Written and Directed by Toni Myers
Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio
“It’s like performing brain surgery with oven mitts.”
That’s the description used to describe the task ahead of them. Hubble telescope, launched into space in 1990, was in need of one last repair. The fantastic telescope has performed well since finally being repaired in 1993. Necessary repairs and essential improvements lead to a mission in 2003 that ended in disaster. Now, in 2009, the final mission to repair the Hubble (as the space shuttle era wound to a close) is underway and we are allowed, through IMAX, a chance to be right there with them.
The NASA program is facing some extraordinary challenges. Obama has killed the Space Shuttle program with no clear replacement planned. The funds for the original program, Project Constellation, truly designed to help all mankind, has been pushed aside, rendering all previous study and research useless. NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Chairperson and retired US Navy Vice Admiral Joseph W. Dyer concluded that the proposed cancellation, without alternative “demonstrated capability or proven superiority is unwise and probably not cost-effective.”
Making do with what they have, NASA launched the final Hubble mission on May 11, 2009. This mission was captured in exquisite detail by Toni Myers. It is made clear early on that the work of the astronauts has as much to do with mechanical as much as technical ability. Spending 2 years practicing deep underwater with an exact replica, the crew has not only the burden of all mankind’s quest for knowledge on their shoulders, but the slightest problem dealing with these extremely sharp instruments and circuit boards could cost them their lives.
Interspersed within fantastic images of the shuttle, the telescope and our own planet are digitally enhanced images of Hubble’s pictures, allowing us to journey to other galaxies while staying put, where politics has rendered us for now.
There is something lost in the translation from the giant IMAX screen. One is apt to be less aware of the massive expanse of
space and more aware of the 40 minute time frame that most IMAX films are allotted. Most IMAX films spend too little time taking good advantage of the cameras and too much time in the confines of small living spaces. That said, when they show the varied types and amount of work done so intricately and with such limited amount of tools and flexibility, the vastness of space becomes infinitesimally small.
And then the Earth. Said Journalist Norman Cousins once:
“On our first flight to the moon we really discovered the Earth.”
The scenery that spins incessantly past the orbiting shuttle. The sun sets and rises every 90 minutes from their vantage. The world seems so accessible. So many journeys, on foot, by horse, buggy, wagon, boat, train, car and plane. None of these can make the earth so accessible as does the shuttle’s orbit. For this reason alone, Hubble is worth a look.
Reaching out we see some of the true benefits of the recent changes. Interstellar clouds are clarified to expose not only the brightest stars, but those whose light has dimmed beyond the range of our eyesight. Until the James Webb Space Telescope is launched in 2014, this is our connection to the rest of the universe. And, oh, what a connection.
(**** out of *****)