Gravity Fact Check: What the Season’s Big Movie Gets Wrong

The new cosmic thriller makes a lot of small mistakes and some big ones—though you may not notice them through the gasps

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Warner Bros.

NASA doesn’t care if you have a hot body or not. Tall, short, lumpy, lithe—as long as you’re fit and fall within a reasonable height and weight range, you clear at least one simple hurdle to becoming an astronaut. But NASA isn’t Hollywood. And so, in the new—and extraordinary—movie Gravity, when Sandra Bullock comes inside after a spacewalk, she shucks her pressure suit and floats about in a crop-top and boxer briefs, perfectly toned, perfectly lovely, zero-g eye candy.

In truth, what an astronaut returning from what NASA calls extavehicular activity (EVA) would have on under her pressure suit would be what’s known as a Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment, a full-body, crazily complex bit of space finery that has about 300 ft. (91 m) of fashionable plastic tubing running through it. She’d also be wearing an adult diaper and would be wringing with sweat. Doesn’t matter if you’re Bullock, Penelope Cruz or Nicole Kidman, you would not be looking your best.

It’s really beside the point to mention any scientific inaccuracies in Gravity since the movie is so gripping, so jaw-dropping, so visually, gobsmackingly good that it seems churlish to pay attention to much else. What’s more, Gravity, which does get much more right than it gets wrong, is not Apollo 13 or The Right Stuff—movies that had to hew close to history because they were based on real events. (Disclosure: I wrote the book on which Apollo 13 was based and served as a consultant on the movie.) Gravity is a space disaster and survival movie that never happened in real life—though in smaller and surely less cinematic ways it could.

(MORE: Space Race 2013: Who’s Up, Who’s Down, Who’s Going Nowhere)

All the same, science is science and facts are facts and when a movie purports to traffic in both, it’s only fair to point out the blunders—none of which were howlers in this case, but at least some of which could (and should) have been avoided. Spoilers, by the way, lurk here like satellite debris, so proceed with caution if you haven’t yet seen the movie.

The triggering incident in Gravity—equivalent to the exploding oxygen tank in Apollo 13—occurs when Russia launches a missile to destroy one of its own satellites, accidentally creating a chain reaction that demolishes most of the communications satellites orbiting the planet. An American space shuttle is in orbit on a Hubble Telescope repair mission at the time, and not only does the satellite disaster plunge the crew into radio blackout, it also puts them directly in the path of a high-speed swarm of space junk that whips around the planet every 90 minutes. The shuttle gets clobbered, most of the astronauts die, something less than hilarity ensues. So, where to begin?

First of all, the Hubble orbits at an inclination of 28.5º, which maximizes the time it spends passing over the American mainland on its various trips around the planet. The shuttle, in most cases, stays at that angle too. Russian satellites, however, orbit at higher inclinations, for the same reason—to keep them as close as possible to the Motherland. Junk from a Russian pigeon-shoot might cross the shuttle’s orbit on some of its passes, but it would not happen right away—and certainly not every hour and a half. After the shuttle is destroyed, the surviving astronauts seek refuge on the International Space Station, which is conveniently located nearby. But the ISS orbits at 51.6º—a concession to the Russians when we built the station, since their Soyuz spacecraft regularly ferry crews up and down. Shuttles fly at that high inclination when they’re visiting the ISS, but they wouldn’t be anywhere remotely in the neighborhood if they were servicing Hubble.

(PHOTOS: Space Shuttle Endeavour Journeys Through Los Angeles)

What’s more, a satellite-demolishing chain reaction would never happen in the first place. In 2008, the U.S. shot down one of its own dead satellites—ostensibly to prevent it from spinning out of control, but probably as a military riposte to China, which had pulled off a similar bit of cosmic marksmanship the year before. The technology needed to clean up your own dead satellites is pretty much identical to what it would take to shoot down another country’s very much alive ones, and China was no doubt signaling that it had the wherewithal. So do we, we signaled back, so do we. In neither case was there a risk of anything like what occurred in Gravity, and while you could probably write a computer model that would show how such a thing could happen, it’s wildly improbable.

