Hubble 3-D Blasts Into Orbit At World Premiere

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Hubble 3-D, a Warner Bros/IMAX film, hosted its world premiere this week followed by an exclusive reception at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The debut of Hubble 3-D , held at the Lockheed Martin IMAX theater, was the first full length showing of the IMAX film directed by Toni Meyers and narrated by three time Oscar nominee Leonardo DeCaprio.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, located on Independence Avenue, was transformed into a Hollywood premiere complete with red carpet arrivals and shutterbug paparazzi. Glowing air, sea and space tones of soft reds, blues, purple and white created an aurora reflection off the towering walls.

 

Hubble 3-D, produced by IMAX, Warner Bros. Pictures and in cooperation with NASA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, offers viewers an all enveloping full immersion experience.  IMAX 3-D allows one to witness the beauty and grandeur of a low atmospheric orbit of the earth from 350 miles into space and feel the thunder as the engines prepare for lift off. 

 

Hubble 3-D followed three Shuttle flights including the initial deployment, first repair and final repair. The film shadowed the crewmembers as they prepared for their historic mission, through grueling hours of fine-tuning, deep water training, the closest they could get to on ground weightlessness, as if the mission of the space program rested on their capable shoulders. And in some respects it did.

 

Hubble 3-D offers an up close and personal tour of our space program. The film captured photos of distant galaxies, filmed pre-flight preparedness, in-flight weightlessness, the tenacity needed for the complexity of the projects, the failure of the Hubble’s early days and as Hubble approaches twenty-one, the success of its repairs.

 

The images taken by Hubble, post repair, through infrared depict red-beige cumulous cloud beds, deep womb like caverns, vacuums, which are considered the birthplace of stars. These images, without assistance of Hubble, would never be seen by man. If these pictures are accurate then the birthplace of the star, the countless trillions of stars that make up the galaxies, are these caverns of deep red-beige planetary clouds.

 

Hubble’s images show the origin of the star as having a sheath like appearance, similar to a Jellyfish, with a single glowing eye, housed in a nursery of stars, that are released to live, from their celestial birthing home, for a limitless or limited time, either burning out or sustaining their light and life through infinity.  

 

Hubble 3-D is a sure way of calculating that interest in NASA’s space program will grow. Scientifically the Hubble mission was a success and still begs the question, “What’s next?” Repairing the telescope to photograph more accurate images, more clearly defined images of galaxies outside the reach of even the most powerful telescopic eye, unlocking the mysteries of the universe are a Pandora’s Box that now opened excite with the curiosity of discovery. The next, new frontier, seems to be Mars.

 

The exclusive Hubble 3-D premiere reception held on the ground floor of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was an opportunity to meet and mingle with press from around the world as well as NASA, IMAX and Warner Bros executives and to enjoy, of course, the tantalizing cuisine, enticing desserts and free flowing beverages that were served in abundance throughout the entire evening.

 

The Shuttle crew, Commander Scott D. Altman, who also acted as stunt double for Tom Cruise in the testosterone charged Top Gun, Mission Specialist Dr. John M. Grunsfeld, Mission Specialist Dr. Michael J. Massimino, Mission Specialist Dr. K. Megan McArthur, Mission Specialist Dr. Andrew J. Flustel, Mission Specialist Michael T. Good and Pilot Gregory C. Johnson along with Hubble 3-D Director, Toni Meyers, were on hand throughout the evening to pose for pictures and speak with guests.

 

Buffet tables dotted the large foyer with over flowing appetizers and entrees of Pork Tenderloin, Shrimp Scampi with Asparagus, Baby Lamb Chops with crusted sesame, Penne Pasta with mushrooms, Cesar Salad, Yellow and Blue Corn tortilla strips, Spinach Dip, diamond shaped Potato au gratin, roasted red and yellow peppers, carrots and cucumbers and much more.

 

Dessert stations integrated theme oriented treats including star shaped roasted marshmallows skewered with chocolate centers, round green and yellow Asteroid double layer cookies served on a bed of sugar “moon dust”, coconut Blondie bars, chocolate raspberry coated squares and a variety of other delicious indulging treats.

