Back in May 2009, the Hubble Space Telescope got its final tune-up. The seven astronauts of the STS-125 mission flew to Hubble on space shuttle Atlantis, grabbed the observatory with a robotic arm and pulled Hubble into the shuttle's open payload bay for repair. They then commenced an intensive servicing itinerary that spanned five spacewalks. Although the mission was not without its hiccups—some of the instruments were never meant to be repaired in space and proved difficult to work on—the Atlantis crew left Hubble revitalized, with one camera repaired, another replaced altogether, a new spectrograph installed and a slew of old or failing parts swapped out.

In the payload bay of the shuttle was a 3-D IMAX camera to document the repair mission. That footage forms the heart of the new documentary Hubble 3D, complemented by IMAX film shot before launch, lower-resolution shots from inside the shuttle, and computer-rendered fly-through sequences based on Hubble data. The result is an inspiring, if brief, tour through the telescope's history and through the cosmos as Hubble has revealed it.

On March 19, Scientific American sat down with Scott Altman, commander of the STS-125 mission, and Toni Myers, director of Hubble 3D, to discuss the challenges and benefits of making a film in space. Check out the video below to see what they had to say.


Photo: NASA