"Hail Columbia!" is a 36-minute IMAX documentary program, narrated by actor James Whitmore, which chronicles the maiden launch (and landing) of America's reusable "Space Transportation System" (aka: the Space Shuttle).
Video on this DVD is Full-Frame (1.33:1); with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound audio provided.
I would have enjoyed a little more close-up footage of the Columbia orbiter during this IMAX program; and a few additional images of Earth as seen from Columbia would also have been a plus. But, overall, I enjoyed this IMAX presentation very much, and find myself re-visiting this disc quite often. The few pictures we do get from the Shuttle while in orbit are indeed spectacular. Freeze-frame comes in handy for these few short scenes. And they're crystal-clear as well.
A unique angle of Columbia's maiden liftoff on Sunday, April 12, 1981, is shown on the DVD, with impressive picture and sound quality. The very first Shuttle landing is also covered (sonic booms and all).
The youthful exuberance of Columbia's two-man crew (Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen) is visibly demonstrated in this film after their incredible spacecraft completed its two-day, one-million-mile journey around the Earth. Following their impressive landing on Runway 23 at California's Edwards Air Force Base on April 14, 1981, the astronauts did everything but kick the tires as they walked around the orbiter with an unrestrained enthusiasm which seemed similar in nature to a young boy's realization that his first roller-coaster ride was a truly fun experience after all. (Heck, maybe John and Bob DID actually kick the Shuttle tires after the landing, too.) :-)
Watching this very successful first Shuttle flight into space becomes a bittersweet viewing experience today when pondering the ultimate fate of the Columbia orbiter 22 years after this initial mission. The very same Columbia spacecraft was tragically lost on February 1, 2003 (as "STS-107"), when the vehicle broke apart in flight while travelling at 12,500 MPH (Mach 18.3) at an altitude of 207,135 feet over East Central Texas (just minutes before its scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida), resulting in the loss of the Shuttle vehicle and its seven-person crew.
Following are some interesting facts & figures & tidbits of Columbia info regarding the maiden Shuttle mission (designated "STS-1"):
LAUNCH --- April 12th, 1981. .... Liftoff from KSC (Kennedy Space Center) occurred at precisely three seconds past 7:00 AM (EST). .... Weight at Launch: 219,258 pounds.
ORBITING ALTITUDE --- 166 nautical miles.
NUMBER OF EARTH ORBITS ACHIEVED DURING FLIGHT --- 37.
DURATION OF MISSION --- 2 Days, 6 hours, 20 minutes, 53 seconds.
DISTANCE TRAVELLED --- 1,074,567 miles.
LANDING --- April 14th, 1981. .... Columbia touched down at Edwards AFB at 10:20:57 AM (PST). .... Rollout distance: 8,993 feet. .... Rollout time: 60 seconds. .... Landing Weight: 194,184 pounds.
The Columbia orbiter was returned to the Kennedy Space Center, from California, on April 28, 1981, atop its specially-modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft.
The reusability of the Space Transportation System was demonstrated successfully with the launch of the second mission of the Columbia orbiter vehicle on November 12, 1981.
The first two Shuttle flights were remarkably similar in total length (and miles travelled). In fact, very nearly identical in those two respects -- with STS-2 logging 1,074,757 miles, which was a mere 190 more miles than STS-1 travelled. And the overall duration of both flights differed by a scant 7 minutes, 41 seconds.
Final Columbia Thought.......
If you're fascinated with the U.S. space program, then this well-produced IMAX DVD presentation of the very first Space Shuttle mission should be right up your alley. The program isn't a very long one, but still worth the price due to its historical content.