 

Tuxedo bartenders manned the multiple bar stations located throughout the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum entrance lobby.

 

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

 

For the curious at heart or those drawn by a sense of wonder, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum remained open, in the midnight hour when the hallowed halls were empty, for guests who wandered away from the party and gave opportunity to experience the feel of a private tour.

 

Having the revered rooms filled with the forefathers of aviation surrounded by, what one can only imagine would stun aviations pioneers, contemporary airplanes provided occasion to enjoy a trip through Air and Space milestones.

 

From Orville and Wilbur Wrights historic flight at Kitty Hawk to the phases, renovations and modernizing of the airplane creating sleeker, sharper, aerodynamic machines to the birth of the space program the Museum has it all. Historic headlines and footage of former presidents encouraging space exploration knowing that the space program was then, and still is, imperative and necessary to the strength of the nation.

 

The Apollo Missions Spacecrafts are featured as are multiple unmanned space rockets depicting the early years of space exploration. A life size replica of Neil Armstrong’s, spectacular Moon Landing,  including his famous first words, “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind,” has been recreated through artistic mastery.

 

The Shuttle Spacecraft with its space station, docking potential and options to move about, is featured enclosed in its own showing space.

 

The Museum included the Halls of Aviation that housed every known example of the airplane from the original to the 747 and all achievements in between including the Nazi Zepplin, the hydrogen filled airship, to the beginnings of Hollywood’s love affair with flight, a much needed element in the advancement and acceptance of the message.

 

The Museum landmarks the history of aviation and it’s movement into space travel as simply an extension of the original idea, modified and enlarged, believing that if air travel was possible than the next air challenge is, of course, space: The final frontier.

 

Hubble 3-D Press Conference

 

The two day event included an early morning press conference, held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Ballroom, which also housed members of the press, with the Shuttle Crew members in attendance along with Hubble 3-D Director, Toni Meyers

 

Many fine points of the filming process were revealed during the conference. The most challenging included the fact that the ground directorial team had no visual communications with the Shuttle crew. The only communication link to the ground crew from the Shuttle astronauts were email and sound links which were a concern and a clear point of anticipatory frustration for Meyers who described the extent of her reach in the space filming, “We could tell the cameras were running and for how long. And at the end of each day, and sometimes if it weren’t so busy we would hear an excited downlink ‘we just got such and such.’ We didn’t like it when we would hear, ‘we just passed over the camera and there was this huge condensation patch in front of the lens.’ It was unbelievable hearing that. That’s how we do [did] it. It isn’t always as prescribed. You try to assign the eight minutes[of filming] in a way that there is a back up shot if you don’t get it this day, like the doors opening, we were down to our last door opening and we finally got it.”

 

Hubble 3-D, from concept to completion, was about four years in the making with the initial idea occurring as Ms. Meyers stated, “John and I talked about it from 2006. We had one of those historic ‘write the lyrics on the napkin’ meetings in a coffee shop in Houston to discuss the Perils of Pauline of Hubble and that’s when it got started. Then, of course, to do that once you have the concept you have to come and tell NASA and so at that stage with the mission schedule it was about four years.”

 

The IMAX element clearly gave this film the additional reach as Ms. Meyers stated, “the beauty of IMAX is that it gives the personal involvement. It allows the audience to participate in lift-off, in the space walk.” She continued, “It’s been a wonderful experience working with Warner Bros. Pictures, the sponsor of the film. They have been great partners. They like going to places they can’t get to either.”

 

Commander Scott Altman echoed, “When John and Toni talked to me about having IMAX on board my perception of our involvement in that was a little off. I thought we’d have a call out in the flight plan,  would turn the switch on for 30 seconds and turn it off and that would be it.  It would be pretty easy.  As we got trained by Toni and James and learned a little bit more, I understood, we were playing a more active role in the film making. Greg really did a great job making the selection. Talk about the joy of having a shot all set up just to have us orbit around the earth into darkness before throwing the switch and realizing we have to start over on the next thing and figure something else out to replace it.”

