ENDEMOL / WONDERWORKS - "SPACE CADETS" (UK):
Some photos below are copyrighted by Endemol and Wonderworks.
In August 2005, InMotion Simulation was asked to program a space shuttle-like simulator
for Wonderworks, a leading special
effects company in Hollywood, California, for a top-secret TV reality show
called "Space Cadets" which would air for 10 days in the UK in December 2005.
The goal was to trick nine people into believing they would be launched into space,
when in fact they would be inside a space shuttle simulator the entire time.
The show made TV history and you can read about the details below.
Note: because of copyright issues, I can not post video clips from the actual show.
All the clips and photos you see on my website are taken by me unless otherwise noted and with permission.
ABOUT "SPACE CADETS"
After the first press release in November 2005, the media said it would be "the most audacious hoax in TV history"
-- that is, if we could pull it off. Otherwise, the joke would be on us. So how could we convince 9 cadets that they were in space?
It wasn't going to be easy and it was going to take a lot of help from one of the best
special effects company in Hollywood. The cadets would also have to go through weeks of physical
training and many classroom lectures. We had to "brainwash" them first if they were going to fall for
the ridiculous lies we were going to tell them. For example, if we told them over and over again that they would not experience
zero-gravity in a low orbit, and explained in scientific terms why, then they would eventually believe it and wouldn't be surprised
once they got into orbit.
Here are some of the crazy things that the cadets were told:
On November 30th, "Good Morning America" featured a segment of the "Space Cadets" show.
Chat rooms and forums began appearing on websites all around the world. By now, the entire
world knew about the show and waited anxiously to see if we could pull it off. And for a while, the rumor was that
they cadets were just actors and the hoax was on us. But this wasn't true and would be proved so after
the end of the show.
- They would be going into a very low sub-orbit and therefore would not experience zero gravity.
At a cruising altitude of 200 km, they would experience 70% gravity, the other 30% would be countered by an Anti Gravity Generator (AGG) onboard the spacecraft.
- The AGG would create a turbulence similar to that of an aircraft (we had to keep the simulator moving to prevent feeling people walk around).
On the TV show you can see them constantly being bumped around as if they were experiencing turbulence in an airplane.
- The shuttle would take off from a convential runway like a typical aircraft (we couldn't simulate a vertical launch).
- The shuttle would take off with shutters over the windows until they were in space (we had an IMAX screen in front of the simulator).
- They would conduct important experiments for mankind. In fact, some of the experiments included blowing up balloons and shape them like animals!
On November 20th, 24 hours after the press release announcing the show, the UK's "Sunday Mirror" tabloid magazine reported our secret location
and published photos of the exact hangar where the simulator was stored. How they found out so quickly is still a mystery
to all involved. However, it would not be the last media surprise. We knew there were some internal leaks but didn't know who it was.
Towards the end of November, a paraglider was video taped flying about 200 feet over the simulator hangar.
On December 15th, a day before the final show was to air, several reporters with cell phones and cameras were caught on the base
and managed to cut a hole in the fence. But we had the base surrounded by guard dogs and those reporters
left in a police car with part of their pants missing thanks to the police dogs. We even had a person outside the base monitoring our walkie-talkie
frequencies and would report what we would be doing and posting them on the Internet forums!
"EARTH ORBITER ONE"
Wonderworks designed and manufactured a close replica of the space shuttle which we would use for the TV show.
This same simulator was also used in films such as
"Space Cowboys," "Deep Impact," "Armageddon," "MaxQ", "The Core" and other films and TV shows.
The motion base had two hydraulic RAMs and four pneumatic air bags, weighed over 25,000 lbs, and was over 50 feet long.
In order to convince the cadets that they were going to be launched in space, the motion simulator's movements
would have to be as convincing as possible.
It was my job to program the motion which would be synced with the sound system.
If the motion and sound didn't match then it would not feel real and therefore could blow the entire show.
So we had to nail it and we only had one chance at it when we would launch them on December 12th.
We rehearsed the launch many times with practice crews inside. But would it work on the real launch day?
A UK paper advertised a new thrill seeking adventure and applications were submitted from all around Great Britian.
However, they were not told what the "adventure" would be about. After weeks of psychological and physical
testing, 12 cadets were finally selected (3 were actors who would make sure the real cadets did not get too suspicious).
Here are the final cadets that were selected along with their stats and bios which were published by Channel 4 in the UK:
Name: Andrew Carter
Andrew is a student who lives at home with his parents. He's good looking and confident, and describes himself as funny, intelligent, charming and considerate. One of his luckiest moments was going out with the prettiest girl in his primary school.
