Garrett Reisman, former NASA astronaut rates 10 space movies in the video published by the Movie Insider. How realistic they are? Space movies vs science.

Garrett Reisman, former NASA astronaut rates 10 Space Movies: How realistic they are?

1. Gravity (2013)

  • Overall, he likes the movie.
  • The science in the movie Gravity is completely wrong. For example,
    • The opening scene: space debris is a real problem. It can even end space exploration, and destroy the modern way of life. But, it moves way faster. You cannot even see it was coming. That stuff moves 10 times faster than a rifle bullet.
    • The scene that Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) dies – he is flying on by, and Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) reaches and grabs his tether. Because of Clooney’s momentum, that would be hard. But the moment he stopped, she actually saved him. End of story. It should end right there. There’s no gravity that’s pulling him away. (See: why do astronauts float in space?) Kowalski says “you have to let me go”. Why? Why does she have to let him go? Reisman jokes: “And you’ve got a firm grip on George Clooney. You do not let him go.”

Reisman’s rating: 2/10

2. The Martian (2015)

  • The scene when Mark Watney (Matt Damon) flying through to the spacecship using his pressurized suit: this whole idea of puncturing the glove and using the airstream as a jet is absurd. Reisman explains: “We have a jetpack that we wear whe we do spacewalks on the space station. If you became untethered and started floating off, we can do just little puffs to getyou fly back to the station and stop you from being lost in space. First of all, you would need your spacesuit pressurized really really high to get enugh pressure to get the kind of thrust that he gets. Second, and more important, if you have that big rocket engine coming outta your hand, and you’re trying to control and balance yourself, you have to put that thrust through your center of gravity. You have to hold it very, very precisely. Any kind of motion away from the proper direction will cause you to start tumbling out of control.”

Reisman’s rating for the jet scene: 3/10, overall: 9/10

The Martian jet scene
Garrett Reisman, former NASA astronaut rates: The Martian. This rescue scene is not realistic, according to Reisman.

3. Star Wars (1977)

  • Why Luke Skywalker is wearing those orange ski goggles in the middle of black space?
  • You won’t hear anything if something explodes in space.

Reisman’s rating: 5/10

4. Interstellar (2014)

  • Reisman says: “A lot of the stuff they did in this movie, they tried to be as realistic as possible. But I have a problem with this bookshelf scene. Some advanced civilization created this tesseract (see notes 1) where you go into this thing and it’s like lined with the books on the shelf. By pulling a book off the shelf, you can see into the other dimensions and you can communicate to the people in those other dimentions. It is an incredibly complicated way of communication. If you’re super-advanced, alien intelligence that can build a bookshelf tesseract thing to go across dimensions, why can’t you put it in a phone? Or at least put it in a whiteboard? Why do you make things so complicated?”
  • Reisman adds: “But, other than that, they got a lot of stuff right in the movie, especially about the relativistic effects.”

Reisman’s rating: 8/10

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of Reisman’s all-time favorite space films.
  • Considered it was filmed before the Apollo 11 moon landing, the science in movie is tremendously accurate.
  • In the opening scene, one thing is missing: the atmosphere of the Earth.
  • The spinning space station is to create artificial gravity. The size of the wheel and its spinning rate seems just right.

Reisman’s rating: 9/10

6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

  • Reisman says: “Any movie with a talking raccoon in it is OK to me.”
  • It’s true that you can survive for very brief seconds of time while exposed to a vacuum, and if you get quickly back down to regular pressure, yo’re gonna be OK.
  • But there are some things you have to worry about. One of them is barotrauma: there’s gas inside your body -in your lungs, in your sinuses, in your veins, etc. It will start expanding once you exposed to a vacuum, and you get decompression sickness, when dissolved gases in your blood would definitely come out of solution. It can cause a lot of pain and irreversable damage to your body.

Reisman’s rating: 2.5/10

7. Total Recall (1990)

  • The scene that Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) exposed to vacuum is completely inaccurate.
  • Also in that scene, he hits his helmet’s visor into a rock and the visor shatters like it’s glass. But, most spacesuit helmets are made out of polycarbonate, which is much tougher. It wouldn’t quite shatter like that.

