You can wait until the 2030s when NASA hopes to land astronauts on Mars. Or, if you have four minutes to spare right now, you can see what it is like to stand on the edge of the red planet’s Victoria Crater or catch a Martian sunset.
Erik Wernquist will even throw in a side of rings — Saturn’s that is — for watching his awe-inducing short film, Wanderers, which is embedded below.
“I am always inspired by reading about astronomy, and planetary astronomy in particular,” Wernquist told Cult of Mac. “And when I read about, or see pictures from places, I often fantasize about what it would … feel like to actually be there.”
News about deep-space travel has been about two extremes over the past few weeks: Science fiction fantasy, with the release of the first trailer for J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars movie, and the primitive science fact reality of a bulky rocket taking an unmanned Orion spacecraft on its first test flight.
Swedish filmmaker Wernquist bridges the gap and speeds up the clock. With well-researched science fiction, computer-generated planetary landscapes and actual imagery from robotic space probes currently cruising around the galaxy, Wernquist imagines trips to places that actually exist.
It doesn’t hurt to have Carl Sagan as your cruise director. The man who previously led us through the solar system with his PBS series, Cosmos, is back in voice for Wanderers: Wernquist borrows an audio passage read by Sagan from his 1994 book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.
Wernquist, 37, is a veteran playwright and computer animator best known for a 3-D character called The Annoying Thing, now known as the Crazy Frog. Far removed from a cartoon world, Wernquist’s new film opens in 10,000 B.C. with nomads walking in a valley just after sunset, the shine of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn lighting the way.
The next scene jumps to the future, with nomads on a spaceship leaving Earth.
Then your mouth will slowly open — and stay that way for the rest of the film — as a cargo door opens to a tiny space traveler seeming to be sucked in by the massive anticyclonic storm on Jupiter we all know as the Great Red Spot.
The voyage continues past the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, an image born out of a composite of pictures taken by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005.
While at a moon of Saturn, why not take in the planet’s famous rings up close? In Wanderers, Wernquist has a space walker seeming to surf above the rings, made up of blocks of ice.
Try not to get hung up on the sequence of visits. The journey backtracks to Mars, then back to a Saturn moon, with a stop to an asteroid belt, a walk on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and a gorgeous CG of Uranus’ moon Miranda (referenced from a Voyager 2 photo). It ends with an awe-struck traveler admiring the shine of Saturn’s rings.
Wernquist admits these vignettes are highly romanticized, especially when it comes to a human presence in these places. He took artistic liberties, understanding that we are many years away from the engineering that would support astronauts in such hostile environments.
“The solar system is an exciting and beautiful place, even without aliens and stuff, and I would love to see more science fiction in film taking advantage of this,” Wernquist said. “Now, Wanderers is a very small and short film, but I hope it might serve as some inspiration to someone to take these kind of ideas further.”