ulterior motive.
"We knew ... there was going to be going be a landing on Titan, and we didn't want to get it wrong," he said.
The European Space Agency's Huygens probe successfully landed on Titan on Jan. 14, 2005. ESA commentators specifically pointed out "Voyage's" lost Titan probe during their pre-landing discussions and hoped Huygens would fare better. The ESA probe was carried to Titan aboard NASA's Cassini orbiter.
"Voyage" producers did consult with astronomers, planetary scientists and astronauts to add a bit of authentic flair. The results yield intriguingly designed landers and spacesuits to handle a variety of environments, among them the harsh pressure of Venus' atmosphere and the intense radiation on Jupiter's volcanic moon Io.
But there are some points in "Voyage" where the "mock" in mockumentary becomes apparent. At one point, after receiving conflicting telemetry about the closeness of a passing asteroid, flight controllers yield to the mission's lead scientist, who directs the Pegasus crew to photograph the space rock rather than move to a safe distance to the obvious chagrin of the astronauts. And whether a mission's flight director, in reality, would allow a long-duration crew to add three years onto their flight after the death of a crewmember is also up for debate.
Even Haines concedes that a life-saving device - a magnetic field generator - that shields the Pegasus crew from potentially deadly solar and Jovian radiation, may be an unattainable piece of technology.
"One area that was very gray was that magnetic field generator," Haines said, adding that whether such a device would provide adequate radiation shielding, or even be possible to power with the Pegasus' nuclear reactor, is an open question. "We fretted over it for awhile, but eventually kept it because it acknowledged the frailty of the astronauts...and humans were the center of this."
The in-flight video of astronaut discussions, regrets and even sickness are sometimes heartwrenching with drama, though it is on Earth - before the Pegasus crew flys - that the spacefarers sound the most like real-life U.S., European Russian astronauts. And the human angle is only part of the story.
In addition to the two-part "Voyage" program, series producers also include a 50-minute documentary on real-life robotic explorers of the planets visited by the Pegasus crew. From Russia's Venus-bound Venera landers to the hardy fleet of spacecraft aimed at Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and other planets, the feature shines light on the continuous space exploration that has gone one since humans last walked on the moon.
"So many people focus on and know only about the manned exploration of space, but there is so much more," Haines said. "I think there's a tremendous romance about poor old Voyager so far from home...and those are extraordinary achievements."