Kickstarter opens for documentary about Burt Rutan

Help get the documentary Looking Up, Way Up: The Burt Rutan Story off the ground:

Documentary Film About Aerospace Legend Burt Rutan
Launches a Kickstarter Campaign To Raise Funds

February 25, 2015antennaFILMS, the Producing/Directing team behind the award-winning television documentary Black Sky about X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne, has signed on to produce a documentary that follows Aerospace Legend Burt Rutan that will highlight the maverick designer’s vast accomplishments, the legacy he created in the field of aviation and his newest “secret garage” venture.

Burt Rutan, the champion of homebuilts, the designer of Voyager, SpaceShipOne, and 43 other aircraft that have flown, is building a new plane. Co-Director Scott B says “I can’t reveal much about the plane, but it will be a game changer. It’ll do things no plane has ever done before.”

5 SCOTT B & BURT RUTAN 0578 bl

What more would you expect from the man who designed the VariEze, put a man in space, and built a plane that circumnavigated the globe without refueling?

antennaFILMS is reaching out to Burt’s fans and the entire aviation community to help fund the film as they have the opportunity to capture an amazing moment in history witnessing the building and testing of what could be Burt Rutan’s final plane.

The filmmakers set their Kickstarter goal at $80,000 for this stage of the production and are excited to share this project with the aviation community.

“Because he’s building his new plane so quickly we need to make this project happen now,” said Sandy Guthrie, Co-Director and partner in antennaFILMS.

Scott B and Sandy Guthrie, co-directors on the project and partners at antennaFILMS, have filmed Rutan for over a decade now, winning a Peabody Award for Excellence and a Cine Golden Eagle Award for their Discovery Channel documentary “Black Sky: The Race For Space” that documented Rutan and his team winning the $10 million Ansari X-Prize.

“Making a film of a caliber that does justice to Burt’s successes and contributions takes a lot, so ideally we’re hoping to surpass our $80,000 goal.” said Sandy Guthrie. “Kickstarter gives us the ability to reach out on a grass-roots level and to have Burt’s fans participate in the making of this film from the beginning.”


Scott describes Burt Rutan as one of the greatest innovators of our time who helped revolutionize the aviation and aerospace industry, and whose accomplishments and story will inspire young engineers and airplane enthusiasts for years to come. Rutan has a record number (5) of aircraft on permanent display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

“Even $5 pledges will help,” said Scott. “We’ve been to Oshkosh with Burt, we’ve covered SpaceShip events in Mojave since 2004 and we know we will be able to give Burt’s vast fan base a thorough and thoughtful look into his life and accomplishments.

And we have some amazing rewards for those interested in pledging!”

If you are interested in contributing please find their Kickstarter fundraising page at:…

To learn more about the antennaFILMS you can find them online at:

Sci-Tech: Martin Jetpack has IPO on Australian stock market

Over the years I’ve occasionally posted about The Martin Jetpack in development in New Zealand. (See, for example, here and here.)  Hardware development has progressed steadily if not exceptionally fast. They plan to begin selling vehicles in the second half of 2016.

Initially they will sell to emergency service providers and then sell to general public customers in 2017. The cost will be around US$200k. The vehicle will also be marketed for applications as an unmanned drone called the Martin Skyhook that can carry up to 120 kg.

Here’s a video of an unmanned flight test from last year:

It obviously doesn’t actually use jet engines but ducted fan driven by a two-stroke V4 piston engine. It can fly for up to 30 minutes. Here are the technical specs. Note it has a ballistic parachute for emergencies.

Most importantly for a start up with a new product in a new category of products, they have also made significant progress in obtaining funding. The Chinese company KuangChi Science Limited agreed to put A$50M into the company: Martin Aircraft signs agreement with KuangChi Science Limited.

This allowed them to move to an IPO, where they can raise additional funding: Update on Cornerstone investor and IPO

And they began trading on the Australian stock market on Tuesday:

So it looks like we may finally see an actual commercial ducted-fan VTOL one-person vehicle on the market:

Mars One hits a media storm

The announcement last week by Mars One of the down-select to 100 candidates for Mars missions drew a lot of media attention but then it all turned rather negative with news that the reality show planned for the selection of the final 24 has fallen through and that little progress is happening regarding plans to send an unmanned lander and an orbiter to Mars in 2018:

A USA Today editorial gives a typical skeptical view: Mars One destined for dreamland: Our view – USA Today.

