Film: 2010: "Hubble 3D"


Journey Begins Exclusively in IMAX® Theatres Starting March 19, 2010

Film's trailer Available to View on

Through the power of IMAX® 3D, “Hubble 3D,” narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, takes moviegoers on an unprecedented voyage through distant galaxies to explore the grandeur and mystery of our celestial surroundings.

Experience never-before-seen 3D flights through the farthest reaches of the universe, and accompany spacewalking astronauts on some of the most difficult and important endeavors in NASA’s history.

In May 2009, the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched a mission to make vital repairs and upgrades to the Hubble Space Telescope, the world’s first space-based observatory, 350 miles above the Earth. On board was an IMAX 3D camera, operated by the shuttle astronauts.

It captured stunning sequences of the five intricate spacewalks required to make those repairs, as well as close-up images of the effort to grasp the orbiting telescope with the shuttle’s mechanical arm at 17,500 mph, and one unexpected problem that threatened to sabotage the entire mission.

“Hubble 3D” combines this breathtaking IMAX footage with images taken by the telescope during the nearly 20 years it has been our window into space.

Through advanced computer visualization, Hubble’s detailed data becomes a series of scientifically realistic flights that unfold on screen like a guided tour of the universe, through time and space. The seventh film from the award-winning IMAX Space Team, “Hubble 3D” offers an inspiring and unique look into the legacy of the Hubble Space Telescope and how it has changed our view of the universe and ourselves. The documentary adventure “Hubble 3D” is an IMAX and Warner Bros. Pictures production, in cooperation with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Narrated by three-time Academy Award® nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, “Hubble 3D” reunites the “Space Station 3D” filmmaking team led by producer and director Toni Myers. Director of photography James Neihouse also served as the astronaut crew trainer. Graeme Ferguson, IMAX co-founder and pioneer producer of many IMAX space films, is the executive producer, and Judy Carroll, the film’s associate producer. The music is composed by Micky Erbe and Maribeth Solomon. Exclusive IMAX engagements of “Hubble 3D” will begin March 19th. It is rated G by the MPAA

The Next Best Thing to Being There Like their colleagues before them, the Shuttle Atlantis astronauts who flew into space in May 2009 to service the Hubble Space Telescope returned with a desire to share what they had seen, to convey that indescribable sense of wonder from a perspective few people will ever experience. “Hubble 3D” makes that possible on a grand scale. Producer/director Toni Myers, who previously guided IMAX audiences into orbit with the acclaimed “Space Station 3D,” says, “Astronauts we’ve worked with have described our footage as ‘the next best thing to being there.’”

With IMAX 3D technology, the invaluable cooperation of NASA and the dedication of a filmmaking team on the ground, “Hubble 3D” offers a vivid, first-person view of the STS-125 Mission: a complex rescue operation during which the astronauts risked their lives to make sure that Hubble would continue to function. The film then takes that journey even further—to places where no human has ventured and possibly never will.

“This is star travel,” Myers attests. “You’re right out there, moving in space. The Hubble Telescope has amassed a monumental amount of data from the distant reaches of the 3 cosmos, the birth of solar systems and ultra deep field galaxies beyond our own. That data has been turned into three-dimensional flights to transport audiences to the edge of the observable universe in a way most people have never even imagined.” “‘Hubble 3D’ gives you a real perspective on how our small and fragile planet exists in a volatile and constantly evolving universe,” says Leonardo DiCaprio, who narrates the film. “It reveals the beauty and complexity of space and its vast possibilities.”

“Leonardo shared the same sense of awe we all felt about what we were seeing,” says Myers. “It was an exceptional experience for everyone involved.” Her connection to the telescope dates back to its beginnings. “We had filmed Hubble before, prior to its launch, and covered some of the first repair mission in 1993, but it had only sent back a few images at that point so we’ve never had the opportunity until now to display its full potential.

When you visit the Hubble website and see those incredible pictures you start to think about how they would look on the big screen and how people would react, and that’s how the project came into being. This is what IMAX was made for, to take people where they could never actually go, and it’s what I find so satisfying about making these films.” Amid the aerial action and dazzling space-scapes, “Hubble 3D” also touches upon the life story of the Hubble Space Telescope, from its inception to this latest dramatic chapter, the fifth and final Shuttle visit intended to ensure its viability for years to come.

Many people remember how Hubble’s auspicious 1990 launch was almost immediately marred by the revelation of a flaw in its primary mirror—a deviation no bigger than 1/50th the thickness of a piece of paper—compromising its focus and requiring a 1993 repair mission to install a complex system of additional mirrors to circumvent the problem.

Through the ensuing 16 years there have been four service missions, each of which enabled the telescope to cast its giant eye ever-farther and return more comprehensive data about our own galaxy, as well as the formation and composition of solar systems and galaxies well beyond the Milky Way and the existence of objects that burned brightly and expired more than 10 billion light years ago. Considered by many to be the greatest scientific instrument since Galileo’s first telescope, Hubble has provided essential information about how the cosmos was formed and is constantly churning. Quite literally, notes Myers, “It has changed the way we see the universe.

