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August 7, 2014

How the Lumia 1020 filmed a comet in NYC

As we all know, space is the final frontier. Yet we’ve still barely explored our own solar system let alone our amazing galaxy.

However, yesterday we reached another magnificent milestone when The European Space Agency’s spacecraft Rosetta finally reached the comet C-G. The journey of 3.7 billion miles took ten long years. Now it’s arrived the Rosetta mission will attempt the first ever comet landing in November by sending a satellite to the surface.

In order to celebrate this incredible feat of science, David Delgado and Daniel Goods of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory partnered with the World Science Festival and the architecture company StudioKCA to create a massive replica of the Comet C-G. The replica landed in Brooklyn Bridge Park in May, giving people an out-of-this-world opportunity to play around in the comet’s tail. If the thought of that makes you go “wow,” then take a look at this timelapse video, taken on none other than our favourite camera smartphone, the Lumia 1020.

If you found this short film and the story of the comet as captivating as us, you’ll be pleased to hear we hooked up with the men who made it happen to hear more about NASA, future tech and possibly the coolest idea for a smartphone hack ever.

Your huge replica of the Comet C-G  is stunning. However, many people will be surprised to hear NASA uses art to inspire and educate people. What’s the rationale behind these types of projects and what’s the response been like so far?

We call it “sneaking up on learning.” We love to create experiences people are drawn to because they are beautiful and mysterious and then start asking questions. People are much more open to learning when they are asking the questions rather than being told a lesson.

Also, everyone learns differently. Some people need to read, some need to watch, and others need to experience. Our projects help people experience topics that NASA is investigating. And being at festivals and art museums allows NASA to reach people they might otherwise never reach.

Art and technology both require creative thinking, yet are often seen as unlikely bedfellows. How does working for an organization as highly technical as NASA help you think and work creatively?

Creative problem solving is at the core of the projects NASA works on as well as the kind of art we work on. We share the need to do something that has never been done, but in the most elegant and cost effective way. We are always blown away by the custom nuts, bolts, and mechanisms they create.

comet c-g

NASA, like Microsoft, creates technology, which has potentially huge implications for everyone on the planet. If you could add one NASA tech to a smartphone that would change the world for the better, what would it be and why?

NASA uses these things called spectrometers which would be really cool to have on a phone. You just point them at something and the spectrometer tells you what the thing is made of. JPL made one for the Rosetta Spacecraft that works in the UV light range that will give scientists clues to the great mystery of what comets are made out of and where they come from. We could see that as being a really interesting thing to have around, although, it could be a little scary to point it at a hot dog. Maybe some things should remain a mystery.


Finally, in a parallel universe, you’re given an unlimited amount of cash to make a sculpture of anything in the known galaxy. What would you dazzle us with?

We actually want to make a series of comets like this one and place them around the world. Although this time we would like to engage the puzzle masters of the world with a bit of a challenge by etching the surfaces of each comet with an encrypted message. The comets would be live streamed so anyone could take a crack at the code breaking. The answers found within each comet would become new puzzle pieces in themselves, that could be joined to create a new and more difficult code to break. We can not tell much more about the answer given at the end, aside from that it would relate to the secrets held within all comets. The comets would be designed in such a way so that after everything was decoded, all the comets would be put together like a puzzle into one gigantic permanent sculpture.

A fascinating insight into the incredible world of NASA, I’m sure you’ll agree. We’re especially thrilled by the idea of being able to tell what anything is made of with our Lumias. But what about you? Loving this concept too or are there other space technologies you’ve loved to melded into your smartphone. Let us know down below.