Mason Peck, Cornell professor, former NASA chief technologist, and an unpaid adviser to Mars One, provides a more optimistic outlook : A clear and audacious goal: Opposing view – Mason Peck/USA Today

Defeatism, cynicism and mindless conservatism didn’t get us to the moon.

I am confident that we have the know-how and the ingenuity to plan a successful colony. However, there are risks. The people who choose to take this journey will face privation and danger to life and limb, but we have always been a species of explorers and problem-solvers.

Our ancestors left Africa, Asia and Europe and settled the globe. Those of us who care about the scientific, economic and cultural benefits of exploring space need to set a goal like Mars One and do what it takes to achieve it.

My parents’ generation took us from Sputnik to footsteps on the moon in a decade. Now our generation needs to get on with this next giant leap.

Defeatism, cynicism and mindless conservatism didn’t get us to the moon.

Gerard’t Hooft, is a Dutch theoretical physicist, a Nobel laureate, and an “ambassador” for Mars One, says the project leadership should be far more conservative in its time table: Mars One plan to colonise red planet unrealistic, says leading supporter – The Guardian.

Bas Lansdorp, Mars One’s CEO and co-founder, continues to hold that the unmanned lander and orbiter projects are doable by 2018 and that the collapse of the reality show is leading to a documentary produced by another company:  Red Planet or Bust? Private Mars One Mission Faces Earthly Challenges – NBC

Lansdorp acknowledged that Mars One ended its collaboration with Endemol “because we could not reach agreement on the details of the contract.” But he said a TV documentary series was still in the works.

“We have contracted [with] a different production company that will produce the documentary series for us,” Lansdorp said. “They have already produced the trailer on our YouTube channel, and progress is good.”

Lansdorp said the name of the production company has not yet been released. He also emphasized that the TV project would be more along the lines of a behind-the-scenes documentary rather than a reality-TV competition to go to Mars.

“We’ve never planned a ‘reality TV series,'” Lansdorp wrote in his email. “A documentary series has always been our plan.”

As I stated the other day, Mars One is interesting if only for proving that there are plenty of well educated, talented people willing to go to Mars to stay.  And those people could actually get to Mars if SpaceX is successful in carrying out Elon Musk’s goals for drastically lowering the cost of getting to the Red Planet.

I expect that as ’t Hooft suggests the organization will eventually move the goals on its schedule several years to the right. It’s possible that such delays will burst the project’s bubble and enthusiasm for it will evaporate away. However, it’s possible that greater realism in its plans will instead lead to greater respect for its prospects.

“Imagining the Universe” – Stanford Arts Institute

The Stanford Arts Institute is sponsoring a year long program organized around the theme of cosmology and the arts: Stanford Arts Institute launches Imagining the Universe program – Stanford Daily .

Imagining the Universe will combine

the arts, humanities and sciences to explore our understanding of the universe. Program events include a speaker series, musical performances, art exhibits and even a freshman course on cosmology.

The goals

are to find and develop points of contact and connection among these different approaches, to deepen our understanding and appreciation for the richness of the universe, and to appreciate what we can learn about ourselves from the way we depict our cosmos. Through a related set of events and programs, the project will aim to engage multiple audiences: Stanford undergraduates and graduate students, specialists in relevant fields, and the broader community.
All public conversations are free and open to all.

Video: Rosetta’s closest encounter with Comet 67P/C-G

This ESA video reports on the recent Rosetta fly-by of  Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasemenko: Space in Videos – 2015 – 02 – Rosetta’s closest encounter – ESA

On 14 February 2015, Rosetta made its closest encounter with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasemenko at just 6 km from the surface. The spacecraft is no longer orbiting the comet, it is now performing a series of flybys to continue its science.

This video explains the next stage of the Rosetta mission, the science that will be done during 2015 by the orbiter’s flybys, and assesses the possibility of the Philae lander’s reactivation from hibernation. So far Rosetta has only mapped about seventy percent of the surface because the comet’s orbit and rotation kept certain areas in darkness.

This year new regions will come into view alongside new activity on the surface. When the comet is at the peak of its activity in the summer, Rosetta’s instruments will be there to observe, measure and record a spectacular event.

It contains interviews in English with Andrea Accomazzo, ESA Rosetta Flight Director, and Matt Taylor, ESA Rosetta Project Scientist.