Wednesday, March 7, 2012

John Carter on "Mars"!

Alan Boyle just posted on his MSNBC space blog about the upcoming John Carter movie:

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/05/10586923-john-carter-director-blends-film-fantasy-with-a-real-feeling-for-mars

The John Carter movie is based off the 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs "Barsoom" books. These alternate-history science fiction books depict a heroic Earth man who is transported to a Mars (called "Barsoom" by the natives) populated by savages and beautiful princesses.

How is this related to "Mars"?
"Some scenes were filmed just one hill over from the site of the Mars Desert Research Station, where researchers operating under the aegis of the Mars Society are testing the tools and techniques that someday might be used for real-life missions to the Red Planet."
I had the fortune to be out at the MDRS for an engineering run while the John Carter team was there filming.

View of the MDRS from above.
It was an interesting experience seeing Hollywood invade the town of Hanksville Utah (population 200) while they filmed near MDRS. (MDRS veterans: Sites included a spot next to "Phobos Peak" near MDRS in addition to locations in the Henry Mountains, Moab, Lake Powell, Goblin Valley, and more)

While most staff were paranoid about leaks, yelling at us to put away our cameras, and stopping whatever they were doing to stare at us suspiciously whenever we drove by (you would think they would understand given they parked across the street from us), the security guard was friendly after we offered him some of our water.

Yes. "Security guard" singular. As he explained it, the studio decided it was sufficient to have one security guard patrol the several square kilometer area being used for filming wearing a black "security" uniform, in the heat of summer, on foot. He laughed as he described his job to me: "To keep local kids on ATVs out of the filming area."

Hollywood edited out their unsightly tire tracks. Source: Wired
The film industry likes to advertise that they spent $19.7 million filming in the area, implying that John Carter brought a lot of money to local businesses and was worth the damage to the local ecosystem and geology. Unfortunately when I talked to one of the local gas station owners, he claimed none of this money went to the Hanksville community as the Hollywood crew brought all of their lodging, food, water, and gasoline with them from California. 

Overall it was an interesting experience having Hollywood invade "Mars". I regret to this day not having photographed the large "Barsoom" signs used to point cast and crew to the filming locations.

Below is one of the MDRS commander's reports from our repair / refit crew that mentioned the John Carter film crew:

Commander’s report 5 June 2010

Artemis Westenberg

Anyone following us on the webcams knows the kitchen is coming along really
nicely. Many of the drawers are installed by now. As are the hanging wall
cabinets. Keith has plastered the counter top with ‘spreadable rock’ which
makes it look line a grey granite counter top. Tomorrow this will be sealed
with sealant that makes it impervious to water. And there were other
projects to improve life here.

Besides assembling and installing the kitchen drawers, I kept sorting any
screws I found. Josh helped out with anything where his help was needed and
went up to the roof tonight and fixed a nasty gash in the roof. And Keith
worked on the kitchen all day, while Gary did his magic in the GreenHab,
giving us a flushing toilet once again.

All the while the University Rover Challenge with 7 competing teams was
with us. Including the 6 judges who used the Hab since Thursday, although
some of them opted to camp outside in the much cooler desert night Also
with us was the filmcrew of ‘John Carter of Mars’ which filmshoot is
visible from the Hab. You would not believe how many trailers and trucks
are parked out here along Lowell Highway or what a complete city has arisen
near the dam in the river further up Highway 24. Looking at all the people
involved with making a movie, makes you realise why movie production is as
expensive as it is.

The university Rover challenge was won by the team of Origon State
University. A large team, well managed. We all celebrated with hamburgers,
hotdogs and salads. After which Keith, Joshua and I climbed up again to get
going with the kitchen works.

It was hot, very hot today. And we are running the airconditioner
constantly. Or as much as we can. Because of the heat we have to cool the
inverter too. For it keeps overheating and then shutting down all
electricity to the Hab. To circumvent this, we are running the
airconditioning unit on an extension cord through the roof hatch of the Hab
all the way from the generator as the inverter in the Hab is practically
dead. It keeps cutting out on us, and it is really too warm to sleep here
in the Hab without any cooling. The airconditioner is since this morning
hanging on a steel construction, cooked up by Keith, that will keep the
unit safely above us. So far the unit stood on a ‘shelf’ that itself was
bolted down on the hanging wall cabinets of the kitchen, with added support
by two ropes that that been hooked up through the steel support beams of
the roof. The unit no longer rests on the wall cabinets. Which seems a much
better way of doing this. And that all for about $20. No reason to not do it
right and safe. For me another example that improving the Hab is not really
that expensive as for another 100$ all the screws and bits have their own
place. Which makes me wonder: was it really impossible to find this small
amount of money in years past to improve life in the Hab?

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