Movie Review: Space Junk 3D Movie Review: Space Junk 3D

Whirling space trash and panoramic views of Arizona’s Meteor Crater are only two of the reasons to see a new 3D movie — Space Junk 3D.

Shown at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s IMAX theater on March 16, 2012 as part of the Environmental Film Festival, the Melrae Pictures film tells the story of Don Kessler, the “father of space junk,” and raises public awareness about the issue that has defined his career.

Using the natural collisions of the universe as an analogy, the film has great computer-generated 3D imagery of asteroids colliding with each other and breaking into pieces that impact the Earth — hence the inclusion of Meteor Crater — and galaxies crashing into each other to form new galaxies.    It is a useful technique to then explain the thousands of objects in Earth orbit that may collide with each other and form yet more debris that imperils operating spacecraft.

An arcane and complicated subject– how many people even know the difference between LEO and MEO or MEO and GEO — the film uses storytelling to capture the public’s interest and 3D animation to provide a visual reference.   Lively questions from the audience of perhaps 150 people after the film was over suggested that they got the point that there’s a problem even if the details and solutions were not apparent.

Experts may quibble with a few of the facts (weather satellites are not in MEO), the sequencing is odd in places (one moment talking about GEO, the next about the Chinese ASAT test in 2007), the ending verges on silliness (depicting a giant orbiting recycling station that would dwarf ISS), and it does have a Carl Sagan-ish quality in almost gloryifying Kessler, but overall it is a useful and fun method to raise public awareness about the need for space sustainability.   Kudos to Melissa Butts and Kimberly Rowe who produced and directed the film.  Visit the Melrae Pictures website for information on where to see it.

Editor’s Note:  This review was originally published as an article on on March 17, 2012.  The first line of the second paragraph has been changed to indicate the actual date on which the movie was shown.

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