IMAX Asteroid Hunters Premieres at KSC Visitor Center

A fictional asteroid punches into Earth’s atmosphere at 38,000 miles per hour in the IMAX® filmAsteroid Hunters.© 2020 IMAX Corporation
A fictional asteroid punches into Earth’s atmosphere at 38,000 miles per hour in the IMAX® filmAsteroid Hunters.© 2020 IMAX Corporation

Phil Groves, the writer and producer of a new IMAX film "Asteroid Hunters" appeared at KSC Visitor Center on October 6, 2020 for the premiere of the 3-D IMAX film.

Narrated by Daisy Ridley, Asteroid Hunters introduces the scientists who are the best line of defense between Earth and an asteroid's destructive path. There is a clear call-to-action in the film to encourage students of today to become the asteroid hunters of tomorrow. 

In remarks before the screening, Phil Groves said, "Of all the natural disasters, none are more potentially disastrous than an asteroid strike. But also, none are as preventable as an asteroid strike. You can't cork a volcano. You can't throw a net over a hurricane. You can't glue shut a fault line to stop earthquakes. Asteroids are a potential risk for our planet that we actually can stop." 

Kelly Fast PhD, of NASA’s Planetary Coordination Office, hunts for asteroids from the Mt. Wilson Observatory telescope in Los Angeles. Discover why finding asteroids before the find us is critical in the IMAX® filmAsteroid Hunters.© 2020 IMAX Corporation

The film introduces scientists who are monitoring the skies to locate Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA). Scientists include Dr. Kelly Fast of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, Dr. Marina Brozović, Ph.D. of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Mark Boslouh of Sandia National Labs and Dr. Nahum Melamed of the Aerospace Corporation. 

In one particularly effective visual sequence, the film uses CGI to place four of the largest PHA's in context by showing then next to the pyramids of Egypt or filling the Grand Canyon. 

Later, another CGI sequence shows the effects of a 1150-foot wide asteroid impacting Earth 100 miles from a major city. You may have read Dr. Dante Lauretta's description of an asteroid such as Bennu striking the Earth, but watching this unfold in IMAX 3D with awe-inspiring images and heart-pounding audio brings it home. 

The Delta IV Heavy rocket, seen in the IMAX® film Asteroid Hunters. © 2020 IMAX Corporation

But then the film shows a potential solution. A planetary defense team launches a spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket for a 150-day mission to reach a PHA that is forecasted to strike the Earth. Flying just in front of the asteroid, a nuclear weapon is deployed and the course of the asteroid is altered enough that it no longer will strike the Earth. 

Groves: "The science of planetary defense is a very young one, that most people don’t know about. I felt Asteroid Hunters was needed to show that the most preventable natural disaster was in fact the worst one possible, an asteroid impact." 

Groves discussed the upcoming Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission (NEOSM) set to launch in 2025. This telescope will fly to Lagrange Point 1 and use Earth-facing cameras to scan for unknown asteroids.  While most asteroids over a mile wide have been cataloged and tracked, there are smaller potentially hazardous asteroids that escape detection. Groves: "The class of asteroid that could wipe out a city or a small country: we haven't found all of those yet. One of the things that makes asteroids hard to find is the glare from the Sun. Earth-bound telescopes can only look out with the Sun behind you. When you try to look at anything between us and the Sun, the glare of the Sun makes them impossible to find. NEOSM will park a space telescope between the Earth and the Sun, facing towards Earth to detect asteroids. This mission should provide a data firehose of new asteroids that we will find." 

Asteroid Hunters is showing daily at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center IMAX Theater.

Produced by Phil Groves, directed by W.D. Hogan, and narrated by Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: Episode VII - IX), ASTEROID HUNTERS, introduces the scientists who are the best line of defense between Earth and an asteroid’s destructive path. The film reveals the cutting-edge tools and techniques used to detect and track asteroids, and the technology that may one day protect our planet. The effects of an asteroid impact could be civilization ending and while the current probability of an event in our lifetime is low, the potential consequences make their study an incredibly important area of research. Witness the latest in planetary defense and how science, ingenuity and determination combine to explore the world’s most preventable natural disaster.

We Report Space Book
The Book

Stunning, full color photo book covering every east coast launch spanning 2014-2015, including the first-ever powered landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

More Info