This morning I saw the documentary Hubble 3D.
Though I never had aspirations of becoming an astronaut, I have always wanted to know what it felt like to see earth from a distance. The closest I came until today was when astronaut Nicholas Patrick came to our school a few years back and brought a video of footage he'd taken in space. Though that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I was surrounded by classes of antsy Kindergarteners, so it was hard to focus on the depth of what I was seeing.
Watching Hubble 3D in a quiet, dark theater on an IMAX screen so large it felt like it was surrounding me was a much more immersive experience.
Despite its short length (approx. 45 minutes running time), this film does have a plot. After the tragedy of the Columbia mission, NASA canceled the next scheduled mission to repair the Hubble telescope, a massive eye into the universe that took 10,000 people to create. Without the necessary fixes, the telescope would be rendered useless and years of hard work and money would be lost.
Thankfully, the engineers at NASA devised a plan that removed some of the risk from attempting another mission (basically having an extra shuttle ready if the astronauts became stranded in space) and in April of 2009, a brave team of heroes made the trip.
What we see in this film is their trip—a joyous, nerve-wracking, heart-pumping mission where they only had one chance to get it right. Their demeanor is surprisingly light-hearted, though their work couldn't be more dangerous. These folks are celebrating a lifetime of learning that earned them this place in history.
As we watch the careful maneuvering of an uncooperative tool, we feel like holding our breath (though if we watched the news at all last year, we already know the outcome). Although that alone is remarkable enough to keep us riveted, what's most amazing are the photographs that Hubble graces us with. The glistening close-ups of stars and energies that are billions of light years away.
Leonardo DiCaprio narrates what we're seeing sincerely, though the amount of times he plugs the Utopian qualities of earth becomes borderline preachy.
I'd recommend this film to people of all ages—especially Americans. I found myself getting goosebumps each time they showed a shuttle countdown. Perhaps that's because my earliest memory of space travel is watching the Challenger explode live on television in my 5th grade classroom. I remember my otherwise-stoic teacher bursting into tears and feeling sick that a class of students in New Hampshire would never again see their own teacher (Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher sent to space, was aboard).
In high school, I visited the memorial to the Challenger astronauts at Arlington National Cemetery and became nauseous with remembrance. Earlier this month I saw the trees that had been planted in their honor at the Johnson Space Center. Astronauts sacrifices, to me, are just as profound as those who serve bravely in our military.
Films like Hubble 3D remind us of their courage.