Space IMAX Films Launch to Small Screen
NASA's Columbia orbiter launches skyward on April 12, 1981 on NASA's first-ever shuttle flight, STS-1. Commanding the 54-hour mission was astronaut veteran John Young with then-rookie flyer Robert Crippen as pilot.
Credit: NASA.

A series of IMAX space films that launched the grandeur of human spaceflight onto expansive screens around the world is headed for televisions across the United States, even as astronauts prepare to make a new film at the Hubble Space Telescope next month.

On Sunday, April 12, the Documentary Channel will broadcast the first of its catalogue of 21 IMAX films to celebrate the birth of human spaceflight and NASA?s space shuttle fleet. The three-film marathon kicks off with the 1982 film ?Hail Columbia!? in high-definition and will air on the simultaneous anniversaries of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin?s historic first spaceflight in 1961 and NASA?s inaugural launch of the space shuttle Columbia in 1981.

?It is only fitting that we premiere these three magnificent IMAX films, including "Hail Columbia", on this same date to celebrate one of America?s greatest achievements and to recognize the heroes and triumphs of NASA," Documentary Channel founder and CEO Tom Neff told SPACE.com.

The Documentary Channel is the first cable network to secure the U.S. television rights for the entire IMAX XXI Film Package, the network said. Some titles, though, have been released on DVD.

In addition to ?Hail Columbia!,? which chronicles the debut flight of NASA?s first space shuttle, the Columbia orbiter, the channel will also premiere the 2002 documentary ?Space Station? and the 1994 film ?Destiny in Space? on Sunday night. Other IMAX films, including the space exploration features ?The Dream is Alive? and ?Mission to Mir,? will follow beginning April 19.

The group of films also includes recent IMAX productions such as ?Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon.?

The Documentary Channel?s IMAX film line-up comes as seven astronauts are preparing to launch with their own IMAX camera to document NASA?s fifth and final mission to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope.

Commanded by veteran astronaut Scott Altman, the mission is slated to launch May 12 and include five back-to-back spacewalks to add new instruments to Hubble, replace ailing batteries and gyroscopes, add a docking ring for future robotic vehicles and repair equipment that was never designed to be fixed in space.

That Hubble IMAX film is set for release in 2010 and will mark Warner Bros. Pictures' first-ever venture into space, NASA officials have said.

The Documentary Channel?s space IMAX film line-up premieres Sunday, April 12 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Check local listings.

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