Man last set foot on the moon 30 years ago, and James Cameron will commemorate the Apollo missions and the people who made them possible at a major event Saturday. Additionally, he hopes to help inspire future space exploration using traditional and new media.
Those involved in the space program will be honored at a special screening of "For All Mankind," Al Reinert's classic documentary about the Apollo missions, at ArcLight Cinemas' Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
After the screening, there will be a panel discussion. Among those scheduled to participate are Reinert, Cameron, former NASA director of mission operations Gene Kranz and astronauts Harrison Schmitt, Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, Ken Mattingly and Eugene Cernan, the commander on the last mission to the moon, which launched Dec. 7, 1972.
They will be joined by Hollywood luminaries who were unconfirmed at press time but are thought to include Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise. A limited number of tickets are available to the public at $500 each, with all proceeds being donated to the Astronauts Scholarship Foundation.
The anniversary event will unveil a special edit of "For All Mankind" and an explanatory introduction by Cameron at www.breakpointmedia.com.
Reinert, who also co-wrote the screenplay to "Apollo 13," cut the documentary from its original running time of nearly 90 minutes to the 20-minute online version using Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series technology. Site hosting will be provided by Microsoft, which will also post promotional links from windowsmedia.com and msn.com.
"I'd never been to Microsoft's world headquarters before, and they've got a hell of a studio," Reinert said. "They're gearing up to do serious stuff there."
John Cameron, president of James Cameron's interactive educational entertainment channel Earthship.tv, said the online presence is essential to the project's goal of "reigniting the interest in continuing the journey" of space exploration.
"The version that's being broadcast on the Web was done because we wanted to reach as many people as possible through digital distribution," John Cameron said. "That's why we started Earthship three years ago, when the Internet was crashing around our feet."
There is no profit motive involved, as all proceeds go to organizations that encourage space exploration. "What Earthship is getting out of it is very simple," John Cameron said. "We're honored to be the host of the event, and to be involved with the astronauts 30 years to the day is more than enough."
He added that the project would not have been possible without technical and sponsorship help from Microsoft. "Microsoft has been a huge partner of ours, and we use their stuff all the time," John Cameron said. "But they understood the need and the necessity of bringing these men and their accomplishment and their technical achievement to the widest possible audience."
Even 56K modem users will be able to watch the footage, although broadband obviously would result in a better experience.
"Extending this content to the Web enables people from all over the globe to experience the excitement of manned missions to the moon," said Erin Cullen, product manager at Microsoft's Windows Digital Media Division. "We have a long relationship with James Cameron and artists like him who are embracing these digital technologies because of the creative flexibility it provides them with their work across the entire filmmaking process, from creation, production, distribution and exhibition."
Breakpoint Media also played a critical role, John Cameron said. The Silicon Valley startup has been supporting Earthship.tv's digital distribution efforts for the past six months in a business development and strategy context.
The basic 16mm footage originally used in "For All Mankind" was shot on a special-order Kodak film developed for use in outer space. Instead of celluloid, it had a cellophane base so thin that 200 feet of film could be loaded into a standard 100-foot magazine, and it had emulsions designed to be stable in zero gravity.
The movie "cost billions of dollars and the lives of brave men," Reinert said. "It was the work of a great nation reaching beyond itself."