October 1, 2013
Gravity: A Down To Earth Space Movie
I was happy to read that, while having the requisite densely packed drama and exaggerated scenarios of Hollywood, the new Sandra Bullock and George Clooney movie Gravity is also considerate of the realities and details of life for people in space, rather than just being the standard, churned out movie guff that sometimes happens to be set in space. It’s actually about space, not just typical stuff about disaster and the human condition that could as easily be set in ancient Rome or a land full of dragons and witchcraft (not you Game of Thrones, you’re obviously amazing) as space.
In the movie, space debris destroys the astronauts’ spacecraft, after which we see them trying desperately to survive drifting in space. This is a real concern for actual astronauts, and one that NASA is constantly trying to reduce the risk and potential impact of. NASA said: “From protective material coating the outside of the International Space Station to meticulous and methodical training on the ground and in space covering everything from spacewalking to fires or decompression inside the space station, NASA’s ground crews and astronauts are as prepared as they can be for potential anomaly, no matter how remote they may be.”
But it’s not only the disaster element that filmmakers have tried to make as plausible as possible; the real treat is in the detail. Sandra Bullock apparently spoke to astronaut Cady Coleman while Coleman was aboard the International Space Station. She wanted to know what movement was like for astronauts, just in day-to-day life up there; how they get around their environment. She was especially interested to learn from Coleman that the force of one of her long hairs pushed against something is enough to propel herself across the space station.
Another interesting detail that appears in the movie is experimentation in plant growth. This is actually happening on the real-life space station, and results will hopefully tell us more about how plants behave in general, in space as well as on earth by comparison to space, and also work towards astronauts being able to grow enough food in space to sustain them on long missions – future missions to Mars, for example. Gardening, of course, also provides a bit of R&R for those who enjoy it (or enjoy skiing but have severely reduced hobby options in space).
On top of some cool details about life on a space station, the space station itself actually provides a backdrop to some scenes in the movie. This is what appeals to me. Really, I watch movies that can tell me something, either as a result of the main story and characters or just through the backdrop and context, about things that aren’t otherwise easy to experience. This is why I like movies about foreign countries, history and space. Of course, I am going to attach myself emotionally to the odd broken heart or identifiable character, But really, I watch movies to be taken to a place I can’t straightforwardly go myself. If it can take me to an accurate version of that place, that makes the experience so much better.
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures