The Dream Is Alive

The Dream is Alive is an IMAX documentary film, released in June 1985, about NASA's Space Shuttle program. The film was narrated by Walter Cronkite, and directed by Graeme Ferguson.

The Dream Is Alive
DVD cover of the movie The Dream Is Alive
DVD cover
Directed byGraeme Ferguson
StarringDavid Leestma
George Nelson
Sally Ride
Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan
James Van Hoften
Narrated byWalter Cronkite
Release date
  • June 1, 1985
Running time
37 min.
Box office$70 million[1]


The documentary includes scenes from numerous shuttle missions, beginning with the dawn landing of Discovery at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility upon the conclusion of STS-51-A. A composite shot, the finished sequence is composed of footage from Discovery's landing, radio transmissions from Challenger's 1984 landing on STS-41-B, and runway approach footage filmed from a fixed-wing aircraft.

Mission STS-41-C, the 11th for the Shuttle program and the fifth for Challenger is featured most heavily, beginning with the deployment of the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) satellite. The capture and repair of the Solar Max satellite also receives a great deal of coverage, including a detailed overview of training for the mission in a large pool at NASA. This particular mission is of interest, as the first attempt at capturing the satellite failed, and a second attempt almost 12 hours later had to be made. That portion of the mission was a success, with the satellite being brought to the payload bay on the next attempt, and was repaired quickly by astronauts James van Hoften and George Nelson. Other STS 41-C mission activities included a student experiment located in a middeck locker to determine how honeybees make honeycomb cells in a microgravity environment.

Other shuttle missions are interspersed during the feature with the STS-41-C footage. Highlights include:

Additionally, a small amount of time is also dedicated to other aspects of the Space Shuttle program, including:

  • Other crew that work on the Shuttle;
  • The work of inspecting and replacing the Shuttle's heat tiles;
  • Training the astronauts must complete to prepare for missions;
  • What the astronauts eat on spaceflights;
  • How astronauts would bail out if an emergency occurred on the launch pad.

Challenger disaster

The film was produced and shot 15–18 months before the Challenger disaster, and includes appearances by two astronauts who died in the explosion; Francis Scobee and Judith Resnik. Challenger itself is featured prominently in the film. Many of the themes and tone of the documentary regarded the normalization of travel to space using the Shuttle while giving only passing mention to the dangers. The Challenger disaster would dramatically curtail this belief and subsequent experience would show that the shuttle would not make space travel more accessible or affordable.


By 1992, Variety reported that the film had grossed $70 million since its debut translating to $17 million in film rentals in the United States and Canada, the biggest IMAX 70m film to that date.[1]

The Dream Is Alive was released on LaserDisc three times (twice in the USA, once in Japan), DVD (pictured), and in high definition as a bonus feature on the Blue Planet Blu-ray in 2007.[2]


  1. ^ a b Cohn, Lawrence (January 6, 1992). "Top 100 All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. p. 86.
  2. ^ May 2, 2007 (retrieved Jun 13, 2015)

External links

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The film is a showcase of the daily lives of astronauts in space, as they fix instruments and take measurements. The film includes two space shuttle launches and several cargo bay scenes, including an astronaut repairing the Hubble space telescope. CGI recreations of the surface of Venus and Mars based on satellite data from JPL are also featured. The film looks at the future of human space exploration and what future generations might accomplish in the years to come.

Four filmmakers contributed to directing the film. Director/cinematographer James Neihouse was the cinematographer for Blue Planet, The Dream Is Alive, Michael Jordan to the Max and other IMAX features. Burtt, aside from his lengthy and impressive list of sound crew credits, directed both Destiny and Blue Planet. Toni Myers edited several IMAX pictures, including L5: First City in Space, Hail Columbia! and others.

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STS-41-C was NASA's 11th Space Shuttle mission, and the fifth mission of Space Shuttle Challenger. The launch, which took place on April 6, 1984, marked the first direct ascent trajectory for a shuttle mission. During the mission, Challenger's crew captured and repaired the malfunctioning Solar Maximum Mission ("Solar Max") satellite, and deployed the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) experimental apparatus. STS-41-C was extended one day due to problems capturing the Solar Max satellite, and the landing on April 13 took place at Edwards Air Force Base, instead of at Kennedy Space Center as had been planned. The flight was originally numbered STS-13.


STS-41-D was the 12th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the first mission of Space Shuttle Discovery. It was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 30 August 1984, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 5 September. Three commercial communications satellites were deployed into orbit during the six-day mission, and a number of scientific experiments were conducted.

The mission was delayed by more than two months from its original planned launch date, having experienced the Space Shuttle program's first launch abort at T-6 seconds on 26 June 1984.


STS-41-G was the 13th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program and the sixth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger. Challenger launched on 5 October 1984, and conducted the second shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center on 13 October. It was the first shuttle mission to carry a crew of seven, including the first crew with two women (Sally Ride and Kathryn Sullivan), the first American EVA involving a woman (Sullivan), the first Australian-born person to journey into space and the first astronaut with a beard (Paul Scully-Power) and the first Canadian astronaut (Marc Garneau).

STS-41-G was the third shuttle mission to carry an IMAX camera on board to document the flight. Film footage from the mission (including Sullivan and David Leestma's EVA) appeared in the IMAX movie The Dream is Alive.


STS-51-A was the 14th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the second flight of Space Shuttle Discovery. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center on November 8, 1984, and landed just under eight days later on November 16.

STS-51-A marked the first time a shuttle deployed two communications satellites, and retrieved from orbit two other communications satellites. The Canadian Anik D2 and Syncom IV-1 satellites were both successfully deployed by the crew of Discovery. Palapa B2 and Westar 6, meanwhile, had been deployed during the STS-41-B mission earlier in the year, but had been placed into improper orbits due to the malfunctioning of their kick motors; they were both safely recovered and returned to Earth during STS-51-A.


STS-51-C was the 15th flight of NASA's Space Shuttle program, and the third flight of Space Shuttle Discovery. It launched on January 24, 1985, and made the fourth shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on January 27. STS-51-C was the first shuttle mission to deploy a dedicated United States Department of Defense (DoD) payload, and consequently many mission details remain classified.

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