The idea that humanity might eventually have to leave Earth and set out for the stars is a persistent one in both pop culture and our collective imagination. Recently, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar lit up the multiplexes with a big-budget version of this very story.
That's what makes Erik Wernquist's Wanderers, first brought to my attention by Slate's Phil Plait, such a lovely short film. It imagines humanity's ultimate destiny among the stars as a series of beautiful tableaux, all created via visual effects. And Wernquist's effects work is ingenious, creating almost photo-realistic images of places out there beyond the reach of Earth's gravity, worlds that seem almost too impossible to imagine.
But they're not, because every single world in Wanderers exists within our own solar system. You really could, theoretically, some day see a sunset on Mars or wander the surface of Jupiter's icy moon, Europa, as the gas giant looms silently on the horizon. The technology is possible. We just have to figure out how to build it. As such, Wernquist has given us the next best thing — a richly imagined trip to places we might have heard of but have trouble visualizing.
The icing on the cake here? The words of Carl Sagan, who so poetically pointed humanity toward the stars, as the next chapter of our long history of pioneering exploration. Earth is great, sure, but wouldn't you really rather live in a city on an asteroid, its lights illuminating the endless black? Watch Wanderers and imagine the endless possibilities of that world.