Then there was all the spacewalking. When the movie opens, we see Bullock and another crewmember hard at work on the Hubble and the shuttle, while George Clooney, wearing a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU, essentially a space jet pack) zips around them, having a grand time as he listens to country music and wisecracks. It’s the only bit of the movie that looks slightly silly—and it also grossly overstates the speed and maneuverability of the MMU. What’s more, NASA would never countenance such cosmic silliness because the MMU’s fuel was limited and could easily run out—something that in fact happens in the movie. When disaster strikes and Clooney is adrift, it’s fair to wonder if his character wishes he’d cooled it a bit on the earlier horseplay. Bullock, who is not wearing an MMU, finds herself in similar free-floating peril. While spacewalking astronauts wear tethers, they are also equipped with a small backpack called SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue) which would allow them to maneuver back to the safety of the ship if the tether should break. Bullock’s does, but she has no SAFER. Later, when she improvises, using a space station fire extinguisher as a sort of handheld jetpack—well, suffice to say that actually maneuvering with such a thing would be far less successful than it is on screen.

(VIDEO: The Space Shuttle Atlantis Comes Home)

There are other implausibilities too. Bullock winds up piloting two other countries’ spacecraft: a Russian Soyuz and a Chinese Shenzhou, which she picks up when she makes her way to China’s space station—which exists, sort of, but only as a single pod, not as the sprawling complex it appears in the movie, and in either case it orbits at 42.78º, nowhere near the Hubble and the shuttle. She handles both ships with surprising deftness considering she was only lightly trained on the Soyuz and not at all on the Shenzhou. And throughout the movie, she and Clooney spend a fair bit of time getting whacked around in space, grabbing onto this or that rail or tether on the shuttle or ISS only at the last second to avoid pinwheeling off  into the void. In truth, pressurized space gloves are murderously hard to manipulate, providing only limited grip at best and leaving astronauts’ hands cold and very painful after a day of work. Making the kinds of one-handed Cirque du Soleil catches Clooney and Bullock accomplish would be impossible.

So, that’s a lot that Gravity gets wrong. But you know what? So what? The shuttle, space station and spacesuits are painstakingly recreated; the physics of moving about in space—thrusts requiring counterthrusts, spins requiring counterspins, the hideous reality that if you do go spiraling off into the void your rotation never, never stops—are all simulated beautifully, scarily and accurately. Gravity will wind you up and wring you out as only the best thrillers do. Absolute technical accuracy matters—except when it doesn’t. Gravity gets a well-earned waiver.

MORE: Beijing, We Have a Space Program

126 comments
JohnEh
JohnEh

That is the tip of the iceberg. For example when they are tethered and George Clooney lets go: He would just float there. He was already moving at the same approximately the same speed as the space station. There is no force pulling him away from the space station. Assuming he had oxygen she could easily pick him up later. If fact once the rope holding her went taught they would both start traveling back to the space station. Giving her plenty of time to get a good grip on it.

Pure_Amateur
Pure_Amateur

One thing I haven't yet seen mentioned here is after all of SB's lucky breaks she lands in water and within a few strokes swim to land. Since approximately 4/5 of the earth's surface is water, the likelyhood would be for a splashdown hundreds of miles from any shore, or about a 20% chance of a hard surface landing, which with no "soft landing" jets left would have been hard indeed. I enjoyed the film but hope it doesn't win any awards, aside from possibly special effects as the acting was no better than average, the story was a mixture of other space stories (mission to mars, apollo 13 etc.) and the scientific inaccuracies were enough to upset (but not ruin) what plot there was. A good yarn, but nothing more.

prs2106
prs2106

Life of PI in space ?

capital.connection
capital.connection

I  pray for a version of DVD that has no music but that that  was in the story: that which the astronaut chose to play.


I almost walked out when the sound track came in about two thirds of the way in. I had been waiting 60 years for the perfect film and the soundtrack  screwed a lifetime ambition . 


