Last weekend, my wife, Gabby, and I went to see the movie Gravity at our neighbourhood theatre in Tucson. I'm a retired astronaut who has been to space four times, so I'm usually a bit sceptical of films that take place in space. For me, watching movies about space is like a congresswoman watching
Cuaron took a different approach. He and his cinematographer created something they called "the Cage" and relied on lights and the emotions of the actors to bring viewers to a realistic approximation of space.
The actors floating around in spacesuits seemed equally convincing. As astronauts,
It's true that astronauts have fun, but we are there to do a very serious job. You would never see the commander of the mission flying around Hubble in his Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) like he was a kid riding his first bike around the driveway. If we still used the MMU, and we don't, it would be flown carefully and methodically. The commander would not fly next to the
Of course, I would fail you as an astronaut and an amateur film critic if I did not touch on the big misconception of Gravity. A key plot point involves a space station falling out of orbit because it was hit by debris. But that just doesn't happen. Likewise, blowing up stuff in orbit makes a big mess, but it doesn't send a giant field of shrapnel hurtling at high velocity toward a spacecraft that is circulating Earth in an entirely different orbit.
I can say this with confidence, because I've dealt with my fair share of space junk. In January of 2007,
You also can't just point at things in space, head off in that direction and expect to get there. In June of 1965,
At the time,
Today, we know that the best way to join up with another spacecraft is a slow procedure that takes an entire day in the space shuttle - too long for the supercharged momentum of a movie.
But the truth is, most of this doesn't matter. Cuaron has given us a glimpse of the awe that is the universe beyond our atmosphere.
And physics aside, he does it remarkably well.
My only hope is that we continue our exploration of space in real life, too. The majority of
l Kelly, a retired
l Gravity is out now
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