Andrew finds the R Kelly track 'I Believe I Can Fly' inspirational because it gives him self-belief and makes him feel he can do anything.
He is a keen Arsenal fan and plays football in a local league - but that's not his only interest: he also confesses to being a church attendee but sadly he only mimes the words to the hymns, as he doesn't know the words.
Andrew is also scared of moths.
Name: Astrid Roberts
From: Mid Glamorgan, Wales
Occupation: Works in call centre for an insurance company
Astrid is looking for some real excitement in her life. She's a pretty blonde from Mid Glamorgan, who went to school in Cardiff with pop chick Charlotte Church. She now lives in the sticks, so can't hit the town every night.
Astrid works in a call centre, and has had five different jobs this year but still doesn't know what she wants to do. In fact, she wants to do everything! She's also quite clumsy and has a habit of losing mobile phones. Like her old school chum Charlotte, she also likes to sing, but suffers from stagefright and can only perform in front of her family.
Astrid's had a boyfriend for the last 6 months and claims she has lots of friends. She's an adventurous girl who dreams of riding in a Formula 1 car. She gets annoyed by two-faced people and hates seeing others being picked on.
Name: Billy Jackson
Occupation: Recruitment Consultant
Billy is one for the ladies. He is a semi-pro footballer and his ultimate ambition is a to be a footballer or film star. He realises he's too old for professional football but there is still time to hit Hollywood. He describes himself as tall, dark and handsome, funny, outgoing, polite and caring but also one of the lads.
Billy loves the film Armageddon, hates spiders and the idea of drowning and says his most embarrassing moment was when his ex girlfriend's dad witnessed him walking down the catwalk in a red silk thong. He believes in reincarnation and wants to return as a golden eagle. Billy does not believe in ghosts but claims to have seen an alien.
Name: Cheryl Dearie
Occupation: Housing Association Assistant
Cheryl is a lively, ambitious and opinionated girl who loves people. She is also impatient and hates being alone. A firm believer in fate, she believes in reincarnation and ghosts - she says a guardian angel visited her when she was aged sixteen. She fears drowning and fire but feels that taking part in a 'thrill-seekers' show will give her the chance to do something unique.
Cheryl describes herself as a typical, up-for-it 23 year old girl. She hates liars and smoking, and enjoys clubbing with her friends, clothes and relaxing in a bath with a glass of wine.
Name: Keri Hasset
Occupation: College Administrator
Keri's so keen on space travel that her ultimate fancy dress outfit is dressing up as an astronaut. She describes herself as a friendly, outgoing girl who will try anything once, and compares herself to Bridget Jones. She's also a team player - as long as the team wins! Her fears include drowning and spiders, and she never, ever wants to free-fall into water or sing in front of a group of people.
Keri's strangest job was dressing up as a human eyeball to promote Specsavers. Other unusual achievements include being able to put her fist in her mouth.
Things Keri likes include Christmas, white-knuckle rides, family, friends, holidays, romance and chocolate.
Name: Louise Nisbet
From: Whitstable, Kent
Occupation: Currently working as secondary school PE teacher
Louise is sporty and competitive and represents her county in basketball and athletics. She lived in Canada for ten months, and admits to being afraid of death, ghosts and the dark.
Louise worries about what her parents might think of her, but is still keen to be in the public eye: if she won the lottery, she'd hang out with the celebs at China White, and her ambition is to co-present a show with Dick and Dom. hates are smoking, people doing drugs, racism, spitting, xenophobia and chavs.
Name: Paul French
Paul describes himself as a happy-go-lucky charmer who has a good sense of humour and enjoys a wind up either at his or others' expense. He doesn't like heights, deep water or ghosts. Paul finds plastering boring, and would like a crack at the limelight. He enjoys the simple pleasures in life like going to the pub and playing football. His favourite song is Coldplay's The Scientist. Paul also has a soft spot for the ladies.
Name: Ryan McBride
From: Born in Glasgow, currently living in London
Ryan is laid back, but thinks he's very unlucky and says people laugh at him for his clumsy, Frank Spencer-like ways. He believes in UFOs because there's too much evidence not to, and thinks there are cover-ups at play to hide the truth that's really out there?
He's distinctive looking, with a Shaggy-style ginger afro and a huge lion tattoo on his back. Ryan is happiest when he has no responsibility, but he has big plans for the future - so watch out world!
Name: Sarah-Jane Cass
From: Northumberland Heath, Kent
Occupation: Currently studying media performance and radio at Luton University
Sarah Jane is a confident, self-confessed chatterbox who describes herself as a hyper bird who lives life to the max. She is always the first one on the dance floor and her favourite karaoke track is Girls Aloud's Sound of the Underground). She doesn't believe in ghosts or UFO's and can't live without her hairbrush.
