operations prototype movie

animating the future of spacecraft operations




The Mars 2020 Five Hour Tactical Operations movie was the first artifact to envision how JPL may someday control the next generation of Martian rover spacecraft. Filmed with real rover planners, geologists, and engineers, the story demonstrates how the various discussions, technologies, data products, and decisions may someday fold together efficiently within a five hour tactical planning shift. This movie reveals a possible future; a future built off the notional systems engineering available during the summer of filming. This movie helped the Mars 2020 mission better critique and assess their designs for the mission. This movie also served as a consistent communication tool for large scale peer reviews. 




  • Assembled team to generate a holistic story and script: I collaborated with scientists, rover planners, and engineers on the Mars 2020 mission to assemble a realistic operations scenario and eventual script for the
    actors to reference.
  • Generated full length movie storyboards: I created an extensive set of storyboards illustrating the different scenes, technologies, and metadata the audience would need to follow with the story.
  • Directed actors and crew during filming: As director, I ensured people knew their lines, confirmed all scenes were successfully captured, and selected final shots and animations for the final movie. 
  • Designed notional user interfaces throughout entire movie: None of the software products at the time were real. I designed and animated the first draft of notional software products we would need to operate the spacecraft. 
  • Animated notional user interfaces: I used After Effects, Premiere, and Camtasia to animate the user interfaces of the notional software tools. 
  • Edited the full length, ~13 min movie: After filming wrapped, I compiled all the footage and edited the final, ~13 min, full length movie of the future Mars 2020 operations process. 



People wanted to understand how different operations would be for this new, future rover. But not in 2021 when we land -- four years before launch. 



Aside from a few flow charts and diagrams, the mission had yet to generate a shared vision of the operations experience. The movie script was the first artifact the team and I developed, and it helped us coalesce our vision early in the creation of the movie.


Overview of the script:



I created storyboards to outline the flow of the story from the final script. 
The storyboards were an excellent communication tool for the actors to visualize their role, and for stakeholders to observe what we would be producing at the end. The visualization of the movie also helped with direction, camera positioning, and prioritization of scenes for the filming days.

As I drew out the storyboards of the operations movie, I referenced the script and checked off the completed scenes. 

As I drew out the storyboards of the operations movie, I referenced the script and checked off the completed scenes. 





I assembled a select group of ‘operators’ to play the mission of 2021. I directed the cinematography, distributed scripts, and ensured that the scenes drawn in the storyboard were captured.

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tools to facilitate direction:




To illustrate the basic concepts of the new user interfaces of the operational tools, sketches of the future tools were rapidly designed and animated to help tell the story of a more expedited tactical shift. 

NOTE: The user interfaces below are not the final designs, names, nor experiences.




The operations movie has been used throughout several major gateway reviews
as a consistent vision for how JPL operators may someday command the
Mars 2020 rover. 

NOTE: Export-restricted data / information about the Mars 2020 spacecraft were mentioned and visualized in the full length, ~13 minute movie.
Thus, only small segments of the movie can be showcased to the public. 

Mars 2020 Operations Prototype Movie


thank you to the cast! <3


Guy Pyrzak -->