Archive for Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Repairs to Hubble a Herculean effort

October 13, 2009

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Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! Get to Hubble on the double! The excellent science series “Nova” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents “Hubble’s Amazing Rescue,” an hourlong look at the multimillion-dollar mission to repair the deep-space telescope, a service-call six years in the making.

We get to see the shuttle team training in a vast NASA facility, a lake-size swimming pool used to simulate space walks. Their six-day mission requires them to replace broken telescopes and replace circuit boards all while drifting weightlessly in space. Think of installing a new motherboard or graphics card on your personal computer, and then imagine doing that while wearing a 300-pound spacesuit and cumbersome gloves and doing it in an environment where normal laws of weight, motion and inertia do not apply.

But even the practice-makes-perfect culture of NASA cannot anticipate the jammed screws and stuck bolts that greet our space-traveling repair team. A nice combination of “The Right Stuff” and “This Old House,” tonight’s “Nova” proves that Murphy’s Law still holds 350 miles above the Earth’s surface.

• Tracy Morgan competes against himself as he hosts the sixth annual “Hip-Hop Honors” (8 p.m., VH1). The “30 Rock” star can also be seen on SyFy on four episodes of “Scare Tactics” (7 p.m. through 9 p.m., SyFy).

• “Frontline” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) returns for a new season with “Obama’s War,” a hard look at grim choices for American policymakers in Afghanistan. How did a war begun as an effort to punish and eradicate the al-Qaida terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks become a “nation-building” exercise in one of the most desperately poor, backward and corrupt places on Earth? And how did so much of this effort fall on the shoulders of American soldiers and Marines, who are trained for battle, not diplomacy and social work?

• “Starz Inside” (9 p.m., Starz) with Richard Roeper looks at the enduring appeal of zombie movies from 1932’s “White Zombie” to recent shockers like “28 Weeks Later.” Interviews include director George Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”) and special-effects master Tom Savini.

• Maggie Gyllenhaal hosts this season of “Independent Lens” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) that kicks off with “Herb & Dorothy,” a film about a New York postal worker and his wife who didn’t let their modest means or one-bedroom apartment keep them from amassing an astounding collection of modern-art masters.

Tonight’s other highlights

• QVC will hold a three-hour (6 p.m.) shoe sale as part of a fundraising benefit linked to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

• The final three compete on the season finale of “Hell’s Kitchen” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Barry Levinson directs “The Band That Wouldn’t Die” (7 p.m., ESPN), a profile of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band that endures decades after Baltimore’s team departed for Indianapolis.

• Eviction notices arrive on “Dancing with the Stars” (8 p.m., ABC).

• Alicia takes on big pharma on “The Good Wife” (9 p.m., CBS).

• An investigation leads to a story of a neglected child on “The Forgotten” (9 p.m., ABC).

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