In the video published on March 24, 2020, by the Vanity Fair magazine below, Canadian retired astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station (ISS), Chris Hadfield reviews space movies, including “Gravity” and “Interstellar”.
Hadfield’s reviews on space movies
- The opening spacewalk scene. Hadfield says “There’s never been a better movie than Gravity. That opening scene is magnificent for the visual impact and the beauty of the silent turning world… it gives you the raw emotional sense of a spacewalk.” (Hadfield performed two spacewalks totaling 14 hours and 50 minutes, which made him the first Canadian to ever leave a spacecraft).
- Astronauts don’t behave and act like trained professionals.
- Violations of Newton’s laws
- The bubbling of water (the swimming pool scene) into a giant ball when the gravity has gone – that’s quite well shown.
- Why did the spaceship stop spinning when its power went down? It is a violation of Newton’s first law, which says: “In an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by a force.”
- When the ship starts spinning again, it takes quite a time to gravity slowly go back to what it was. It doesn’t work like an on/off switch.
- Everything. He says “It’s so bad. It’s tragic-comic”.
- For example, the landing scene on the approaching asteroid. How did the space shuttles slow down while their engines were running? Is there air on the asteroid (which is ridiculous)? Where the fuel is coming, while there’s no tank on the shuttles?
The Martian (2015)
- The way Mark Watney (the main character of the movie) grows potatoes.
- The Martian portrays astronauts better than almost any space movie.
- The opening scene (dust storm) is the worst scene of the movie, according to Hadfield. There are big dust storms on Mars (the biggest in the entire Solar System). Sometimes they can even cover the entire planet, like the one that killed NASA’s Opportunity rover. But, Mars’ atmosphere is incredibly thin, it’s almost like a vacuum. You’d hardly even feel that storm. There’s no way a Martian storm could pick up those big objects and blow them, and knock Mark Watney over.
- The gravity on Mars looks the same as the gravity on Earth (in fact, the surface gravity on Mars is only about 38% of the surface gravity on Earth). So, Matt Damon (who plays Mark Watney) would be a lot bouncy, he couldn’t move like that. Things around also would move differently.
Apollo 13 (1995)
- According to Hadfield, Apollo 13 is a really good movie. Maybe the most realistic of all of the space movies.
- About the famous line, “Houston, we have a problem!”, Hadfield says: “When you’re talking on the radio, the first word you have to say is who you are talking to. When the people at the mission control hear ‘Houston, we have a problem‘, it’s an understatement – but it has a huge impact. All the normal operations cease, and everybody is listening to hear now what the commander gonna say next, looking at their data like crazy. It’s a wonderful, succinct way to phrase it, and all space commanders since then, self-included, have used that phrase when needed.”
- The way they solve the problems – like the carbon dioxide problem. Hadfield says “…all the people trying to figure out solutions to the problems – the way it’s portrayed in Apollo 13 … it’s almost a textbook of what actually happens.”
- Hadfield says “Ron Howard (the director of the movie) came to Houston, spent time with us there, saw what the houses were like, he came down to launch. He really wanted to know what astronauts and everybody else at the Johnson Space Center and in the space business were like”.
- He adds “I really admire the team that put together Apollo 13, and I love the movie.”
- Hadfield says: “Interstellar is the brainchild of one of the best physicists in the world, Kip Thorne. He was trying to figure out the math of what happens around a black hole, and he hired a company called ‘Double Negative’. They took his math and turned into the raw visuals of what a black hole would look like – and that became the genesis of the movie”.
- Time dilation. It is the difference in the elapsed time measured by two clocks, either due to them having a velocity relative to each other or by there being a gravitational potential difference between their locations.
- Hadfield says when you are near a black hole, the gravitational forces should tear everything apart – it’s called spaghettification – the vertical stretching and horizontal compression of objects into long thin shapes (rather like spaghetti) in a very strong non-homogeneous gravitational field; caused by extreme tidal forces. (See Notes 1)
- “Love” is NOT the “one thing we’re capable of perceiving the transcends of time and space”, as it is said in the movie. “Nowhere in a mathematical equation is there a symbol for love”, says Hadfield.
- The time travel scene at the end of the movie is so confusing.
- There’s no point in yelling through your space suit – nobody can hear you outside.
First Man (2018)
- Hadfield does not say what he likes about “First Man”, the story of Neil Armstrong.
- The opening scene. It shouldn’t be that noisy, there shouldn’t be that much vibration, and he is flying at 45,000 feet – there shouldn’t be these clouds out there. Then, suddenly, dead quiet – what happened there? Also, the atmosphere and nose heating effects are wrong.
- Everybody was so sad. Why?
Hidden Figures (2016)
- Hadfield says it’s a really good movie. A really nice human story and it’s really well-acted, according to him. He says “I loved the interplay of the bright minds and the kind of quirky people that actually allowed early spaceflight to happen.”
Ad Astra (2019)
I learned that the astronauts and cosmonauts were carrying guns onboard the Russian spaceship that Hadfield flew (Soyuz TMA-07M, a spaceflight launched to the International Space Station in 2012). And back in 1995, when Hadfield went to the Russian space station Mir, the spaceships that came up had guns in them in the rescue pack.
Hadfield says “because if you did an emergency deorbit from the space station, you might land anywhere on Earth. You might land in a place where there were grizzly bears. So, there was this specially-designed gun that had two shot barrels and one gun barrel. So you could fire two shots at the grizzly bear, and maybe the last one for yourself (laughs).”
- Hadfield does not say what he likes about the movie.
- Why are they riding Apollo Rovers around in the future? That’s like if you were watching some movies in the future and they brought in a Ford Model T as the vehicle.
- Where’s all the noise coming from? You’re in a perfectly empty vacuum on the moon.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
- He says 2001: A Space Odyssey is perhaps the greatest space movie of all time.
- The way WALL-E moves in space. He’s very careful to constantly move the nozzle to the right spot. What’s more, that same thing the WALL-E is using, that was actually used by Ed White, the first American to ever walk in space.
- He does not say what he dislikes about the movie.
- He likes the excitement of the crew while Mercury goes between the spaceship and the Sun.
- The scene that Mercury going between the crew and the Sun is not scientifically accurate.
[When you’re in orbit] the unheralded beauty of our planet and of where it sits, and the environment that we’re in is so constantly magnificent that when you’re looking at it, you’re talking in hushed tones. Like you’ve walked in a giant forest or the most beautiful cathedral on Earth. You don’t talk a big, brassy voice there. You’re reverential of where you are.
And I think that little scene (Mercury scene in Sunshine) gets some of that, the reverence and understanding of both the minuscule nature of being a human in the enormity of the Universe, but also the enormity of being able to see in that way.Chris Hadfield
- According to Physics Central, the key lies in the specifics of Interstellar’s black hole, a rapidly-spinning supermassive giant known as Gargantua. See the article titled “Gargantua: The Science behind Interstellar’s black hole”.
- Time dilation on Wikipedia