This is the trailer for First Orbit a unique new film that’s due for global release via YouTube on April 12th, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned orbit of the Earth.
The 108-minute film was made by British filmmaker Chris Riley, who engaged the help of an astronaut on the International Space Station to shoot much of the footage.
Riley told TechLand: “The idea of the film is to convey a sense of what a single orbit of Earth actually feels like.”
The team went to extraordinary lengths to make sure the finished film was accurate. They wanted the shots from orbit to be as close as possible to the ones Gagarin himself would have seen from his tiny capsule.
They asked German orbital mechanics expert Gerald Ziegler to help. He found that the International Space Station follows roughly the same orbit that Gagarin took about once a week.
But that wasn’t accurate enough. The film had to be shot at the same time of day that Gagarin flew, and the Space Station only covers that orbit once every six weeks.
Riley worked frantically over a year to get the various partner space agencies — NASA, the European Space Agency, and Russia’s Roscosmos — to agree to allowing Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli to take on the job of camera operator, alongside all his other duties.
The result is a film that might not appeal to everyone. Thanks to its attention to detail and commitment to realism, there is a 40 minute section of near darkness as Gagarin’s Vostok 1 flies above the Pacific Ocean at night. Riley says the film is a “meditative piece.”
“The Pacific section was very difficult to do, and we left that until last,” he said.
“NASA provided us with some high resolution footage to use alongside our own. You can see clouds, and thunderstorms. And there’s a moon rise, which is spectacular.
“Gagarin himself didn’t see the moon while in orbit, so we were pleased to include it as a sort of tribute to him.”
The full length film, exactly the same length as Gagarin’s historic orbit, will be released on April 12th, 50 years to the day after he completed it.