Attaining Escape Velocity in LA: IMAX to Endeavor

Posted: May 24, 2016 in film, science
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My family and I visited the California Science Center this weekend to see the IMAX movie “A Beautiful Planet” (3-D) and space shuttle Endeavor.

For someone who’s spent a lot of time watching You Tube videos of the International Space Station (ISS) and looking at remote imagery of Earth, A Beautiful Planet (ABP) didn’t provide me with a lot of new material. However, for kids or those unfamiliar with the ISS and its amazing views, it’s well worth the admission price. One thing I didn’t get from the You Tube videos was the sense of mission crews A Beautiful Planetcoming and going. ABP conveys the emotion of these periodic welcome aboard and subsequent farewell events on the ISS. You can really feel the camaraderie among all the astronauts from various countries as they joyfully greet each arriving crew. ABP captures many day-to-day experiences aboard the ISS such as a Christmas celebration, how to drink expresso, shampooing hair, sleeping, unpacking, and other mundane, yet delightfully zero-gravity, activities (including a fun scene involving a bag of citrus fruit intent on escaping). As its title would suggest, ABP also spends quite a bit of time focused on the Earth below. While the imagery of continents, oceans, and weather were beautiful and interesting (especially the part about storms), I wish the resolution had been better (to be fair, I believe the astronauts were limited in terms of the camera equipment they could use). The film excelled at displaying various locations as viewed from roughly 258 miles (416 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface, including day and night imagery. The final message ABP delivers is an environmental one. According to one astronaut speaking in the film, the concept of “spaceship Earth” becomes a literal truth for those lucky enough to see Earth from space. I only wish more of us could share that experience!

After the movie, we moved on to the space shuttle Endeavor exhibit. Endeavor didn’t disappoint, even on a second viewing, although my kids might not agree (my son had

more fun in the “Space Rollercoaster” multisensory, motion-based simulator). Space shuttle photos and videos just can’t convey the sense of power and grace you feel standing underneath Endeavor. The Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs), in particular, are a marvel of engineering IMO. But even examining the shuttle’s scarred heat tiles is interesting. The

Center is gathering funds for construction of a permanent exhibit where Endeavor will be in full, vertical launch position (a “full shuttle stack”) with the twin solid-rocket boosters and the external tank (currently parked just outside the exhibit building). I look forward to

20160522_124605

Planned final exhibit

seeing this amazing spacecraft in its new display configuration someday. Even as-is, though, if you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit.

Do you have a favorite space exhibit? What’s your favorite part of the ISS? How much would you pay for a trip to orbit? Let me know in the comments!

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