Space Society to Salute Hollywood at Confab; Shares Gravity-Defying Selfie (Photo)

The 33rd Annual International Space Development Conference will bring together Buzz Aldrin, Elon Musk and VFX pros from "Gravity," "Star Trek" and "Cosmos."
Astronaut Luca Parmitano

Ellen DeGeneres snapped the most famous selfie at this year's Academy Awards, but you have to admit, the one pictured above, taken by astronaut Luca Parmitano outside the International Space Station, is remarkable in its own right.

This image is being used on posters to promote a new "Space and Media" program series at the 33rd Annual International Space Development Conference, set for May 14-18 at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles. Featuring a keynote from legendary Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the event is presented by the non-profit National Space Society and is open to the public.

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“This year the NSS decided to honor Hollywood’s role in influencing the public’s perception of space exploration by creating this sub-conference,” producer and entrepreneur David Knight, who is chairing the Space and Media track, told The Hollywood Reporter.

He sees these industries growing closer than ever before, in large part because of advances in technology. “The continual progression of technology has really conspired to boost the public’s confidence in the possibility of man going into space and even populating another planet. [Driving innovation is] real entrepreneurship that has come to the space industry, which we haven’t seen since frankly the early days of aviation.”

Knight noted that this is being led by SpaceX (and Tesla) founder Elon Musk, who is scheduled to attend the conference to receive its Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award, named after the noted science fiction writer and created to honor those using science to turn ideas into reality. Incidentally, Musk is also said to have been the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Iron Man.

“[Musk] has now stated that his real goal in starting SpaceX is because he wants to set foot on Mars and he wants to see us colonize Mars,” Knight said, also pointing to the work of Richard Branson, who is leading Virgin Galactic.

Knight pointed out that concurrently, Hollywood is making this more accessible for the public to imagine because computing technology is allowing filmmakers to create “very real depictions of what it might be like to go to to space, ranging from orbiting the earth in the Space Shuttle, a la Gravity, or through highly futuristic experiences, a la Star Trek.

“At the same we are making leaps and bounds in how we present that [with technologies such as] Oculus Rift VR goggles. We believe the majority of humans will first experience space flight through immersion—and that could be as simple as watching a TV show on your iPad or full virtual reality experience.”

During the conference, Buzz Hays, past president of the International 3D Society and alum of Sony Pictures Entertainment, will speak about immersion technologies and how they could be used to create such experiences; and industry vet Ted Schilowitz, who works with companies including 20th Century Fox and Barco, is scheduled to discuss his views on immersion.

Also for the Space and Media track, the NSS has enlisted VFX pros including Oscar winner Ben Grossmann, who will speak about his recent work on Star Trek Into Darkness; Bjorn Mayer and Steve Preeg, who will talk about Oblivion; Rainer Gombos and Eric Leven, who will present the making of Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey; and Chris Edwards, CEO and creative director at previs company the Third Floor, who will discuss work on Gravity. USC’s Paul Debevec will describe USC-developed techniques for lighting photoreal actors that were applied to productions including Avatar and Gravity.

Additional speakers include Rick Loverd, program director at the Science & Entertainment Exchange, a project of the National Academy of Sciences that connects entertainment industry professionals with scientists and engineers who contribute their expertise to film and TV projects.

The conference will also present Three Nights, Three Days: Endeavour's Journey Through Los Angeles, a 20-minute documentary made with footage that was lensed by hundreds from the Hollywood production community who gave their time to document the historic effort to move the Space Shuttle Endeavour through the streets of the city to its home at the California Science Center. Knight, who produced the short, reported that efforts are also being made to bring the documentary to film festivals.

Twitter: @CGinLA