NEW YORK — A group of all-star astronauts brought some space to New York City Wednesday (March 14) for the world premiere of "One Strange Rock," a stunning new National Geographic television show about Earth narrated by some of the few people who have seen it from space.
Directed by the award-winning filmmaker Darren Aronofsky ("Pi," "Black Swan" and "Requiem for a Dream"), the 10-part cinematic series showcases striking visual imagery of Earth from the largest to the smallest scales. The series features gorgeous shots filmed 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Earth at the International Space Station along with close-up views of some of the most remarkable places in the natural world.
Narrated entirely by eight renowned astronauts, "One Strange Rock" offers a unique perspective of life on Earth from some experienced space travelers. Among the astronauts on the show are NASA's record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson, Canadian astronaut and off-Earth musician Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go to space.
The show delves into several aspects of our home planet that allowed life to bloom and flourish here — things that are easy to take for granted, like the oxygen in our atmosphere and Earth's natural shield against radiation.
"We wanted to make a show that was looking at the Earth in a completely different perspective and looking at what connects it all up, what the systems are, what are the unique things about this planet, and why life on this planet is so incredible," Jane Root, CEO of Nutopia — one of the production companies behind "One Strange Rock" — said during a special media event before the premiere.
"I think our planet was intended to be viewed from space," NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, another of the eight astronauts on the show, told reporters at the discussion. "One Strange Rock" certainly gives viewers a taste of what it's like to see the Earth from space, but National Geographic took it a big step further by creating a virtual-reality (VR) experience for the show.
A whole new world in VR
While the visuals in "One Strange Rock" area already pretty mind-blowing, nothing compares to the cool virtual reality (VR) experience that goes along with the series. Never mind the VR goggles; National Geographic has taken VR to a whole new level with its new "Space Projection Helmet," a totally immersive VR platform that lets users look and feel like astronauts.
On the morning of the premiere, National Geographic invited a small group of journalists to test out the helmets, and this Space.com reporter can confirm that they are totally awesome. The helmet's visor serves as a screen, and a tiny laser projector fills your field of view with gorgeous images of the Earth and space.
This device is not in available stories (at least not yet), but National Geographic plans to take a set of the helmets on a tour of schools and planetariums around the country this spring, National Geographic officials said in a statement.
If you don't have a chance to check out the VR experience during that tour, you can still see some pretty amazing stuff on your plain old TV screen when "One Strange Rock" premieres on the National Geographic Channel on March 26.