Vividly captured in IMAX 3D, Hubble 3D recounts the amazing journey of the most important scientific instrument since Galileo's original telescope and the greatest success in space since the Moon Landing – the Hubble Space Telescope.

Audiences will accompany the space walking astronauts as they attempt some of the most difficult tasks ever undertaken in NASA's history, and will experience up close the power of the launches, the heartbreaking setbacks, and the dramatic rescues of this most powerful story.

Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio.

3.5
Awesome spectacle in outer space; pity about Leo’s narration.

Unless you’re an astronaut or rich enough to buy tickets to one of those long-promised but never delivered commercial flights to the moon, Hubble 3D is as close as you’ll get to experiencing a galactic adventure.

It’s quite a trip – if you can focus on the spectacular images and try to shut out Leonardo DiCaprio’s overwrought, cliché-riddled narration, much of which sounds like a boring astronomy lesson. Leo crams so many facts and figures into the voice-over you’re liable to suffer information overload and, like Barnaby Joyce, start to confuse billions of this or that with millions.

A little back story is needed to understand the context of the May 2009 mission by the space shuttle Atlantis to repair the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting 560 km above Earth, breathlessly described by Leo as the final opportunity to save the 'scope.

But we get an inordinate amount of detail on the construction of the contraption ('it took 10 years and 10,000 people"), its launch in 1990, and earlier excursions to repair it. Toni Myers’ doco glosses over the cancellation of one mission in the wake of the 2003 Challenger shuttle crash, perhaps because NASA co-operated with this production and wanted to under-play that tragedy and blow to its reputation. NASA subsequently minimised the risks by building a second standby shuttle as a rescue vehicle.

It is interesting to watch the Atlantis crew of six men and one woman prepare for the trip by working on a life-sized model of Hubble in a deep-water tank at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab. The blast-off is filmed up close, with rockets roaring amid plumes of smoke and fire, and more conventionally from a distance.

Once aloft, the astronauts cheerfully go through their routine until the Atlantis docks next to Hubble. Leo’s commentary tries to confect a high degree of drama from the operation to install a new, wide-angle, infra-red camera and replace sensor units. But to this layman, glitches such as an obstinate handrail and a stuck bolt, and the challenge of manipulating numerous small screws – 'like performing brain surgery using oven mitts," according to Leo – don’t sound all that hazardous. However, the astronauts clearly face a huge risk if their gloves are torn by the equipment as that would have caused oxygen to leak from their space suits, and rapid death.

Mission accomplished, the doco then presents a series of photographs of galaxies more than two and a half million light years away taken by Hubble itself, enhanced through computer-visualisation techniques devised by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Some shots are stunning, including a host of young stars emerging from the Orion Nebula; a black hole in the distant Virgo Cluster; a journey through the Milky Way to neighboring Andromeda; and a multi-coloured tapestry of planets, the colours varying from red to blue depending on their age. The overall effect is like floating through the far reaches of outer space.

You don’t need Leo to tell you how awe-inspiring that is.

Details

45 min
In Cinemas 13 August 2010,

Genres