Part of the inspiration for writing the Tin Can screenplay came from an article I read way back in 2007. It’s still online; you can read it here: “ESA Seeks Candidates for Simulated ‘Mars Missions’ in 2008/2009“. The announcement was intriguing, especially since it was something that seemingly anyone (well, any European citizen, I think) could apply for. Of course, only someone who met the standards and qualifications of an astronaut would have a chance, but still – it was an opportunity to cross the threshold that traditionally divided space programs from ordinary citizenry, and I thought that was really cool.
I thought a lot about the project and what it might be like to be a part of it:
These men and women will have to take care of themselves for almost two years during the roundtrip. Their survival is in their own hands, relying on the work of thousands of engineers and scientists back on Earth, who made such a mission possible.
The crew will experience extreme isolation and confinement. They will lose sight of planet Earth. A radio contact will take 40 minutes to travel to us and then back to the space explorers.
If you’ve seen any of the drafts of Tin Can, I think it’s pretty clear how this scenario worked its way into the premise of the film. We go somewhere rather different with it, of course, but the setup definitely owes a lot to this ESA project.
A follow-up was published in 2009, and it is fascinating to read how much of the real-life project resonates with our film:
Any spare time has been spent reading, watching films and playing music and games together…
The participants have also been subjected to scientific experiments to assess the psychological and physiological effects of isolation…
“Living for that long in a confined environment can only work if the crew is really getting along with each other. The crew is the crucial key to mission success, which became very evident to me…”
I should say, though, if you’re looking for “answers” to the secret of the mission in Tin Can, you won’t find them here. At least, not all of them. While the ESA project was definitely a launch pad for the script, it is not a model for the plot of the film. Our goal was always to create a story that featured something much more complex than a simple experiment, and left more questions open than it answered.
Did we accomplish our goal? You’ll have to see and decide for yourself.