 On the plus side i chose the last showing , during the day on a week day and the 10 or so who turned up did not make a sound. We were  all up there.  Indeed I have saved a million to pay for a trip  up there since we were there. 

ezio48
ezio48

This is the 21st Century and there is no excuse for the major miscues in Gravity, just lazy writing! If its Superman or the Transformers, taking liberties is no big deal, although often these become nothing more than a "stunt fest" with constant explosions!  The writer seems to think that if it is exciting and visually stunning, that is enough! It would seem that plot writing sucks, at least in part, because it has become accepted as the norm!

In the case of Gravity, you are supposed be telling a serious story. You owe it to the audience to provide a plot that works within as technically accurate a reality as possible. The event that drives the entire move (satellite debris) was nonsense as depicted! In addition, Bullocks character was totally unprepared for working in space and her six months of training didn't show. She also had some serious psychological issues over the death of her daughter. 

It also constantly amazes me how movies have gone from providing characters that are an inspiration to the audience, making people want to aspire to be something greater, to characters that minimize the traits required in order to make them more palatable to the audience.

In my opinion, when your plot depends on nonviable characters doing things they would not normally do, acting in ways that would be out of character, in situations that are highly unlikely, your plot is lacking! In the case of Gravity, you are telling a story about an environment that is well understood and easily fact checked, You should get the big stuff right!

Prometheus was the poster child for this nonsense. Scientists chosen for a one trillion dollar expedition that are just as self centered, anti social, maladjusted and anti authority as anyone you are likely to find on the streets. An exo-biologist who wants to run at the first signs of alien life, and a captain that looked and acted like he should be on a tramp steamer in the 1940's.     

tacojoe167943
tacojoe167943

Suspending disbelief is required of all sci-fi/adventure filmgoers. My issue is that there could have been a more plausible way to kill Clooney's character off - leaving Bullock's "sole-survivor-plot" element intact - without having us believe he was swept up by some unseen space-wind that doesn't abide by the laws of inertia in a vacuum.

swagv
swagv

Just an American attempt at "Moon", but with Buzz Lightyear.

larrybud
larrybud

I thought the movie was horrible BECAUSE the science was so out of whack.  CGI only goes so far.  By the way, did you notice how much junk was floating around in the cabins of each of the crafts?  These are the messiest astronauts I've ever seen, including a table tennis paddle and ball in the Chinese station (please tell me how you play table tennis in 0 g!).  A bit stereotypical, eh?



david.barton.2012
david.barton.2012

Honestly, I found the movie second rate and derivative.  Sure, the cinematography was good, but the physics was way off.  The EVA scenes were filled with buffeting forces which didn't seem to make sense.  Sure, your momentum and rotations will continue until you make contact with something else, but that fails to explain much of the characters movements.  In several scenes the characters seem to be being buffeted about, as if the ship was traveling through a dense atmosphere.  Space has matter in it, but not nearly enough to cause such buffeting effects.  This is why it is usually conceptualized as a vacuum.  For me, the egregious Clooney sacrifice scene is just the culmination of a fundamental misunderstand of basic physics that pervades the movie.

phdriscoll.junk
phdriscoll.junk

Enjoyed the movie... **Spoiler Alert *** For me the flaw I found toughest to swallow was when Sandra Bullock managed to grab hold of Clooney (a Miracle in itself) and then somehow couldnt give the tiniest of tugs to pull him in (err no gravity guys) .. Still great film, great use of 3D and  got a lot of cool stuff right.

Trigenetic
Trigenetic

Enjoyed the movie and it was in fact the first movie in 15 years that has kept me holding my seat. Did i believe much of what i saw, no not really and the Clooney sacrifice scene as mentioned by others was just silly. I still enjoyed the movie and it had some great suspense and visuals! 

VincentMcConnell
VincentMcConnell

Ehh. Eventually your roll, pitch or yaw would eventually slow down as you stabilized with gravity gradient stabilization but it'd take a while. And you barely even scratched the surface with all the problems in the orbital rendezvous scenes.

BrianJames2
BrianJames2

I agree about many of the comments regarding the GC  scene where he let's go and drifts off.  How could they make such an important scene so OBVIOUSLY erroneous!!!  STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!


