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Welcome to Mars | Fab Lab Tempe/DC Incubator Test 01

Overview

Welcome to Mars puts you in the rover next to Max as he fixes radios, robots and relays while remaining emotionally unavailable to his hacker coworker Aubrey. Max is a disgruntled technician working out his five-year contract on the surface of Mars, Aubrey is somewhere within radio range. Their employer is Red Ram Energy Drinks, LLC, they are in space to prove that Red Ram NITRO EDITION is the only energy drink tough enough to colonize another planet.

Welcome to Mars is an upcoming short film being developed by Connor Coffman (DC 2016). It is being produced over the second half of 2016. Welcome to Mars started as part of Connor’s coursework in ASU’s Digital Media program and has grown into a test-case for the DC Incubator.

This is Connor’s first film project.

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The mostly-complete suit.

As a test of the DC Incubator system Welcome to Mars provides an exact test case. Connor recently finished in Digital Culture program and has an interest in integrating the entire chain of production. He has been working on the concept for Welcome to Mars for years but only recently started to put production of it together. It combines fabrication, product development, cinema and critical analysis of potential cultural situations.

The film, trailers and other material will be entered into various festivals and film competitions.

Welcome to Mars is more than just space fantasy. It looks into issues of corporate power, individual agency, unintended consequences and the inherent nihilism of existence. Welcome to Mars aims to be a technically accurate, politically & socially acute examination of space exploration and human development as it seems to be evolving.


Welcome to Mars teaser and suit movement test:

The Story

Well, that’s the surprise.

( a disgruntled roboto technician goes to Mars as part of the RED RAM mission. Hilarity, ennui and long drives in a lychen-transformed desert ensue. )

Team

Connor Coffman — Director, writer, editor, plays ‘Max’, etc.

Joshua Gigantino — Producer, Technical Consultant, etc.

Shooting Locations

Welcome to Mars is being shot on location… in Arizona. Specific sites include the Monarch Theater in Phoenix, local industrial sites, Arizona desert locations (the perfect stand-in for a partially terraformed Mars), and studio sets.

Suit Development

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Dr. Paul Webb’s Space Activity Suit (SAS), a Mechanical Counter Pressure spacesuit. It was successfully tested in an altitude chamber at 38,000′ equivalent in the 1970s. Admire that ‘stache. Retrieved from www.elasticspacesuit.com on 10.12.2011.

The suit is representative of what is called a Mechanical Counter Pressure spacesuit (MCP). This is a type of vacuum garment that uses fabric pressure drawn across the skin to protect the wearer. The effect is somewhat like a wetsuit or thick leotard. These suits were tested successfully in the 1970s by Annis & Webb (1971) and have been in off-and-on development since, notably through Dava Newman’s team at MIT’s Man-Vehicle Lab with their Bio-Suit concept and by Akin & Korona with their work on MCP gloves.

The Welcome to Mars suit provides certain functionality tests and usage examples for daily activities during hypothetical  Mars surface activity. These include extended periods of driving in unprepared or semi-prepared terrain, tasks in non-optimal conditions, equipment malfunctions with minimal support and other potentially lethal events.

It is built on top of a go-kart jumpsuit, motocross chest protector and skydiving helmet. The backpack or PLSS is custom designed. Normal boots and gloves are being used, the boots in a similar way to how Mercury astronaut suits were worn, the gloves are a stand-in.

Suit Development 

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Sketches

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AlpineStars K-MX 5S Go-Kart suit

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Hard Upper Torso. HUT is based on motocross chest protector.

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Inspiration can be found in popular media as well as old NASA research. Promo shots from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

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Suit buckle.
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Inspiration from reality. Dava Newman in MIT’s Bio-Suit mockup. Retrieved 20.09.2016 from https://mvl.mit.edu/sites/default/files/images/Newman_biosuit.jpg

Backpack Development

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Helmet Development

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Finished helmet with Red Ram branding.

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Skydiving Helmet.

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Inspiration from Baumgartner’s Red Bull helmet.

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Another example of a lighter-weight space suit helmet. NASA Space Shuttle helmet, mid-1980s. Clamshell based on Navy helmet model HGU-20/P.

 

 

Fit & Movement Test

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Cropped screengrabs from Teaser video.

Other Props

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Handheld Contoller.

Other props being developed for Welcome to Mars include a rover based on a dune buggy, handheld controller device, Aubrey’s cockpit and other sets. We are attempting to use as much actual space-related hardware and existing but modified equipment as possible. One interesting item is a small satellite ground station donated by the local hackerspace HeatSync.

Red Ram Brand Development

Red Ram is tough, aggressive, in-your-face, no-bull ENERGY for the modern liquid consumer’s hydration needs. Packed with caffeine, electrolytes and our special mix of mood enhancers, Red Ram NITRO EDITION brings new meaning to the word ENERGY.

The brand concept and overall action is based on Red Bull’s work with Felix Baumgartner and Monster energy drinks. Red Ram is specifically marketed to young men with nothing to lose except the Amero credits in their pocket. They regularly hold stunts, sponsor extreme sports events and storm the heavens.

Red Ram brand development
nitro_edition_vz_1_720 Monochrome vector illustration of a stylised ram
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Production Tools

The teaser was cut in Resolume, the trailer and movie will be cut in Adobe Premiere. A variety of digital video cameras are being employed in production.

A Creative Roadmap for DC Incubation

Welcome to Mars’ production provides a ready model for a Digital Culture Incubator. The scenario is that a finishing DC student needs a little more mentoring, production, fabrication or just other’s to help maintain a pace on a worthwhile project. ASU has amazing startup channels such as Edson Institute but these tend to be for projects that are almost ready for market. A DC Incubator would provide students with a framework and access so they can then utilize other channels toward final fruition.

As a stand-in for an ASU-based workshop while building out Welcome To Mars equipment and props this summer, Connor has relied on HeatSync Labs in Mesa. HeatSync is a local hackerspace that provides access to some fabrication tools and lots of community input.

The only element missing as an initial test-case for a DC incubator is other teams actively mentored under the same system working side-by-side.

Conclusion

Welcome to Mars initial production has been largely successful in that in 3 months of summer work Connor has built most of a prop spacesuit, accompanying material and put together most of the production chain for shooting in cooler temperatures this autumn. A first treatment of a script has been written along with supporting text. An autumn shooting schedule is being implemented.

References

Annis, J. & Webb, P. Development of a Space Activity Suit. (NASA report CR-1892)  (1971). LARC, Hampton, VA.

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