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New IMAX Space Documentary Brings Images to Life

Twelve men -- all Americans -- have walked on the moon. Their Apollo missions took place between 1969 and 1972. Now, a new IMAX space documentary titled "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon" brings the images of their accomplishments back onto a huge, eight-story high movie screen.

The images we watched then were blurry and grainy TV transmissions. Now, the 45-minute IMAX documentary puts the audience on the surface of the moon next to the astronauts.

Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks wrote and produced the documentary.

"3D IMAX on that huge screen would mean it would almost be like they are standing on the moon right next to Neil (Armstrong), right next to Buzz (Aldrin), right next to Dave (Scott), right next to Gene (Cerman) and Jack (Young) and all the other guys who walked up there," he said.

IMAX executive producer Hugh Murray recently attended the premiere of "Magnificent Desolation." Mr. Murray was one of the people who designed the 3D IMAX machine.

He explains how it helps us see the images as if we were right there. "3D involves creating two movies. A right eye movie and a left eye movie. And then in the theater, because you can wear those glasses arranging things so, that your right eye only sees the right eye movie and the left eye only sees the left eye movie. And then as far as your brain is concerned it is seeing the world with two eyes and puts everything together and then you see what the camera sees in three dimensions."

Movie director Mark Cowen paired authentic NASA pictures of the lunar surface with an artificial massive lunar landscape built on the set. "So, the back plates that you see -- the mountain and things like that -- are actually the photographs that the astronauts took back during the Apollo moonwalks."

Full scale replicas of the Lunar Module, the Lunar Rover and reproductions of Apollo space suits were used throughout the production. Stuntmen were connected to a series of wires and counterbalances to give the impression of moving in low gravity.

IMAX chairman and Lockheed Martin CEO Rich Gelfond says the movie will entertain, educate and inspire young people around the world. "This film will be opening in China, in India, all over Europe, in Poland, in South America, in Mexico, and I think it gives people a vision."

The movie also sets the scene for the next Apollo moon landing. NASA administrator Michael Griffin unveiled this plan a few weeks ago, calling it "Apollo On Steroids." He says, "We're hoping to send twice as many people to the moon for twice as long a period of time as we did the last time we sent somebody to the moon.”

But, as Mr. Griffin explains, this time NASA has even more far-reaching plans. "Once we learn how to live in space again and how to live on the moon we're going to use that experience and go to Mars," he said.

A huge leap for mankind, one that follows in the footsteps the 12 Apollo astronauts took on the lunar surface almost 40 years ago.