Identifying With Space Probes: The Cosmic Solitude of ‘Cassini’

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching Cassini, an animated short film by Nate Milton about a space probe finding life in Saturn’s rings

Human beings are very good at projecting onto objects. It’s why we see faces in houses and why I once bent down to pet a cat only to realize it was a can of gas.

It’s also why Cassini, a short animated film about an unnamed space probe hurtling towards one of Saturn’s moons, hits like a ton of bricks. Its director, Nate Milton, is keenly aware of this uncanny experience: of finding oneself oddly yet deeply touched by something inanimate and hyperbolically distant.

The short is based on a very real space probe which like its animated counterpart ran out of time after twenty years in space, triggering its programming to self-destruct by dive-bombing into Saturn’s rings. Milton found himself surprisingly affected when he read the news in 2017. And when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, his thoughts returned to that lonely, isolated piece of machinery.

Even without knowing the details of Milton’s inspiration, it is easy to infer and understand the emotional thrust of Cassini. I think we are all especially attuned to rhythms of solitude these days. That Milton teases optimism and determination out of the probe’s story is a generous and ultimately magical choice. It’s hard not to identify with this lonely yet tenacious probe. And it is moving, to put it mildly, to see it find purpose and unlikely company despite the odds.

Watch “‘Cassini’ A NASA probe discovers life on Saturn’s moon“:

Who made this?

Nate Milton, who is an animation director and designer residing in Brooklyn, directed and designed Cassini. You can check out Milton’s portfolio on his website here. The film’s composer, Buck St. Thomas, also provided the voice talent. Kyle Joseph mastered the short’s score.

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