NASA Astronaut Barry E. "Butch" Wilmore To Visit IMAX On April 29

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - by Thom Benson

Gaze up at the sky on a clear night from anywhere in Tennessee and you’ll see a phenomenal display of twinkling stars and constellations. And, at certain times, you might even catch a glimpse of the International Space Station (ISS). It will appear as the third brightest object overhead as it streaks across the sky at a rate that’s much faster than any plane.

According to NASA Astronaut Barry E. “Butch” Wilmore, the view from the ISS looking back at his home state of Tennessee is just as spectacular.
Mr. Wilmore is one of the astronauts featured in a new IMAX film “A Beautiful Planet 3D” coming to the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater.

On April 29, Mr. Wilmore will be in Chattanooga for the Tennessee premiere of this new film. He’ll discuss his experiences in space and his role in capturing some of the spectacular scenes audiences will see on the giant screen. “I was blessed to fly into space when the IMAX cameras first arrived at the International Space Station,” said Mr. Wilmore. “I was the first to use these new digital cameras to view and capture the wonders of Earth from space, and oh my, what an experience!”

Presented in the new IMAX with Laser projection system, A Beautiful Planet 3D gives moviegoers a never-before-seen glimpse of Earth from space and provides an increased understanding of our planet and galaxy. This new film features stunning new footage of our magnificent blue planet captured by the astronauts aboard the ISS, which was built by 15 countries and is powered by the sun.

Mr. Wilmore, who launched May 28, 2014, and landed March 11, 2015, said filming was fun but challenging. Quickly changing light levels, combined with limited lighting options made this project difficult, especially when shooting at night. “As you go through the cycle, every 16 to 28 days you get a full moon or no moon, so it was important to experiment with different settings based on how dark it was at night,” he said. “The colors in the Bahamas with a full moon at night are just unbelievable.” 

From space, Earth blazes at night with the electric intensity of human expansion – a direct visualization of our changing world. Audiences will marvel at these images as well as scenes of living and working aboard the ISS. And, even what it’s like to work outside.

Mr. Wilmore performed four spacewalks during his time aboard the ISS. These are among the most thrilling scenes in the film. “You’re in the space suit five hours even before you open the hatch,” he said. Then, once outside, the pressure is on. “With every grip, you’re thinking. With every step, you’re thinking.”

But there are playful moments, too. At one point, the crew is seen celebrating Christmas wearing Santa hats and leaving bags of milk and freeze-dried cookies in the air-lock.

With much of their schedule block filled with science and maintenance duties, the astronauts who operated the cameras had to shoot the majority of footage and still photography during their personal time on nights and weekends. In total, the astronauts captured a quarter of a million still photographs and between 10 and 12 terabytes of footage to make A Beautiful Planet 3D.

The beauty of Earth as seen from space is a matchless experience, from the vibrant colors of land and sea to the electric power of our world’s storms and natural occurences. But the images from orbit are also startling.

Human impacts related to water useage, deforestation and the results of climate change over time become visible and understandable when seen from above.

But work is underway to tackle these challenges and other environmental concerns. While there is a cautionary tale from this view of our home, there’s also a hopeful look into the future as some of the results of conservation efforts are also evident from space. Astronauts captured footage of areas like Chesapeake Bay in North America where an ailing ecosystem was revived after a long mission to help nature. 

“It’s very special to be able to share the unique colors and views of Earth from space, in such a clear and magical way, that you can typically only experience with your own eyes aboard the International Space Station,” said Mr. Wilmore. “And to be in the state in which I was born, grew up and went to school on the day the film opens is another unique opportunity with which I’ve been blessed.” 

A Beautiful Planet 3D premiere with NASA Astronaut Barry Wilmore

Friday, April 29 at 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater

Aquarium members: $8.00

Non-member adult: $11.95

Non-member child: $9.95

Register online:

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