Sunday, April 02, 2006

Roving Mars As Good As It Gets

San Diego's Reuben Fleet Science Center showed the new Imax film Roving Mars in their big dome this weekend. (Here.) It's a great film. There are spectacular images from the rovers' mission that work really well in the Imax format, and which especially worked on the dome.

Let's face it: Roving Mars is education, but it's education made exciting. The film is a 40 minute joyride from Earth to Mars.

That ride starts with an animated flight across the universe to Mars, and then across the Martian landscape, from Olympus Mons to Valles Marineris, and from there to Earth. From that spectacular beginning the pace is unrelenting as we see behind the scenes images of the making of the Rovers, the launch and flight sequence, the landing on Mars, and then the rovers on Mars.

The film blends actual photos and CGI very well. The most spectacular images on the giant screen are the true-life video sequences of manufacturing the rovers and the photos taken by the rovers on Mars. Those hematite blueberries are amazing to behold spread across a dome.

The animation sequences of the rovers rolling across the Martian landscape linger in the mind, and amazingly enough, watching those little guys roll across the lonely and vast landscape of another planet, the heart finds itself traveling across millions of miles of space to join them on Mars.

The film is not all imagery, however. The director intersperses interviews with the NASA/JPL team at key points in the story to explain what the mission is all about. The passion and the excitement those scientists and engineers have for their work is enviable.

There is one fault with the movie for spacers like us. For dramatic effect the director chose to add sound to the flight through space sequence. Admittedly, the drama is heightened by the addition of sound but reality is ruined by the addition of something patently false. For an education film that's a large mistake. Consider it a teaching opportunity.

Roving Mars is exciting stealth education. Adults should enjoy it, whether for the eye candy imagery, or the science, or as a report on tax dollars well spent. Seeing it should be mandatory for school kids across the country. Science teachers, start planning your field trips!

-tdr

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