Category Archives: Space films and videos

“The High Frontier” – A new documentary about Gerard K. O’Neill and space settlement

The  movie The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O’Neill will premier this Saturday, April 17th at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT on SpaceChannel.com. You can register to watch it for free via eventbrite.

Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill was an American physicist, inventor, and space activist best known for writing the 1977 book, ​The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space.​

The book details how humans could build rotating space habitats in low-Earth orbit using a design he called the “O’Neill Cylinder.” The habitat could recreate Earth’s gravity and would house millions of people for work and play, eventually solving the major concerns facing Earth such as hunger, overpopulation, dwindling resources, and war. His book and activism launched the movement to the global stage, forever inspiring a generation of free thinkers and space leaders, altering the course of American space industry forever. Dr. O’Neill passed in 1992 from Leukemia, but his vision still lives on thanks to the “Gerry’s Kids,” those who were inspired by Dr. O’Neill and keep his vision alive today.

The High Frontier

is a documentary film about the life and influence of Gerard K. O’Neill told through the eyes of his peers, family and the younger generation he inspired during the 1970s and 80s who are now leaders in the modern day space race. Through old stories of “Gerry” as many called him, and the social impact he made on the world, this documentary pays tribute to the unsung hero of today’s space race, while hoping to inspire all ages and walks of life to reignite our planet’s space venturing spirit.

Here is the trailer:

The film will be available via VOD release on April 18th, 2021 on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft Stream, and Fandango. Details about the film can be found at The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O’Neill – IMDb.

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The Space Studies Institute (SSI) was founded by O’Neill and the institute continues to support research and development of technologies that will enable space settlement . Check out their gallery of space settlement art.

A Bernal Sphere design for an in-space habitat.

SSI offers the  Kindle version of The High Frontier book  by O’Neill for free at Amazon.

Space Habitat - Rick Guidice
A rendering of a pair of large space habitats by Rick Guidice

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Prof. O’Neill was a big influence on my own life. I can recall a rainy gray autumn day in 1974 when I went to the mail box and found my latest copy of Physics Today. I was amazed to see that the cover of the usually staid trade publication depicted a huge space station. The article, The Colonization of Space by O’Neill, was equally unusual in the striking contrast between the mind-boggling boldness of his space habitat concepts and the matter-of-fact, down-to-earth manner in which he presented the motivations for such undertakings and how they could be accomplished technically and economically.

I was still a big space fan at the time but there had been a collapse in public interest in space in those post-Apollo years of the 1970s. The gigantic effort and expense that went into putting just a handful of people on the Moon for brief sojourns convinced most everyone that space travel was very impractical and that the domain beyond out atmosphere was as uninspiring as the bottom of the deep dark ocean. O’Neill’s ideas radically refuted such assertions. Colossal space habitats would become verdant islands thriving in the light of a brilliant sun, enabling the rise of new cultures and the opening of our vast solar system to endless exploration and utilization of its riches.

“The Stanford Torus – This space habitat design resulted from a NASA-Ames/Stanford University summer study. It’s a wheel 1.1 miles in diameter.”

As the film’s trailer indicates, O’Neill’s writings and articulate promotion of space habitats revitalized and re-energized interest in human spaceflight for many people. Quite a number of those “O’Neillians” continue to this day to work for the settlement of space.

The appeal of O’Neill’s habitat ideas certainly sustained my own interest in space and inspired my efforts with HobbySpace and other activities, which I hope have contributed a little bit towards encouraging  public interest and excitement in space.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have giant habitats in open space or even small bases on the surface of the Moon or Mars. For settlements to be feasible, O’Neill counted on the Space Shuttles to lower the cost of getting to space dramatically. Unfortunately, the failure of the Shuttles to come even close to that key goal not only undermined arguments for giant space habitats but for most any human endeavor in space. Lowering space access costs thus became the focus for the past few decades for O’Neillians, some of whom pursued rocket ventures themselves or advocated for government initiatives like the DC-X/XA prototype reusable rocket and NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo program. Such efforts have shown progress as seen by the significant drop in launch prices with the arrival of SpaceX’s partially reusable Falcon 9 rockets. The fully-reusable, fast turnaround Starships now in development could offer the break-through that finally enables affordable space travel.

Elon Musk discounts in-space habitats and sees Starships as the means to create a city on Mars. However, such vehicles will be available for all sorts of space endeavors and space stations are sure to be among these. If designed to grow incrementally and take advantage of resources from the Moon and the asteroids, such orbital installations could eventually evolve into O’Neill’s islands in the sky.

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Here is a “Roundtable TV interview” from 1975 in which O’Neill and Isaac Asimov discuss in-space colonies with former Esquire editor Harold Hayes:

[ Update: Here is a Planetary Society podcast program about the High Frontier movie: The High Frontier: A New Documentary About Gerard K. O’Neill – The Planetary Society

Physicist and space pioneer Gerard K. O’Neil gathered a community of followers as he led planning for vast, magnificent human settlements in space. Guests Dylan Taylor, Will Henry and Ryan Stuit have produced an inspiring, feature-length tribute to O’Neill that stars space luminaries including Jeff Bezos, Frank White, Lori Garver, Rick Tumlinson, and many others. Then Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan are joined by a special listener guest on What’s Up.

]

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The High Frontier: An Easier Way

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Moon Rush: The New Space Race

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The Case for Space:
How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up
a Future of Limitless Possibility

“Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future” film now available at Amazon Prime

The documentary, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future, is now available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime.

What do the Golden Gate Bridge, the Chrysler Building, the film Citizen Kane, and America’s Space Program all have in common? They were touched by the hand of a wry-humored and slightly cantankerous artist named Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986).

