Scientific inaccuracies in the movie Gravity
I loved the movie Gravity! The photography was beautiful and the 3D imagery phenomenal to experience. George Clooney was great (while he lasted) and Sandra bullock a pleasant wonder to watch (as always). Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how accurate the portrayal of the space environment really was. As it turns out, the physics were fairly accurate where it mattered and the few inaccuracies in Gravity are just as much fun as the movie itself.
Here’s a compilation of things that were wrong in the movie Gravity and the physics laws that were violated. Add your own inaccuracies in the comments section below.
Within the movie’s parameters, it would have been impossible to move from the Hubble Space Telescope’s orbit to the International Space Station
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST), which is being repaired at the beginning of the movie, orbits about 347 miles above the earth. The ISS, on the other hand, has a very slightly elliptical orbit at around 260 miles. This means to move from the Hubble’s position to ISS would be very difficult and time consuming (ditto for the move to the Chinese space station). Given that the actors appeared to be wearing Manned Maneuvering Units (MMUs), which have an approximate six-hour working time, this couldn’t’ have been done.
The satellite debris orbit differs from Hubble’s
The satellite debris field shown in the movie would affect either communications satellites, with orbits between 120 miles and 22,000 miles, or the Hubble Space Telescope, but not both in the manner depicted. Still, a chain reaction like was depicted in the movie cannot be totaled ruled out by astrophysicists!
Kowalski would not have drifted away from Stone after unclipping the tether
In a heroic move, Kowalski sacrifices himself by unclipping from Stone’s tether and slowly floats away. In a zero gravity vacuum, however, he would actually remain in his relative position. A single light tug from Ryan Stone (aka Sandra Bullock) could have brought him back to safety.
Ryan’s tears float away in space
When Ryan cries, her tears dramatically bubble up and float away. Without sufficient force to dislodge the tears from the eye, the tears would remain on her face due to surface tension. On the flip side, the movie does correctly portrays the spherical appearance of drops that would be produced in a micro-gravity environment.
The satellite debris field caught up with the other objects way to fast
For the debris cloud to be moving faster than the other objects that were in a stable orbit, the debris field would have to be in a highly elliptical orbit that would therefore have an entirely different period than the other objects’ orbits. In short, the debris would not have intercepted ISS and HST in 90 minutes.
In space, her hair would float about freely as she moved around.
Ryan isn’t wearing appropriate gear under her suit
In the movie, Ryan strips off her gear to reveal a sleek crop top and sexy boxer briefs. In reality, astronauts would be covered in sweat and wear an adult diaper. Not nearly as attractive.
Astronauts that go adrift have no way of returning to the ship
Astronauts wear a small backpack called SAFER which allows them to make their way back to safety if they are untethered. The fire extinguisher method of propulsion used in the movie could possibly work but would be extremely difficult.
Astronauts grab hold and cling to anything they can get their hands on
Astronaut gloves are notoriously difficult to use. They provide limited grip and leave the astronauts hands in great pain after one day’s use.
What the movie gets right
– According to several astronauts, the ISS and the Chinese space station are dead-on accurate.
– Portrayals of movement inside the space vehicles are well done.
– The constellations Orion, Pleiades, and Taurus are accurately portrayed in the background.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Just shut up, eat your popcorn, and enjoy the movie.
Post inaccuracies you spotted in the movie Gravity in the comments section below.