Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

13 March 2016

About a small Dutch astronomical satellite.

The building of the LK3 stages is (just temporarily) on hold; I had some other stuff to do. Here's what I have been up to lately:

Ever since I got involved in making television programmes and films, I had this dream about being able to make a documentary film about spaceflight. Being Dutch and all, I estimated my chances nearly zero. At least, that was what I was convinced of, then.

But two years back, I was invited to the Dutch Space Museum in Lelystad to bring them two of my paper space models, the Falcon 9 1.0 and the Curiosity Mars diorama, for adding them to their display. I was given a little tour around the museum's artefacts, one of the board members showed me round. He pointed at a small gold-clad satellite with solar panels that was suspended from the ceiling. "You know that one?" he asked. "Yeah," I said, "That's ANS. The Astronomische Nederlandse Satelliet". I looked at him. In his old eyes shone a surprisingly young and happy twinkle. "I built that!" He smiled.
I realised I was looking at one of the builders of the first and only completely Dutch satellite. He made something unique that went into space.
He took me to a display in which electronic components were shown. "This here is a test model of the on-board computer of ANS. NASA couldn't believe their eyes." There and then it hit me. We could try and make a film of this. A film about the people who led the Netherlands into the space age. I read and researched all I could find and I was brought into contact with more of the engineers and people who were involved in the realisation of ANS. Slowly the story unfolded and it all became quite amazing. All the efforts, the audacity, the ingenuity, it resulted in a piece of technology NASA was pleasantly surprised with, it was one and a half generation ahead of their standards. We are talking 1974 and ANS had a re-programmable on-board computer. 28K of solid state memory. It saved ANS' mission. And ANS did some great work out there in space.

Flash forward. Early February 2016. Still unsure whether the funding will be granted, we decided to push ahead and start doing the first interviews. As I write this, the people I want to interview are all still alive and reasonable healthy but some of them already are close to or even over 90 years old.
In the last two weeks I have been interviewing the two engineers that were project manager for Philips and Fokker. Hopefully the subsidy will be granted so I can go ahead and do the rest of the interviews. This film needs to be made. It's about a part of Dutch high-end technology that is almost forgotten. It should become part of the canon of Dutch science. The filmed footage looks great and we can hardly wait until we can start to edit some stuff into a teaser. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
I will keep you informed on the progress.

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