His paintings of the Golden Gate Bridge convinced doubting San Franciscans that the bridge could be built. His designs for the Chrysler Building made it an art-deco masterpiece. As a special effects matte painter, he created the legendary Xanadu Castle for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.

Even greater was Chesley’s impact through his space art. First published in Life Magazine in 1944, his visions of planets and galaxies, made before the advent of powerful telescopes and satellites, sowed all the seeds necessary for one of the most revolutionary chapters of our country: the United States Space Program. His iconic “Saturn As Seen From Titan” became known as “the painting that launched a thousand careers.” His space art graced the covers of countless science fiction magazines of the 1940’s and 50’s. Teaming up with rocket experts Willy Ley and Wernher von Braun, he co-authored a long series of influential books beginning with the best-seller, The Conquest of Space.  His evocative imagery fired the imaginations of a country looking to conquer the next frontier, and so the quest began!

Illustration of a Mars expedition landing site by Chesley Bonestell for Colliers Magazine, April 30, 1954.

Summoned by Hollywood producer George Pal, Chesley lent his talents to classics like Destination Moon and The War Of The Worlds. Television requested Chesley’s help with the series Men Into Space. Even today, you can see his influence on filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and many others.

Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future compellingly reveals a nearly-forgotten artist whose mysterious, almost magical, ability to envision distant worlds inspired generations to reach for the stars. Often compared to a twentieth-century da Vinci, this first-ever film about Bonestell explores the life and works of an artist whose influence and timeless imagery are regarded by many as unparalleled. This documentary was produced by award-winning filmmaker Douglass M. Stewart, Jr. and Co-Produced by Ron Miller and Melvin Schuetz, authors of the Hugo Award-winning book, The Art of Chesley Bonestell.

See previous HS items about the film here and here.

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A Chesley Bonestell
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Chesley Bonestell documentary now on the International Space Station

The award-winning documentary Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future was recently transmitted to the ISS for viewing by the space station’s crew: “Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future”, is now onboard the International Space Station, available for viewing by the crew. – Space Hipsters/Facebook.

See the earlier posting here about the film and check out the trailer:

Chesley Bonestell was an architect and painter who worked on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Chrysler Building. He worked on famous movies like Citizen Kane as a matte artist, and his mesmerizing paintings of planets and star systems helped inspire America’s space program. Why is it that no one knows who he is today?

Producer Douglass Stewart, was  interviewed last year on The Space Show about Bonestell and the film:

During this one segment 72 minute program, not only did our guest take us through the life and art of Chesley Bonestell, but the same for documentary film making, distribution and film festival issues plus lots more.

Bonestell’s visions are still coming to life. Here is an illustration he created for an article by Werner von Braun and Cornelius Ryan in Colliers Magazine, April 30, 1954:

Illustration of a Mars expedition landing site by Chesley Bonestell for Colliers Magazine, April 30, 1954. Via Sept/Oct. 2013 issue of Horizons, the newsletter for the Houston chapter of the AIAA

And here is a full-scale 1st-gen prototype of the Starship, a fully reusable space transport currently in development by SpaceX:

The Starship Mk-1 prototype on display at the SpaceX Boca Chica, Texas facility in 2019. Credits: SpaceX

And a SpaceX illustrator’s vision of Starships at a Mars settlement:

Starships at a Mars settlement. Credits: SpaceX

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A Chesley Bonestell Space Art Chronology

“50/50 Lunar Legends” film documents the stories of US space pioneers

Check out the 50/50 Lunar Legends film:

“50/50 Lunar Legends” a new documentary about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and hidden figures of US space program – from Apollo to these days. We interviewed 50 people at the Florida Space Coast. Those who have contributed or who are actively contributing to space exploration.

Neil Armstrong believed their chances were only 50/50 that the moon landing would be a success. Hence the name of the documentary. It focuses on the actual people who worked behind the scenes at NASA and its contractors to pioneer the science and technology of space exploration and how private companies, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and alike now continue to push us further into the future.

Lunar Legends

The project was non-commercial  and accomplished on a shoestring budget.

A brief preview:

A longer trailer can be seen at 50/50 Lunar Legends – Trench Media on FaceBook.

The full documentary is currently available at 50 / 50 Lunar Legends | Amazon Prime Video in three parts:

  1. A Call to Action: The space race created excitement across the nation and within the young engineers and others who got jobs at NASA and moved to the Space Coast of Florida.
  2. 50/50 Chances: There is a huge sense of the “unknown” and “doubt” associated with space exploration. This inherently risky business pays off with great rewards for humanity that may also be followed by great tragedy.
  3. A New Incentive: A deep sense of inspiration and dissatisfaction remained as the future of space exploration sat stagnant. Now, new players emerge in the Space business and the power shifts from public to private. The time has come for strategic collaboration as the new golden age for Space arrives.

More at

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First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Experience

Video: “A Year Along the Geostationary Orbit” – The disciplined tranquility of disorderly clouds

Check out the mesmerizing short film, A Year Along the Geostationary Orbit, which Felix Dierich created with time lapse imagery of the earth taken by the Japanese weather satellite Himawari-8: From 20,000 miles up, our home planet is a hypnotic swirl of the familiar and the sublime | Aeon Videos

Orbiting some 20,000 miles [35,786 km (22,236 mi) to be exact] above the Earth – much further than the International Space Station (245 miles) yet much closer than the Moon (c238,900 miles) – while perpetually fixed over the Eastern Hemisphere, Himawari-8 provides a unique perspective on the planet and its weather patterns. With the film’s haunting soundtrack and swirling imagery, it’s easy to get lost in the hypnotic clouds and forget that below them is half of humanity, rendered almost entirely invisible by the distance.

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Archaeology from Space:
How the Future Shapes Our Past