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NYCC '21: NASA Space Technology panel details the one thing space movies always get wrong

Science

NYCC ’21: NASA Space Technology panel details the one thing space movies always get wrong

From the “NASA Space Technology for Humans and Others” panel at NYCC 2021.

Astronauts, like any other people who often see their job portrayed on the silver screen, have some thoughts about what Hollywood gets right and wrong.

At a panel on Friday at New York Comic Con, which covered NASA technology and promoted the organization’s interactive graphic novel, spacesuit engineer Lindsay Aitchison said movies tend to portray spacewalks all wrong.

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“People do a spacewalk” and they aren’t sweaty, she said. Doing a spacewalk is “an athletic endeavor!”

NYCC '21: This is the one thing space movies always get wrong

Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli agreed. “I’m always exhausted and very sweaty after training for a spacewalk,” she said, even as movies set in space tend to treat it much differently.

Not all movies fall into this trap. Moghbeli said Apollo 13 “does a great job” capturing the breadth of people and technology that support space flight. These expeditions are far from solitary pursuits, contrary to what you might think after watching Matt Damon on Mars.

Sometimes those misconceptions even inform people’s idea of NASA’s real work. “The robot does not have a laser that can shoot aliens,” NASA roboticist Zakiya Tomlinson joked. Aitchison said, “I get asked all the time: where is the anti-gravity room?” More often, the actual science that informs spaceflight is harder to capture in fiction. “I usually just tell myself: orbital mechanics is a tough subject,” Tomlinson said. “You got to just let it go.”

Not all movies fall into this trap. Moghbeli said Apollo 13 “does a great job” capturing the breadth of people and technology that support space flight. But those examples are few and far between.

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