By Alison Roach
SFU student Matthew Cimone tracks the launch of the last space shuttle
SFU Residence Life coordinator Matthew Cimone has been watching the skies since his childhood, when he would go up to his grandfather’s cabin in Northern Ontario, and he’s been fascinated ever since. When he learned that the Kennedy Space Centre shuttle program was being discontinued after a final flight of the Atlantis space shuttle, he decided that he would be a part of it.
“I wanted to make sure I was there for the last launch,” Cimone told The Peak. Luckily for those of us not in the crowd of nearly one million that day, he took a film crew with him. The end result is the documentary Chasing Atlantis, which explores Cimone’s personal journey to the historic last launch as well as the shutting down of the space exploration program.
Cimone described it as a road trip movie, driven by a simple idea: “We thought we would bring a camera, and see what happens.” After first coming up with the concept, Cimone contacted his friend Paul Muzzin of Riptide Studios, who happily agreed to film the entirely self-funded project. “It was all credit cards,” said Cimone with a laugh.
After emailing several individuals the crew wished to speak with for the film, he was overwhelmed with the response. “It was what I expected and a lot more. I never thought we would get responses from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency,” said Cimone.
The film includes interviews with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, former director of the Kennedy Space Centre Jim Kennedy, several former NASA engineers, and residents of the community of Titusville, who will be affected by the shutdown of the program. “People had amazing stories of their time on the shuttles and near disasters that they had to share,” Cimone explained. The crew even gained access into NASA’s vehicle assembly building, where they witnessed three of the shuttles being prepared for retirement.
The crew also managed to get an interview with actor Will Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
“The interesting thing is there weren’t many people listening. A lot of people weren’t telling the story,” recalled Cimone. He was hoping to encounter more film crews and interviewers during the course of the filming, but was disappointed.
What concerns Cimone is the uncertain future of space travel following the discontinuation of the program. Cimone anticipates the rise of a private industry in the field and the possibility of space tourism developing in the coming years. However, in terms of exploration there is little planned for the future.
The film itself will be a 90-minute documentary that Cimone hopes to complete in October of this year, in time to be entered into the film festival circuit.
For now, a 20-minute preview has been screened at Polaris in Toronto, and Cimone hopes to show the film back home at SFU as well. In the coming weeks, Cimone plans on putting up the clip on Kickstarter, a social media funding network which he hopes will help him pay back some of that credit card debt.
Cimone describes the entire experience as one of high energy and high emotions. “It was a huge geek fest. I felt like a child all over again.”