The idea of outer space has been an exciting and beloved topic in film for decades. When a filmmaker takes the uncertainty and rawness of space and combines it with the emotions and power of a documentary, you get Emer Reynolds’s The Farthest.

Of the films I had the pleasure of seeing at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, The Farthest was the most captivating by far (no pun intended). There were just so many aspects that blew me away both as an audience member and as someone who is genuinely intrigued with the wonders of space travel.

The story

The documentary tells the story of NASA’s Voyager space program, a massive and ambitious project that has its roots in 1972, five years before they launched the first probe into space.

The Farthest offers an exquisite balance in terms of coverage. The Voyager space programme was the first mission to truly look beyond the confines of the asteroid belt, offering a close glimpse at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune before venturing out of the solar system and into the space between the stars.

To do this, NASA launched two probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 with nine months of difference. Despite the limited technology compared to today’s advanced microchips they were able to take images and other data from the planets successfully. Once the probes finished their missions, they continued travelling further outer space; becoming the first human-made objects that left our solar system.

The Golden Record

Like a message in a bottle, the probes carry with them a Golden Record that contained sounds, images, songs and the position of our planet so that if one-day aliens find the probe, they would be able to see and hear the way we lived on Earth.

Thoughts

There is too much fascination to map out here, and I couldn’t even begin to explain it no matter how hard I tried. However, some strands remain that are distinctly astonishing to me. One is the primitive nature of the probe’s computer system – equivalent to that inside a car door lock remote – that powers it to this day and for years sent back stunning images that have helped rewrite our knowledge of space.

Another is the Golden Record created by Carl Sagan to travel aboard the craft as a musical and visual primer should alien intelligence ever find it.

The Farthest will make you marvel again and again at the stars above and the beauty and ambition of science.