Tandon Alumni Win Grand Prize in NASA Film Competition

a still from animated video depicting astronaut

A screenshot of the award-winning short film, Rendezvous with Mars.

It’s been only 49 years since the first human walked on the Moon, and with NASA’s sights now set on Mars, it may be only a matter of time before humans also walk the Martian surface.

As NASA prepares for its mission to the Red Planet, it tasked artists and filmmakers with envisioning the future of deep space exploration.

The agency, in collaboration with partners like the nonprofit SciArt Exchange and Cinemark, called for video and poster submissions from university students and early-career professionals for the ProjectMars International Art and Film Competition. After receiving more than 570 entries, NASA and its panel of judges announced that the Grand Prize in Film had gone to NYU Tandon School of Engineering alumni Subigya Basnet and Mayukh Goswami, along with their collaborator, Divya More.

Using jaw-dropping animation, their film, Rendezvous with Mars, tells the story of an astronaut on her mission to Mars, as she recalls her childhood dreams of traveling to space.

“We wanted to tell viewers that going to Mars — or being a space-faring civilization — is a foundational dream within our zeitgeist. All of us, as children, are fascinated by space and the mysteries of the universe, but through the process of growing up we move away from that dream,” explained Goswami, who graduated from Tandon’s Integrated Digital Media (IDM) program in May 2018. “In this video, we are asking the viewers to seize it.”

“We wanted to convey the idea that the dream of interplanetary travel should not be limited to an exclusive group of people,” Basnet, also a 2018 IDM graduate, added. “It is a human endeavor, and people from even the humblest beginning can aspire to go beyond.”

After learning about the ProjectMars competition earlier this year, Basnet, Goswami, and More spent three months iterating and developing their film, transforming it from a simple idea and 2D animation into a uniquely relatable story of determination and childhood aspiration. Most of the film was created via brainstorming sessions over Skype, Goswami explained, as he and Basnet balanced their day jobs, and More worked in Mumbai.

Frequent collaborators throughout their time at Tandon, Basnet and Goswami were natural partners for NASA’s competition. Having delved into virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), film, and other forms of digital storytelling in their IDM classes and creative projects, Basnet noted that their collaboration “was born out of our mutual love for telling compelling stories regardless of the medium we work on. Video happens to be a medium where both Mayukh and I can bring out our best and bring it together to tell a story.”

Rendezvous with Mars quickly emerged at the top of the hundreds of entries from around the globe, impressing the panel of judges, which included a former astronaut, NASA’s creative team, and Rogue One film director Gareth Edwards.

“We wanted to make something that the judges can see has the potential to plant the seed of this great dream of [space travel] in the audience. If nothing else, we hope our film conveys our effort in solidarity with NASA’s mission of putting us on Mars,” Goswami said. “This mission is something that should not only be interesting to those who live in America, but for everyone on Earth.”

As they plan to share their film with a global audience, Goswami and Basnet also hope to continue collaborating on future projects. “Winning the grand prize for me is a vindication of our ideas and our hard work as a team. Hopefully, this will be just one in a long line of collaborations between the three of us,” Goswami added.

View Rendezvous with Mars, as well as other winning films and posters on the ProjectMars website.