“One of the most interesting things about it,” she continues, “is that in helping us unravel the secrets of the universe, Hubble has raised more questions than its designers ever anticipated. Where did we come from? How did we get here? Is there anybody else out there? In all those billions of galaxies is there another world like ours? “It’s this spirit of exploration and discovery that is Hubble’s true legacy.” Mission STS-125: the World’s Most Dangerous High-Wire Act STS-125, the mission documented in “Hubble 3D,” nearly didn’t happen.

Originally scheduled for 2006, it was cancelled due to safety concerns following the tragic crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia in February 2003. Despite support from the public and the scientific community, as well as within NASA, it simply didn’t seem worth the risk—that is, until a contingency plan was proposed. NASA would prepare a second standby shuttle as a rescue vehicle, to connect with Atlantis in space and collect its crew should there be a problem.

With this precaution in place, in May 2009 the Space Shuttle Atlantis flew up to meet Hubble. Its seven-member crew was led by Commander Scott D. Altman, marking his fourth venture into space. Alongside him was pilot Gregory C. Johnson, on his inaugural flight. Mission Specialist K. Megan McArthur, also on her inaugural flight, operated the shuttle’s mechanical arm to grapple and secure the telescope inside the shuttle’s payload bay where it could be reached by the repair teams. Two pairs of astronauts took turns on five separate EVAs (extra-vehicular activities), suspended in space outside the shuttle to work on the telescope. Mission Specialist John M. Grunsfeld, a veteran of five space flights, was paired with Mission Specialist Andrew J. Feustel, marking his first; and first-time spacewalker Mission Specialist Michael T. Good partnered with Mission Specialist Michael J. Massimino, who had flown twice before. Throughout training and up to the moments before lift-off, Commander Altman reviewed the possibilities.

He recalls, “I’d go through the mission in my mind. ‘What could go wrong? Are we ready to handle it?’ Hubble has a tendency to throw you a curve. We had to imagine all the things that could happen, pre-flight, and come up with solutions.” “It’s risky, but worth it,” adds Johnson. “There were a tremendous number of people all around the world wanting Hubble back ‘alive’ and it was our job to do that. It was a big 5 mission. Every second was planned for success.”

The accomplishments of STS-125 would determine Hubble’s immediate future: as either an increasingly valuable scientific tool or a mute and useless piece of orbiting detritus. The mission objectives included upgrades to the telescope’s Wide Field Camera and its Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, plus repairs to the Advanced Survey Camera and Imaging Spectrograph, making Hubble’s vision deeper, clearer and more sensitive to color and light. They also made general repairs, replacing batteries and insulation, installing six new gyroscopes and fixing an instrument that controls the flow of data, recently damaged due to an electrical problem. Grunsfeld describes some of what audiences will see of the EVA work.

“Generally one person rides on the end of the robotic arm which allows him to hold heavy objects, and the other person is the free floater, a little bit more mobile to do some of the other tasks, quickly, while the telescope rotates inside the shuttle’s payload bay.”

Every stage of the spacewalking protocol was choreographed and practiced down to the last motion. In a situation where bumping into something could fatally damage an astronaut’s protective suit and fumbling a tool could mean watching it drift away into eternity, any wrong move could result in a devastating loss. The crew rehearsed extensively in the two years prior to launch, mostly underwater in the world’s largest indoor pool at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Even so, Altman’s prediction about Hubble throwing them a curve came true. First, Grunsfeld and Feustel encountered a stuck bolt while trying to install the Wide Field camera on day five. It took some time and tense moments, but they finally managed to free it. The crew breathed a collective sigh of relief, but there was worse to come. On day seven, Massimino and Good were charged with replacing an obsolete piece of equipment with a highly advanced instrument designed to analyze, among other things, the atmosphere of distant planets. The hard part should have been the intricate work inside, but what proved problematic was a stripped bolt on the handle of the plate protecting it.

Massimino recounts, “We practiced so much for that task, over and over, obsessing over every detail. The easiest bolts to remove were the four on top. And in training, zip, zip, zip, they came right out. But there we were and this one was not coming out. It was a 6 nightmare; the world was going by, the unthinkable happened and I couldn’t go to the hardware store.”

Though making light of it afterwards, Massimino’s concern about the glitch and its potential repercussions is undeniable. “It’s funny what goes through your mind,” he admits. “I was thinking, ‘This is terrible. They’re going to write textbooks about this and, instead of Hubble’s discoveries, it’s going to say: if it wasn’t for Mike Massimino we’d know if there was life on other planets.’” After hours of anxious work, much discussion among the crew and input from Mission Control, the best solution was the simplest, albeit the most counter-intuitive: break it off.

Says Feustel, “Breaking the handle off wasn’t part of the plan; it’s just not normal. In fact, I gave Massimino specific instructions not to break anything,” he jokes. The handle situation finally solved, the astronauts then wrapped up their repairs and celebrated the triumphant re-launch of the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. “There were many exhilarating moments caught on film, and certainly one of the best was when they released Hubble back into space,” Myers cites.

“This is an amazing crew. They succeeded on such a difficult mission, attempting things that had never been done in space before, beyond even what the planners thought they could achieve. To see them nail it, day after day, and to share a little in that sense of achievement, was very special.” Expressing the sentiments of her colleagues, McArthur says, “It’s a tremendous feeling. It means so much to all of us, to be able to make a small contribution to the body of information we have about our universe.”

Next: Leonardo DiCaprio

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