SXSW Film Festival
Title: It's Quieter in the Twilight (2022) Director: Billy Miossi Studio: Weigel Productions IMDb Plot: In an unremarkable office space, a select group of aging engineers find themselves at the leading edge of discovery. Fighting outdated technology and time, Voyager's flight-team pursues humankind's greatest exploration. Joe Says: An unabashed celebration of the Voyager project team; of their vitality and diversity; of the continuation of work even when approaching the twilight of their programming. Phenomenal.
In 1977 NASA launched the Voyager deep space probes to study the outer planets and beyond. Their mission was a groundbreaking success capturing never-before seen images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune eventually heading into interstellar space by the Nineties. And they kept going. By 2018, the probes entered the outer regions of the solar system traveling into, what some have called, the Final Frontier and are now more than 12 billion miles from Earth. They are functioning. They are transmitting. They continue to work even as they approach the twilight of their programming.
What also continues is the JPL Voyager team. Like the probes themselves, this team is older, but their passion continues at an all-time high. A commitment that has been captured in Billy Miossi’s documentary It’s Quieter in the Twilight, the true story about the hero scientists who quietly keep the machine running deep into both their inescapable twilights.
It’s Quieter in the Twilight is the Voyager team’s story more so that the Voyager probes, although Voyager 1 and 2 both get their share of the spotlight. Miossi captures their mundane office space; an HQ with drop ceiling tiles and wood paneled conference rooms and a cubicle filled with discarded monitors and out-of-toner printers that exist in every office worldwide. Simultaneously, he unabashedly honors the workers within, most of whom are in their seventies. Along with respecting their vitality one must celebrate their diversity. The command team consists of a Korean woman, a Black man from Mississippi, and two South American Latinos. Truly, this is the best of the best the world has to offer and they deserve every accolade.
Miossi’s documentary presents the typical “Day in the Life ” motif with everyday foibles and relatable happenstances, such fumbling with a devilish Polycom. The ticking clock comes by way of an upgrade to a major antenna located near Canberra, Australia, one which is solely responsible for communications with Voyager 2. The narrative that follows presents an exercise in Project Management 101 as the team must coordinate with the upgrade team alongside programming a series of commands ensuring that Voyager 2 can survive the communications downtime of close to a year – all during the COVID pandemic.
Perhaps not quite a nailbiter as Hans Gruber’s attempted takeover of the Nakatomi Plaza, It’s Quieter in the Twilight is instead a relatable, real-life situation involving jobs, livelihoods, and dedication to a space program that has been running for over 44 years.
It’s Quieter in the Twilight is more than a celebration of nerd advancement. This is a commemoration of human achievement. Of perseverance in a task where a lucky few have found a reason to get up every day – even during the complex era of the pandemic. A team that gets to see what is happening out there, right now, in that Final Frontier. Their story is a remarkable one. And, to borrow another phrase, their adventure continues.