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Initially created as a short film, The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R. by Romain Quirot, had quite a successful festival run, won many awards and was a finalist at the Oscars. This year, its release as a feature-length film will delight space genre fans with its stunning astrological images. It is also the opportunity for inventive thought.
The mysterious red moon © The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R. – Romain Quirot – An Apaches film – Tandem distribution
In the near future, a mysterious red moon in the Earth’s orbit serves as a source of energy. The moon’s trajectory, however, suddenly shifts: it is headed straight for our planet. Paul W.R. (played by Hugo Becker), the only astronaut who can prevent the catastrophe, refuses to take on the mission and disappears. The film focuses on the hero’s journey, a road trip during which he is torn between embracing the destiny that is expected of him or defining his own path.
Paul and Elma © The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R. – Romain Quirot – An Apaches film – Tandem distribution
At ArianeGroup, we wanted to take a close look this poetic European science-fiction drama through our scientific lens. What solution might our engineers come up with? What real-life elements could they use to suggest an alternative ending? No spoilers!
The rocket © The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R. – Romain Quirot – An Apaches film – Tandem distribution
The space company in the movie seems to have carried out its launch operations from France. The first things to consider are the rocket and its launch location. Arnaud, ArianeGroup engineer, explains what an optimal launch entails:
‘The shape of the rocket in the movie strongly resembles the one in Tintin’s Destination Moon; not the most efficient. A launcher with several stages is better suited for a lunar mission. Each vehicle stage corresponds to a specific flight phase (atmosphere and gravity, space, etc.). This ensures greater velocity as stages separate, in order to go further faster.
In addition, launching close to the Equator, as is the case for Ariane launchers, gives space-headed vehicles an extra boost from the Earth’s rotation.’
Magnetic field and memories © The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R. – Romain Quirot – An Apaches film – Tandem distribution
One of the first problems the astronauts encountered was the electromagnetic field around the moon. Arnaud explains why in such a case, a manual (human) landing is needed:
‘Electromagnetic fields are not a problem for humans. We go about our everyday lives without being affected by the Earth’s natural electromagnetic field, which is invisible and intangible to us. Electronic components, however, would instantly fail when crossing such a field. As a result, a human being must land the vehicle manually.’
A set destiny © The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R. – Romain Quirot – An Apaches film – Tandem distribution
Arnaud explains how the problem could be solved by using a system like the one already employed on the Ariane launchers:
‘Our launchers are totally autonomous. Three systems of sensors, embedded computers and actuators make the launcher fly. Navigation systems show its position, guiding systems plot the trajectory to the final destination and the piloting systems keep the launcher on track. In the movie, we could have ordered the rocket to alter its trajectory to avoid a specific area.’
The red moon © The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R. – Romain Quirot – An Apaches film – Tandem distribution
Without giving anything away regarding the story, we are sure that our engineers would have been a great help to Paul W.R. and his father Henri W.R. (played by Jean Reno). ArianeGroup was nevertheless spellbound by the movie’s images and Quirot’s numerous sci-fi references. The director delivers a dazzling modern-day fable about the boundaries we set and those to transcend.
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