5 Scientific Inaccuracies In Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity
5. Hot Pants In Space
Some of the "errors" of the film that experts have pointed out are not so much about a defying of the laws of physics as they are about improper protocols. Sandra Bullock's character is not a fully trained astronaut; she is a civilian consultant, a medical doctor. Some astronauts have wondered why she would be along on the mission in the first place, and have remarked that she definitely wouldn't be working on the Hubble by herself while the two other astronauts horse around. One former NASA contractor was nonplussed at the lack of professionalism exhibited by Bullock's character, by her tendency to panic. At the same time, the character's bare six months of training have given her the ability to pilot not only a Soyuz craft but also its Chinese equivalent. There are also many scenes in which Bullock and Clooney manage to grab some convenient handhold before being cast into the void by their inertia. But as several astronauts have pointed out, a typical space suit's gloves do not allow for such feats of dexterity. The gloves provide limited grip and would be at best equivalent to snow gloves and at worse similar to oven mitts. However, all of these distortions of the truth and breaks from official policy could be easily explained away by positing that the film takes place in an alternate reality, perhaps even a bit in the future, in which the space program has developed somewhat differently. In fact, the space shuttle used in the film is a fictional one, the Explorer, and its mission number is given as STS-157 when in reality the very last space shuttle mission was STS-135. Also, the Chinese space station in Gravity is quite an upgrade from its counterpart in real life. And the MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit) which Clooney cruises around in is a piece of equipment used a few times in the '80s and retired shortly after the Challenger disaster. So, perhaps, Gravity takes place in a world with a kinder, happier space program, maybe one in which no space shuttle catastrophes ever occurred. A world in which civilian contractors are hastily trained and sent up to do menial labor while suave and playful astronauts gallivant like school children. And maybe they have enhanced space glove technology. But some things never change. It's likely that no matter which alternate reality you're visiting, you still have to deal with certain bodily functions, or as my friend Kid Jerry used to say to his dog: "it's time for poops and piddles." In one glorious moment of Gravity, Sandra Bullock has arrived at the International Space Station. After going through a quick decompression, she peels off her bulky space suit in a scene reminiscent of the opening shots of Jane Fonda in Barbarella or the final scene with Sigourney Weaver in Alien. And though Bullock's boyish hair cut in Gravity does nothing for me, those skimpy black hot pants certainly do. However, as many astronauts were quick to point out, Bullock's undergarments are a far cry from what is actually worn under their space suits. Astronauts wear a complex cooling garment under their suits, kind of like long underwear with a network of tubes. They also wear Disposable Absorption Containment Trunks, a.k.a. space diapers. Just in case it's time for poops and piddles. Actually, of all the artistic license the creators took with Gravity, this is the one I can definitely live with.
Used to be a prophet, still sometimes a poet, mostly writes and teaches, plays video games, and eats noodles. His website, Tanasttia.com, features a variety of articles, from personal memoirs and observations to World of Warcraft blogging, from the mysteries of Bigfoot to the quality Media Analysis that WhatCulture readers have come to expect. Follow on Twitter @aquagorillabear