JohnAshman
JohnAshman

I disagree.  The physics were so bad from beginning to end, and the series of one in a million events so utterly commonplace that it lost all credibility and never got it back.   It was a train wreck of a movie from beginning to end.   You're leaving out some of the worst transgressions as well.   Espcially the Clooney sacrifice scene.  That was an offense against science and one of the most derivative scenes in all moviedom.

KarlmarxOnyango
KarlmarxOnyango

Please correct me if one of my biggest problems with the movie sounds naive, i'm not a science major or anything but this really bothered me:
The Russians blew their satellite up and it caused a chain reaction that started knocking out satellites. What kept the momentum going for the debris to be traveling at such a high velocity with each collision? I assume the team must have been traveling at close to 27,600km/h to remain in orbit, does that mean that the debris was traveling at over 55,000km/h for it to rendezvous with them every 90min? and if that is the case wouldn't that velocity have taken the debris off it's current orbit?

MatthewKohler
MatthewKohler

I liked the movie a lot. There's one "wrong physics" that I noticed that wasn't mentioned above. 

The scene where Sandra's foot is snagged on some ropes and she's holding on to Clooney who is pulling away from her and he unclips and floats away wouldn't happen. Once the ropes go taut and Sandra and Clooney stop moving, their momentum is gone and there are no forces on them so they would actually remain stationary relative to the space station with the ropes completely slack (no pulling away at all). The tiniest pull inward would bring them both floating into the space station. 

It would have been hard to make that scene realistic though and it was a crucial scene. I suppose they could have had Clooney realize that his momentum was going to be great enough to snap the rope that Sandra was attached to and then he would heroically unclip while he was moving but that would have been too quick for the necessary drama so they stretched it out by pretending that the ropes would stay taut for more than an instant so they could stretch out the goodbye. 

drdsgolf
drdsgolf

The concept is a simple one.  In order to enjoy a variety of movies, one must "suspend disbelief".  You have to shed your natural skepticism.  Movies depict all sorts of improbable events and situations.  I remember watching the movie "Alien" and thinking to myself, "do I really think that the two crew members played by Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto could possibly manage to repair this massive spaceship?  No, of course not.  Could Indiana Jones really do all the things he did?  Not likely.  Both are such good movies you can easily get past it, just like "Gravity".  On the other hand, a moronic movie like "independence Day" was impossible for me to get past the obvious flaws, like using an Apple computer to crack an alien spaceship's defenses, consequently I could not enjoy the movie.

BienySolis
BienySolis

The only thing I really can't let go here is the part where George Clooney had to let himself go (no pun intended). If indeed Sandra Bullock were already caught by the parachute ropes and she eventually caught GC's cable, then they should already maintain current position relative to each other and the Soyuz. Assuming GC still let himself go, he shouldn't have drifted away. The periodic encounter with the debris that defies logical orbital behaviour, the surprising close proximity of space stations, that tardigrade can actually survive in space, and all other stuff that is far from reality I can let go. It is just a movie after all. The key is consistency with elements that the storyteller has laid down. To do what they did with the very crucial GC incident is disappointing. If they wanted to separate him from SB in an unslavageable manner, I could suggest a hundred ways without violating any of the elements they've already painstakingly laid down.

Still a great movie though, and if there's just one thing I'd change, that would be it.

Maine
Maine

I think people are ignoring that this takes place on a fictional mission (STS-157) at an unstated time in the future.  If the US shuttle program had continued at current rate, STS-157 would take place around 2018-2019.  The Chinese station is referred to as the Tiangong 8, if I recall right; Tiangong 3 won't launch for 8+ years.  So we must assume the mission takes place 5+ years in the future.  The ISS has varied it's altitude by as much as 70 km over it's lifespan, so is still unreasonable to assume the ISS and a future fictional Chinese station could not be in sight line of each other? 

I am curious: if they were tethered to the ISS in a direction retrograde or normal (away from earth) to the orbital path, as the ISS passed apogee and begins accelerating along it's elliptical orbit, could that cause a centrifugal force   

Maine
Maine

I think people are ignoring that this takes place on a fictional mission (STS-157), which if US shuttle program had continued at current rate would take place around 2018.  The Chinese station is referred to as the Tiangong 8, if I recall right.  So we must assume the mission takes place 5+ years in the future.  The ISS has varied it's altitude by as much as 70 km over it's lifespan, so is still unreasonable to assume the ISS and a future fictional Chinese station could not be in sight line of each other? 