Sarah Jane is scared of crabs and lobsters and her worst nightmare is being trapped in a swimming pool with thousands of them. She also dislikes bees, big wild animals, cockroaches, creepy crawlies, rodents, sharks and snakes.
After their training was completed in "Russia" only four cadets would be selected to go into space. Those
- Billy Jackson
- Charlie Skelton (actor)
- Keri Hassett
- Paul French
WELCOME TO RUSSIA
On November 22nd, the twelve cadets were told they would fly to S.T.A.R. (Space Tourism Agency of Russia) in Krymse, Russia.
But actually, their plane and helicopter flew circles over Scotland and the English Channel in the middle of the night with the window shades closed.
Several hours later they landed at a retired RAF military base north of Ipswich in Rendlesham, UK.
The Russian welcoming committee was incredible and well rehearsed. We also had the great fortune of
having a typical English foggy night as our backdrop. And with all the spotlights shining in the fog, it looked like a Hollywood
You can see my video clip of the helicopter landing at the base below. I froze my butt off but got some good footage.
In this clip you will see the helicopter taxing, a bus picking up the cadets, a Russian tank driving in front of the bus,
and then the bus takes them to their barracks.
(7.8 MB) right-click and select "Save Target As..."
The production company even went to the extent of traveling to Moscow several months earlier and purchasing items for the show.
They wanted to make sure the cadets felt they were really in Russia. Here are some of what they purchased:
- Russian magazines
- Russian toiletry (even the tampons were Russian!)
- Russian license plates
- Russian trash on the training grounds
- Removed anything British, such as English signs, from around their barracks and replaced them with Russian
THE CLASSROOM LECTURES
In order to convince the cadets that they are in space, we had to slowly brainwash them into believing partial lies and partial truths.
When the production company found out I use to teach college and taught computer courses at NASA, they decided to use me as one of the lecturers who would
train the cadets on the human gyro. The purpose of this lecture was to test their communication skills while spinning around
in three axis' trying to answer silly questions. And since I was one of the lecturers, I was featured on the Friday night show (Dec 9).
Even after the cadets learned the truth, they told me they still thought I was a real lecturer! When actually I was just there to program
the motion simulator and just did the classroom lectures as a side job.
THE LAUNCH -- THEY BELIEVED IT??
December 12th, launch date. We had tested and rehearsed many launches and felt we were ready to go live. There was no room for error
or the show would be blown. This show had been two years in the making and it was up to us not to screw it up.
Dean Andre, a Hollywood sound engineer, would start an ambient sound in the background before the cadets
entered the shuttle. The sound was to give them impression of the shuttle fueling up, computers, etc.
Then when the directors would say go, I would press a button on my software which would then sync with the audio.
However, after we started the launch sequence the audio sub-woofers were not functioning. Panic grew in the control room
as whether or not to abort the mission. But at the last second, Dean Andre discovered the problem and fixed it seconds
before the launch.
(26.5 MB) right-click and select "Save Target As..."
Right after the launch, Keri and Paul started making comments that made us nervous. Paul said
it felt like they haven't even left the ground yet. But he wasn't referring to the quality of our launch,
but rather how smooth the flight felt. Regardless, it still made us sweat! Here's a clip from the quad
monitor of what they said.
(4.1 MB) right-click and select "Save Target As..."
It did not take long for Internet websites to start new chat rooms and forums about the show. We all got a kick reading the many conspiracy theories
about "Space Cadets." One theory suggested that all nine cadets were actually actors and the joke was on us.
It's almost reminencent of the moon landing conspiracies.
REVEALING THE HOAX TO THE CADETS
The show lasted 10 days with the final show on December 16th. On the last day, the cadets were told they were going to perform
a space walk. While they were in the air-tight chamber, Johnny Vaughan appeared on a TV screen inside the chamber.
He very gently told them they weren't going on a space walk and that they entire space flight was a hoax.
Their reactions were hesitant at first as they weren't sure what he was talking about. Then they started to laugh.
I was at the reveal when they came out and you can see those pictures below. At first they were embarrassed, but when
they were told they would get $50,000 USD they took it well.
"Space Cadets" ended up with one of the most highest ratings in the UK's TV history. Currently, there are rumors that our special effects team
could be up for an Emmy! All in all, we did what everyone said would be impossible and pulled off the biggest hoax in TV history.
If you're interested in getting a copy of the show, you will need to contact Channel 4 in London.