May 20, 2014

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One Small Step

image by Peter Rosén, Stockholm, Sweden

The LPOD from the 11th of May shows a huge model of the Moon and compares its size to the man sitting on top and giving a final touch. So I thought I might submit my own model of the Moon with my hand and the sole of the moonboot as a reference of size.

In February of 1999 I was contacted by a client with a very special request. He wanted a close-up shot of the Moon for a big commercial project so obviously no telescope picture would do. I advised him to try to find a suitable picture in the NASA archives, but they did not have that commercial "quality" and more importantly, he was running out of time. At that time, finding pictures was not done online and it could take several days before you got the prints by ordinary mail. So he asked me if I could produce such a picture in less than a week. I had absolutely no clue where to start but I heard myself answer "yes, of course". What he was after was more the idea of the Moon in most peoples minds like craters with central peaks, boulders, long deep shadows and a special light and color tone. He did not accept my arguments that that's not the way the Moon looks close-up. Very important also was a single footprint, located precisely so it would suit the layout they had planned.

I started with computer graphics in 1981 so I felt confident that the best way to solve the assignment would be to construct a virtual 3D model and then render it with advanced raytracing, but 2-3 days later I had to give up. Whatever I did, the surface looked more like plastic than moondust so without wasting any more time I had to find another solution and it better be a good one because I was running out of time with just 4 days left. I decided to buy a 50 kg bag of cement and spread it on a 4x5 meters big sheet of plastic on the floor in my studio. I then started ballistic testings by dropping everything I could imagine from stones to golfballs from different heights and angles. The biggest challenge was that everything was to be perfect the first time because it was impossible to erase anything on the surface without altering its structure. Needless to say, absolutely nobody was allowed inside my studio during that week because all my construction was just made of powder, and a simple sneeze or a cross-draft from the door could have destroyed everything in seconds.

When all the craters were in place, the last and probably the most difficult step was to create the print of the moon boot. I made a model in polystyrene and cardboard using real pictures as models and resolutely took a first small step on the Moon's surface. After this I set up the lighting by using a strobe as far away as possible with a very low and shallow angle of illumination to get parallel rays that would mimic the sharp light from the Sun. I then set up my camera loaded with a roll of 120 slide film, 6x9 cm that was processed overnight. Next morning I scanned the slide to get it into the computer for a final touch-up, movig some craters around, adding some boulders and giving it that distinctive moonish lighting. My client had just one complaint: he wanted the footprint to be from a right foot! I told him that the sole of the moonboots were almost symetrical so you could not tell the difference between a right and a left foot, but as the client is always right I had to comply and slightly distort the shape. The end of the story is that he got his close-up shot of the Moon in a week :-)

Peter Rosén

Yesterday's LPOD: Smoky Moon

Tomorrow's LPOD: Ground Penetrating Radar - an Extraterrestrial View


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