21 August 2008
Media - Power (Good)
Mini-Documentaries on Space
A look at the Futures Channel
by G B Leatherwood
Already struggling to get your kids interested in school again after a summer of mall walking, cell phone texting, and playing video games?

Treat them to a movie.

But not just any movie—one that will get their attention and help them make a connection between the classroom and becoming part of the new world of space exploration and development.

For starters, let them see one of the outstanding short (five to ten minutes) microdocumentaries from The Futures Channel, whose latest project is “Space Based Solar Power” to be released in Fall 2008. This one describes what space based solar power is, what it will do for us, how we’re going to get it, what it will take to make it happen, and what is currently being done.

To consider the space solar power concept requires an understanding of science, technology, engineering, math, energy, policy, environmental factors, and more. Space solar power is an engineering project on a scale that rivals the greatest in history.

The upcoming documentary is intended to elevate the awareness of the space solar power concept as a long-term strategy. It has the potential to resolve our planet’s looming energy and environmental crisis as well as pique an interest in the science, technology, engineering and math skills required to succeed in the 21st century workforce.

The Futures Channel was founded in 1999 with the goal of using new media technologies to create a channel between the scientists, engineers, explorers, and visionaries who are shaping the future with today’s learners who will one day succeed them. Its motto is, “Connecting learning to the real world.”

A few other documentaries from a lengthy list of subjects are “Spaceports” (9/4/07), which describes the current status of five spaceports in the U.S. including the newest, the New Mexico Spaceport, soon to be the home of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. “Reliable Robots” (3/12/07) goes behind the scenes at NASA to show the intricacies of designing, building, and testing robots like the Mars Rovers that must operate reliably and consistently in harsh environments thousands of miles from Earth. “The Orion Space Capsule” (2007) describes the work that goes into designing and building all the parts needed to put us back on the Moon by 2020.

Each documentary is available from the company and comes with lesson materials teachers can use to discuss the project shown and how it fits into the real world. These lesson plans also encourage students to explore their own interests.

For a complete listing of movies about “Living and Working in Space,” visit the Futures Channel web site. Be prepared to learn what one company is doing to help prepare the next generations to enter the next frontier. And set aside plenty of time.
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G B Leatherwood 21 August 2008
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