I am curious: if they were tethered to the ISS in a direction retrograde or normal (away from earth) to the orbital path, as the ISS passed apogee and begins accelerating along it's elliptical orbit, could that cause a centrifugal force   

AndrewHaueter
AndrewHaueter

you left something out. when clooney lets go of bullock and drifts into space. well bullock is tied to the station by her foot and clooney seems to be pulling on her as if there is some mystery force pulling him into space when in reality the first time the rope tugged taunt inertia would have sent them both slowly moving back towards the station not a consistant puliing force that made him have to let go that is impossible.

kaboom083
kaboom083

In the opening scene while all is still black a single sentence made me think "should i leave or just scream NOT TRUE!"

It said something like "Nothing survives in space" ... and i'm sitting there screaming on the inside: TARDIGRADE!

GelCool
GelCool

Gravity was our Hollywood debut: think of the the ads saying "as seen in"... well we are saying "as not seen in" because our helmet cooling packs were used to keep George and Sandra cool while shooting the interiors/sound stage segments in the space suits.  Talk about (invisible) product placement!  :-)

mvernengo
mvernengo

There's one HUGE mistake considering precisely GRAVITY LAW: the debris orbiting at higher speed than the shuttle would never have the same circular orbit, they would rather have an elliptic orbit that would take a much higher orbiting period and there would never exist a "periodic collision" between two objects that have different speeds at certain point in their first collision. I mean, the collision would happen only first time, not periodically as the film suggests.

sachs1926
sachs1926

Why all the left handed connectors?

GeorgeR.Mells
GeorgeR.Mells

I am accepting the movie as set in near possibly alternate future where the shuttle is still operating (this one was called Explorer).  The script indicated that though Bullock was an MD she worked with medical electronics and was installing a version of a new medical scanner in the Hubble.  I agree on the orbit differences and debris goofs.  Please correct me on the other goofs I think I saw.  1.  Aren't the Soyuz and it's Chinese cousin entered from the front tunnel just like the Apollo capsules?  It made it look like she entered the Soyuz from the back where the heat shield is located.  2. My understanding is the EVA suits are difficult to get on and off.  And even given improvements, would there be a spare suit in the Soyuz capsule AND enough room to get it on?  3. And when the Chinese station starts re-entry (for no explained reason) the return capsule is being tossed every which way yet is seems to have enough maneuvering propellant to not only orient in the right direction but somehow get into a proper re-entry path.  4.  Not really a fault since Russian and Chinese vehicles are designed to come down on land and therefore may not have floatation collars but why not leave the helmet on to protect against the smoke and did she have to pull a "Grissom"   by blowing the hatch and sinking the capsule.  All aside though, I found it fun to watch and was totally impressed by the effects.  By the way, did the guy in the other space suit get and credit?

YoshiLink
YoshiLink

@capital.connection the sound track was amazing! what is wrong with you? it helped add tension to the movie. and of course this if obvious but, Gravity got an award for Best Achievement in Music Written for a Motion Picture. so maybe you need to get your hearing checked.

eliezer
eliezer

@tacojoe167943  I might be wrong, but I don't remember there being any space wind nor the need for one. He simply drifted away in the opposite direction to Sandra Bullock because of Newton's Third law of motion.  


edit: Never mind, I read on a different article that because they had stopped the third law wouldn't have propelled him that way. Apparently all she had to do was pull. 

dmasterslice
dmasterslice

@KarlmarxOnyango  The velocity of both the objects were traveling in the same direction and conserved their energy on impact. (Elastic collision) With the two objects orbiting the earth in the same direction, their velocity on impact will continue to travel in a positive direction regardless, assuming rotating from east to west is positive relative to earth. Regardless if orbit was effected at all by the satellites colliding, as long as there isn't an overwhelming external force, the satellite would still be orbiting since the gravitational pull is so strong. It's a little farfetched to match these two extremeties, but imagine the moon being hit by an astroid, which it often is, does it fly off course of it's orbit despite how fast the meteor is going? infinitesimally insignificant, so I would say no. The mass differences and velocity together are what determine how orbiting objects are effected. Really, if you want throw in numbers and formula, etc. Then you could say there isn't enough information to say whether that would happen or not. It seems as though the debris would not have sufficient enough mass to knock any satellite of course, let alone their own course. The debris that comes from the satellite being struck, and the debris from the russian satellite are independent of each other. One piece of debris hitting a satellite will not descrease the velocity of the others. Like shooting a pole with a shotgun. The bullet spreads, some will continue to fly forward and some will slow after colliding with the pole. 

