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An ever-growing series of prizes for CaSSIS Mars demystified

Take a space instrument orbiting mars, turn its Principal Investigator (PI) into a detective, add a hint of comic-style images, and you obtain… CaSSIS Mars demystified – a science short film winning a plethora of the awards around the world!

The first episode of CaSSIS Mars demystified focused on dust devils, those sort of weak tornado-looking vortex moving around a lot of dust, which are common on Earth, but also on Mars. The project came from the mind of Dr. Tatiana Keller, former postdoc in astrophysics, who could transform her idea into a short movie with the support of the NCCR PlanetS.

When asked what motivated her to create such a movie, she answers: “I have been a fan of space scientist Carl Sagan since my childhood, he and his outreach work inspired me to become a scientist. To show the beauty of science to others, I decided to receive a second education as a film director to follow his steps making movies! Working together under the supervision of Prof. Nicolas Thomas opened amazing opportunity to create such educative project. Moreover, Nick has an amazing character that is worth taking the main role in the movie.

The main character and detective of the video is indeed none other than NCCR PlanetS director Nicolas Thomas, also PI of the CaSSIS instrument onboard the TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter) space probe of the European Space Agency (ESA) currently in orbit around Mars. CaSSIS is a camera able to perform stereoscopic imaging of the surface of Mars, to spot features such as the above-mentioned dust devils.

I had no idea that such a great public relation product could be produced in this way. The team assembled by Tanya is really good,” note Nicolas Thomas.

A second episode also came out. It is focusing this time on slope streaks visible at the surface of Mars, and which changed colour after 20 years, earning them the nickname of “chameleon” slope streaks. Combining together, the two episodes make a short movie. This short movie has been very successful since it’s release, and has won several awards during the 2023 festivals all over the world!

When we received the award in New York, I cried. It was tears of happiness. After a long way and all the obstacles, the movie finally found its audience. Then, “CaSSIS. Mars Demystified” received more and more awards and recognition worldwide. That gave me the feeling that creating such fascinating, educative movies makes sense to turn it my life’s purpose,” confess Tatiana Keller.

The movie is still in competition for a few more festivals, so this list could get longer! The episode list definitely will as a third and final episode of the season, about Spiders and ice on Mars, is in preparation


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