Reisman’s rating: 5/10

8. Space Balls (1987)

  • Reisman says: “I can’t believe you actually want me to comment on the scientific realism of Space Balls. They are flying around space in a Winnabego with a dogman as your second in command!”
  • The first issue is, if you’re traveling in between planets, even between solar systems in the future, once you’re on your trajectory, you’re not burning your engines anymore. For example, when we went to the moon, we got into Earth orbit, then we lit the engines up to get enough velocity to escape the Earth orbit, but that lasted only minutes. Once we had enough velocity in the right direction, we shut the engines down. So if you run out of gas, you don’t fall out of the sky. You just continue to move in the same direction at the same speed.

Reisman’s rating: 2/10

9. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

  • It’s understandable that the movie creators invented some sort of device that creates artificial gravity, like that “gravity plate” in Star Trek. Because, otherwise, the special effects would be so expensive (everybody and everything floating around).

Reisman’s rating: 7/10

10. Apollo 13 (1995)

  • According to Reisman, Apollo 13 is the most accurate space film ever produced.
  • What you see in that movie is 100% real.
  • They even used the actual dialog.
  • Apollo 13 is the gold standard for space films. It is the closest thing to being a documentary without actually taking cameras up and filming it in space.

Reisman’s rating: 10/10

Garrett Reisman

Astronaut rates 10 Space Movies: Garrett Reisman
Garrett Reisman. Photo: NASA

Garrett Erin Reisman (born February 10, 1968, in Morristown, New Jersey) is an American engineer and former NASA astronaut.

Selected by NASA as a mission specialist in June 1998, Dr. Reisman reported for training in August 1998. Astronaut Candidate Training included orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical
briefings, intensive instruction in Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) systems, physiological training, and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training as well as learning water and wilderness survival techniques.

After completing this training, Dr. Reisman was assigned to the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch where he worked primarily on the ISS robotic arm.

In October 2001, Dr. Reisman was assigned to the Astronaut Office Advanced Vehicles Branch, where he worked on the displays and checklists to be used in the next-generation space shuttle cockpit.

In June 2003, Dr. Reisman was a crew member on NEEMO V, living on the bottom of the sea in the Aquarius habitat for 2 weeks.

Dr. Reisman completed his first space flight in 2008, logging more than 3 months in space and 7 hours and 01 minute of EVA (Extravehicular activity, any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere) in one spacewalk.

In 2010, he completed his second mission on the crew of STS-132 and logged an additional 11 days,
18 hours, 28 minutes, and 2 seconds in space, including two more spacewalks for a total of 21 hours and 12 minutes of EVA in three spacewalks.

Dr. Reisman left NASA in March 2011 and is currently working for SpaceX in Hawthorne, California.

Spaceflight experence

During his first space mission, Dr. Reisman served with both the Expedition 16 and Expedition 17 crews as a flight engineer aboard the ISS. He launched with the STS-123 crew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on March 11, 2008, and returned to Earth with the crew of STS-124 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on June 14, 2008.

During his 3-month tour of duty aboard the ISS, Dr. Reisman performed one spacewalk totaling 7 hours and
01 minutes of EVA and executed numerous tasks with the ISS robotic arm and the new robotic manipulator, Dextre.

During Dr. Reisman’s second space mission, STS-132, he served as mission specialist 1 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which launched on May 14, 2010. During the STS-132 mission, Dr. Reisman operated the ISS robotic arm and installed the Russian-built Mini Research Module to the ISS. During 7 days of docked operations, Dr. Reisman conducted two spacewalks, logging 14 hours and 11 minutes of EVA.

During these two spacewalks, Dr. Reisman installed a spare antenna and a stowage platform for Dextre, replaced the last of the P6 truss batteries, and retrieved a power data grapple fixture.

The STS-132 mission was completed in 186 orbits, traveling 4,879,978 miles in 11 days, 18 hours, 28 minutes, and 2 seconds.


  1. In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of six square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of eight cubical cells.


M. Özgür Nevres

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