media release

Shuttle documentary ready for liftoff

July 01, 2012

Adam Ovenell-Carter, PAMR, 778.782.9543,
Diane Luckow, PAMR, 778.782.3219,
Matthew Cimone, Residence Life 778.782.9217,

Simon Fraser University residence life coordinator Matthew Cimone, who grew up learning about astronomy from his grandfather under the brilliant night skies of Thunder Bay, ON, is producing a documentary, Chasing Atlantis, about the final flight of the Atlantis space shuttle. Segments of the film will debut at the Polaris Science Fiction Convention in Toronto July 6-8.

Cimone avidly followed the shuttle program throughout his youth, and dreamed of becoming an astronaut. When he learned last summer of the program’s demise, he wanted to find a way to be part of the last shuttle launch.

“I’d never seen a launch in person,” he says. “I wanted to witness the final one, and I wanted to take as many people with me as possible. When I recognized that we could only fit so many people into cars, I said ‘why not bring a camera too?’ That way we could tell our story to as many people as possible.

“We managed to catch the final shuttle launch, an event that was attended by nearly one million people,” says Cimone, whose team set up its camera amid a forest of tripods on the beach in Titusville across the bay from Cape Canaveral.

He put together a team of filmmaker friends interested in producing a documentary. They emailed interview requests to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield; former director of the Kennedy Space Centre, Jim Kennedy; retired US astronaut Story Musgrave, and a host of retired NASA engineers, safety crew members, and residents of Titusville, the community that neighbours the Kennedy Space Centre.

Surprisingly, he says, they all agreed. What’s more, his team also secured entrance to NASA’s vehicle-assembly building where they filmed three orbiters, including Atlantis, all being prepared for retirement.

Cimone will present a half-hour preview of the 90-minute documentary at Polaris. The 30-minute short will be composed of five-minute segments introducing the major facets of the film, such as the introduction of the crew and interviewees.

He says the convention makes a point of supporting grassroots projects that highlight activities in the science fiction and space sciences fields.

He aims to complete the one-and-a-half hour documentary by October this year, when he’ll then submit it to the film festival circuit.

“Hopefully it does well, and we’ll be seeing a lot more of it,” he says. Cimone’s film, a labour of love, is entirely self-funded. Its message, he says, is about chasing dreams and taking risks.

“Whether it’s the risk of taking a camera to a shuttle launch that might not happen, or strapping yourself into a giant “bomb” to head into space, it’s worth it for the exploration and personal growth and development. Taking those risks really does pay off.”


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