 

Mission Specialist Dr. Andrew “Ray J” Feustel, who acted as on-board Second Location Director, depicted life as found in the galaxies and life experienced by the astronauts in a typical shuttle mission added, “I wish I had a phone line to Toni. Because when those scenes didn’t go as planned or the eta went long and we went into darkness what are we going to do next, of course we had email and new flight plan the next morning. It would have be easier to talk to Toni but we didn’t have that luxury.”

 

As excited as the Shuttle Astronauts were about their IMAX mission their directive was scientific and they were singularly focused. The eight minutes, or one mile, of film allotted due to space limitations in the Shuttle’s cargo bay which was packed full, left no room for any additional tape or error and if they missed the shot, they missed it.

 

As Mission Specialist Dr. Michael J. Massimino indicated, “We tried to meet the demands of IMAX and our number one scientific objective is[was] changing that camera out.” He continued, “It was a very big deal. We’re out there everything’s gone okay. There had been challenges up to that point, little things, with the inspection and the rendezvous but we were getting through it. Now, we’re outside on the first spacewalk and our number one scientific objective is changing that camera out and the bolt stuck.”

 

Hubble 3-D depicts this as a very intense moment and Massimino presents it with the same heightened concern. Would they be able to accomplish their singular mission?  He continued, “I can’t get it off with the Tork Limit. It was a very tense set of time on the flight deck and I’m sure John and Drew outside felt it. You have a Tork Limiter to make sure you don’t break the shaft. You set it kind of low, you think it will work, and then you dial the Tork Limiter up to its maximum, still doesn’t budge. You try a couple of different fittings; make sure your making a good connection. But we know this long shaft that goes through the instrument has a point where it will break. It’s designed to break before you start getting this thing halfway out and the distance, the Tork between what we went through with the Tork Limiter and breaking the Tork is very small. And now we had to, basically, put a big breaker bar on there to undo the bolt that if we pushed it to hard and it breaks, it’s all over.” They did, of course, accomplish their objective.

 

The question of “Lift-off” and “T-minus 10” and the “feel” of the experience was answered by Commander Altman who gave his account of how he mentally prepared himself, explaining they had been in the cockpit for three hours and by then feeling comfortable in a familiar environment.  He was clearly energized as the memories flooded and explained in excited intonation and language how he placed himself back into the “Sim” in a comfort zone waiting for the vibration, the thrust of lift off, then propulsion.

 

Having been in a Space Shuttle Simulator, the experience for the common, non-astronaut, journalist is a little different. It is extremely claustrophobic with intense rocking motion coupled with monumental vibration, unlike even the most intense earthquake ever experienced.

 

Don’t be fooled. It truly takes someone with “The Right Stuff” someone with passion, dedication, desire, uncommon valor: These are extraordinary men and women. 

 

As the space program is poised on new frontiers and simultaneously forced to review and redefine their goals due to budget cuts and other factors including interest, both generalized and localized interest, what is next becomes the begging question and how. With funding for the space program in question one wonders what will become of these questions that are tandem to discovery. A clear objective seems to be the solution to avoid confusion of the next directive.

 

Conquering new frontiers is ingrained in the spirit of mankind, from my decedents who braved a sure death by crossing the Atlantic to find a new home, free from religious persecution, to those who moved West, braving sure death, to those who looked at the wind and the sky and designed bird wings, to the generations before us who as children looked upwards, watching Neil Armstrong knowing, someday, they would orbit and walk on unknown surfaces and then, saw their brave colleagues fall for their dreams, we watched as death shook us, on Challenger and Columbia, and still decided yes, we as a people are this.

 

Now, here we are today, watching, knowing, the next frontier, just like those in our past will be conquered and we will move forward. The space program will advance to the red planet; we will plant the American Flag on Mars just as we did on the Moon and then, the next generation will see, we will pass the torch to a younger generation to the digital age, to the few who have the explorer spirit still ingrained in them.

 

For more information on NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/

For more information on the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: www.nasm.si.edu

For more information on Hubble 3-D: www.imax.com/hubble/

 

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