TV: The final frontier

So this could be really intersting to watch. But do you think the people will figure it out? How far can a simulation “trick” the mind … anything is possible. Just look at the “Mission to Mars” ride at Epcot, it feels real but you know it is not … because of the line you had to wait it. But you feel like you are taking off in a rocket and you pull a few g-forces ..

Endemol, the company behind ‘Big Brother’, is pulling out all the stops for its new Channel 4 production. In it, contestants vie to fly to space. The snag? They will be grounded at a military base, victims of probably the biggest hoax ever attempted on TV …

The training they receive will consist of lectures delivered by actors accompanied by a genuine space expert, in which 80 per cent of the information will be true and 20 per cent fiction. Issues that will be explained to them include the fact they will not be weightless in near space and that, like Sir Richard Branson’s space-tourist shuttles, their craft will take off horizontally rather than vertically. A Russian fitness trainer will also take them through their physical paces.

The shuttle itself has been built using a set from the film Space Cowboys, which was made from a NASA blueprint. It consists of three sections – a cockpit, a mid-deck where they will they eat and sleep, and a laboratory, where the team will carry out experiments – some of them authentic, others slightly more wacky.

The cockpit has four windows, which are in reality giant digital screens using graphics three times the resolution of high definition television and better than the visual effects used in The Matrix, capable of recreating hurricanes over Mexico.

To simulate take-off, part of the set has been built on a hydraulic platform and part on “air biscuits” that can bounce and wobble around. The Hollywood-based sound specialist, Dean Andre, has created an immensely powerful noise that will vibrate through the participants’ bodies. A genuine astronaut has tested the experience and pronounced it authentic.

The shuttle has been fitted with panels, allowing the production team access. So, for example, if the contestants have been asked to carry out an experiment to see how fast tomatoes rot in space, they can go in overnight and replace the fresh fruit with a rotten one.

Despite the lengths to which the producers have gone, Endemol’s chief creative officer, Tim Hincks, admitted that the whole project was fraught with danger. “This is without doubt the riskiest, most exciting project we have ever undertaken as a company. The whole thing could go wrong at any point. They could rumble us and the joke could very much be on us.”

Independent Online Edition > Media Unreality TV: The final frontier