Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ has been getting incredible reviews, with some even calling it one of the finest achievements in cinema history. However, Dennis Overbye got the chance to watch the movie with an actual astronaut, who had a major quibble with the film’s plot.
After they stop tumbling and find the shuttle destroyed and their colleagues all dead, Mr. Clooney tells Ms. Bullock that their only hope for rescue is to use his jetpack to travel to the space station, seen as a glowing light over the horizon. “It’s a long hike, but we can make it,” he says.
At this point, space fans will groan.
As we recall from bitter memory, the Hubble and the space station are in vastly different orbits. Getting from one to the other requires so much energy that not even space shuttles had enough fuel to do it. The telescope is 353 miles high, in an orbit that keeps it near the Equator; the space station is about 100 miles lower, in an orbit that takes it far north, over Russia.
To have the movie astronauts Matt Kowalski (Mr. Clooney) and Ryan Stone (Ms. Bullock) zip over to the space station would be like having a pirate tossed overboard in the Caribbean swim to London.
This might sound like some humorless quibble. But only 10 years ago, it was the source of a national debate on space policy, and it almost cost us the Hubble telescope.
It’s why plumbers can’t watch the Super Mario Brothers movie and why I have a hard time watching movies about Boston.