Gravity looks pretty damn terrifying. Most philosophers would tell us that for a film to really be chilling to the bone, it must call to mind a real-life existential fear that's buried within our souls. So Gravity is tugging at some deeply held fears we've got, then, right? Well, according to real astronaut Michael Massimino. the movie is a bunch of bull.
WARNING THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS. Not ruin-the-movie spoilers, but following copy does reveal certain plot details you might not want to be aware of when the movie hits theatres starting October 4.
The NYTimes went to the movies with Massimino, who like the fictional astronauts played by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in Gravity, worked on missions repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. As you've probably surmised from the epic trailers for Gravity, some terrible badness goes down during a spacewalk. What you probably haven't heard !! -- XXSPOILERXX -- !! is that the solution the fearful, floating astronauts come up with is to fly to the nearby International Space Station via jetpack.
Turns out, this isn't just impossible for jetpacks. It's impossible for space shuttles, too:
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 [568.1km] high, in an orbit that keeps it near the Equator; the space station is about 100 miles [160.9km] 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.
So there you have it straight from an IRL astronaut: the events in Gravity could never happen. Don't worry, though, we're certain that this plot error won't matter and that the movie will kick arse anyway. [NYTimes]