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'Pumping Iron' Director Spotlights Mars Mission in IMAX Film

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - The filmmaker who made ArnoldSchwarzenegger a household name in the 1977 film "Pumping Iron" ismaking an IMAX documentary about NASA's dual rover mission to Mars.

George Butler previewed his project here Tuesday at FlightSchool 05 and PC Forum, a combined meeting of top space industry officials andentrepreneurs as well as leaders in the tech industry. Several people in thesmall audience expressed awe at both the mission's scope and the telling of thestory in the film, titled "Mars."

The movie is not expected to come out for several months. Itwon't wallow in the complex science and discoveries of the rovers so much as itwill glorify the journey of getting them there.

Butler is also known for producing and directing three filmsbased on the best-selling book, "The Endurance: Shackleton's LegendaryAntarctic Expedition."

The story of the robotic Mars mission is "as good asany adventure story ever told," Butler said. He came to the projectknowing nothing about space exploration, he freely admits, and now sees thefilm as a way to inspire and re-invigorate the space program.

"I think this film can really influence a wholegeneration of high school students," Butler said.

The film treats the rover mission as a story of overcomingobstacles in order to explore an alien world. The 15-minute snippet Butlerpreviewed starts in a clean room at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in April 2003,where engineers were preparing the rovers for launch. Then it shows tests of alanding craft's parachute billowing in a huge wind tunnel.

The video snippet was narrated by a handful of rover projectscientists, including the mission's leader, Steve Squyres of CornellUniversity.

The dramatic launch of one of the two rovers is shown. Theclip then relied on NASA animations to show a realistic view of the earlymoments of the flight as if viewed from several perches along the flight path.The engines fire and separate, and soon the rover drifts silently away, tuckedinside its lander. Ultimately the craft makes a beach-ball bouncing landing onthe red planet.

Butler told SPACE.com all the animations are being redone byhis crew for the final version of the film. It will include images shot on thesurface of Mars in IMAX-quality.

Butler said IMAX films can earn more than $100 million byshowing in more than 300 theaters around the world.

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