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Robot 'Transformers' Invade Space Shuttle Launch Site For Sci-Fi Film

NASA Kennedy Space Center employees and their families gather around 'Optimus Prime' in this snapshot taken during a photo opportunity Oct. 8, 2010 after the Transformer cars were used to film scenes of the new "Transformers: The Dark of the Moon" film at
NASA Kennedy Space Center employees and their families gather around 'Optimus Prime' in this snapshot taken during a photo opportunity Oct. 8, 2010 after the Transformer cars were used to film scenes of the new "Transformers: The Dark of the Moon" film at the space center.
(Image: © NASA/Frank Michaux)

OptimusPrime and otherrobot Transformers ? in their car disguises ? descended upon NASA'sspaceshuttle launch site in Florida this month to shoot scenes for theirthird, and reportedlyfinal, live action movie due out next summer, called "Transformers: TheDarkof the Moon."

Therobots indisguise appeared at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.,the homeport of NASA's shuttle fleet, and launching site for the agency'smanned spacemissions for decades. The filming session occurred last week beforemoving toWashington, D.C. [Photo:Optimus Prime Truck at NASA]

Thetiming of theshoot offered director Michael Bay the chance to film the space shuttleDiscovery standingtall on its launch pad where NASA rolled it out a month agoin preparationfor a Nov.1 blastoff.

NASAofficialscannot confirm that Bay in fact filmed the shuttle, or what sort ofaction(read: battle sequences) might unfold at the spaceport after digitaleffectsget added in post-production.

Atany rate, thespace center may feature prominently in the all-but-assured Hollywoodblockbusterthat may even, according to some talk, reveal the space shuttle itselfas a mightyTransformer.

TheTransformersfilms are based on the 1980s cartoon series of the same name, whichfeaturedwell-intentioned robots ? the Autobots ? in a war against the evilDecepticons.Earth serves as their battleground.

Spaceportin thespotlight

NASAhas launchedspacecraft for over 40 years from the KennedySpace Center, and the agency welcomes the publicity that thenew majormotion picture brings to the facility and the space program.

"It'sanopportunity for us to show ourselves to an audience we wouldn'tnecessarilyalways get an opportunity to show ourselves to," NASA spokespersonAllardBeutel told SPACE.com.

Thetwo previous"Transformers" movies raked in megabucks overseas, so the potentialfor a worldwide audience has Beutel excited.

"Inreality,[Transformers] is a science-fiction action film, but for us we do realspace-exploration,science-fact stuff," Beutel said. "It's a chance for us, if a kidsees a NASA facility, sees the space shuttle on the launch pad, maybethey'lllook into that, maybe they'll go to NASA.gov and see what's going on."

"Transformers:Dark of the Moon" is not the first film to feature the Kennedy SpaceCenter. [Gallery:NASA's Sci-Fi Inspired Mission Posters]

TheNASA spaceporthas also been featured prominently in other science fictionblockbusters as thelaunching ground for the asteroid-smashing Earth rescue spaceships in"Armageddon" and the site of the first Machine built in the film"Contact" based on the novel by astronomer Carl Sagan.

Transformers:More than meets the eye

Bayhas said ininterviews that the third Transformersfilm will hearken back to the space race between the UnitedStates and theformer Soviet Union. The director has hinted that the trilogy's warringextraterrestrial robots will turn out to have played a significantbehind-the-scenes role in mankind's entering the finalfrontier. 

Journalistson handat Kennedy Space Center last week for the delivery of cargo toDiscoveryreported seeing some of the movie's stars, including Shia LaBeouf, JohnTurturro and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who replaces Megan Fox from theprevious two films as the love interest for LaBeouf's character, SamWitwicky.

Spacecenter workersas actors

Beutelsaid that some600 space center employees auditioned as extras per the moviemakers'desire forrealism in depicting NASA operations and personnel.

"[Bay]likesto cast extras in roles who are familiar with the venue they are in,"Beutel said. "They work there and are actually experts, so it's 'actlikea rocket scientist,' and they'll have rocket scientists on the set."

LastFriday (Oct.8), some NASA staff and their families got to check out the real-lifevehicle versionsof Optimus Prime, the Olympian-voiced leader of the heroic Autobots,andBumblebee, the loyal protector of Witwicky.

OptimusPrime's famousearthly disguise is an eye-catching, chromed-out, deepblue-and-flame-coloredsemi-trailer truck, while Bumblebee masquerades as a sportyyellow-and-blackChevy Camaro.

Beuteland otherobservers noticed various other vehicles cruising around the spacecenter,including tricked-out, rally car-style racers, any or all of whichmight portraymore-than-meets-the-eye Transformers onscreen.  

Helicoptersswoopedover the spaceport as well, likely recording the vertigo-inducingcamera pans thatdirector Bay has established as a hallmark of summer movie fightscenes.

Asfor the rumorsof NASA's iconic shuttle morphing into a colossal robot, fans of theTransformersmythologies need to look no further than Astrotrain, an evil Decepticonthatcan assume the form of the space shuttle as well as a steam locomotive.

Beutelsaid he recallsAstrotrain well from his childhood, though he does not know ? and evenif hedid, he could not say per contractual agreements with the filmmakers ?ifDiscovery duplicitously turns out to be this menacing machine.

Regardless,Beutellooks forward to seeing the movie when it hits theaters and enjoyedhaving"Transformers" come to KSC. 

"It'scoolhaving a touch of Hollywood here on the Florida Space Coast," he said.

Adam Hadhazy is a staffwriter for TechNewsDaily,a sister site to SPACE.com.

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