Apollo 13, Interstellar, The Martian, Gravity — they're all movies that take viewers out of Earth's atmosphere and sometimes out of the realm of science. So which films get space travel really wrong and which films ace the test?
For the answers, Cheddar spoke to Mike Massimino, former NASA astronaut and senior advisor for space programs at the Intrepid Museum.
Unlike his journey to space, when he became a NASA astronaut, commercial space travel now appears to be within reach for anyone (for the right price). Massimino also credits digital video with making space travel seem more attainable, since people can just log on any time to see what astronauts are doing. "Engagement with space has made it more of a reality for people."
"I was a little boy when they landed on the moon, and I don't think I saw that footage for years. Now you can just go online and watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon as much as you like," explained Massimino.
SPACE MOVIES THAT GOT IT RIGHT
Admittedly, he finds Apollo 13 to be the most accurate portrayal of space. "That one is really based on that flight and incorporates how the astronauts work together and how the mission control center had your back and was very dedicated to getting those guys back alive."
His favorite space film though is The Right Stuff, a film based on the book written by Tom Wolfe, which he also finds to be "very accurate." "I saw it when I was a senior in high school, and it rekindled my interest in space."
More recently Massimino said First Man, last year's release about Neil Armstrong, portrays space travel well, but also showed the realities of working as an astronaut. "There's always that serious aspect to it, which is not fun and games, which First Man portrays very well."
Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney also hit home for Massimino. "With Gravity, they started out with the Hubble space telescope where I had my missions and that was exactly the telescope. The look and feel of it was very very accurate, and I liked when they showed the camaraderie between the astronauts. The team work that takes place between the astronauts and the ground team and engineers and trainers, that's what really matters."
As far as which movies got it wrong, Massimino says that's a hard question. "I wouldn't give any an F."
SPACE MOVIES THAT GOT IT WRONG
But he did admit there are some space movies he likes more than others saying, "Interstellar — I didn't understand it. That was a little out there. I didn't understand what was actually happening."
As for another far out space film, "The Martian is not real. We haven't gone to Mars yet folks," says the former astronaut.
But which one does he think is the worst? "The worst is hard," said Massimino. "Space Cowboys is really goofy. Lost in Space I haven't even seen."
Whether the films romanticize life as an astronaut, Massimino says he doesn't care, it's all about the entertainment value and the attention it brings to space travel. "Even if it's a far-fetched movie I think it gets people interested. The better the movie the better it is for the space program ... whether it's accurate or not."
"As long as the astronaut looks cool, I'm happy," he added.
When considering the idea that more and more people could be inspired by these films to travel to space, even on vacation, Massimino says, "I think it all plays together. When I was a little boy, the only way to become an astronaut was ー way back when ー to become a military test pilot."
Now, he says,"It's even more inclusive because you don't even have to become a NASA astronaut to go to space."
Massimino says hopefully the prices on space travel will go down so more people can live the life inspired by space on screen. "People will be more excited when they think it's something they can actually do."
"Good luck to everyone out there."