I don't have a major in science, but I am pursuing a major in Physics. That's not to say I know 150% that this is accurate. It's pretty complex. Feel free to correct my mistakes anyone...

JohnAshman
JohnAshman

@KarlmarxOnyango  The debris in theory was going the opposite direction, but interestingly, the debris didn't catch the ISS the first time around, yet caught it directly the second time around.     But, the satellite must have been the size of the Titanic to create that debris field.  Also, I had to infer that somehow, the debris brought down the Chinese station, but that makes no damned sense at all.   But, uhhh, why was the Chinese station in freefall then?   

JohnAshman
JohnAshman

@MatthewKohler Not to mention he could have simply unstrapped his rocket pack and given himself a little push in the general direction of the station even if he had lost his handhold.

larrybud
larrybud

@drdsgolfI guess the difference is that Gravity attempts to be realistic, while Alien does not.   I thought Gravity was horrible.

MatthewKohler
MatthewKohler

@BienySolis That's the one that got me too. Ropes would go taut for an instant and then go slack. No pulling away. I assume they knew they were cheating for dramatic effect. Otherwise, great movie. 

KolyaMatteo
KolyaMatteo

@BienySolis If the station had any spin (not unlikely,) then Clooney would indeed drift away when he let go.

If you conceive of the debris field as filling an entire orbital ring at an inclination to the one occupied by our characters, the 90-minute period makes sense too.
The closeness of all the space stations is just a really lucky coincidence, I guess?

FabioRibeiro
FabioRibeiro

@BienySolis Exactly. Many little things I could let go, the movie is great and not meant to be a science project. However the "falling" Clooney when they  had already zero relative speed was disapointing. So many ways they could have a dramatic GC separation... 

LonStucky
LonStucky

@BienySolis 

 @BienySolis Great post and I totally agree. In fact, that scene was great, very stunning, exciting, and for the most part believable. I didn't see how they would avoid passing Soyuz, and when her foot got caught in the ropes, and she just barely had GC's line, I was still in the moment, and wondering how she could "reel him in", because O knew it was possible. I loved it. 

Until they did the "Mision to Mars" scene.

You recall that movie, yes? Made in 2000, I think. And for the time and SFX, they went out of their way to try and make a lot of it believable from an astrophysics point of view. I recall a centrifuge for artificial gravity and some other neat, realistic ideas. But they had a similar scene where a woman was trying to save her partner from an almost exact situation. It could have been done, but the guy took of his helmet to kill himself (not very realistically, but at least his face didn't explode or anything) so that she would be able to get back to safety. And while watching "Gravity", there was that second when I was like, "Oh no. They are going to go there". 

And I guess I can understand it for dramatic storytelling or whatever. But I'm with you...there were other ways they could have accomplished the same thing. 

And INDEED! The scene later on where it looked like GC had made it back somehow was shocking and could have also been scientifically possible some way. I am VERY GLAD though that it wasn't the case. It actually fooled me. But I bring it up becasue they could have still had that later scene that I just spoke of if they had done the earlier "cut the cord" scene better.

JustinD.Lloyd
JustinD.Lloyd

@AndrewHaueter

There is no indication the parachute cords were hard fastened .. just taught. It very well could have been the friction resistance of them rubbing against whatever they wound around on deployment and during the scene that slowed their momentum .. the grip on her foot just wasn't enough to completely stop them both. It was enough for one.

DavidHWatson
DavidHWatson

@AndrewHaueter  

Yes, that's the bit that I noticed - I wondered afterwards if they were spinning around the axis of the ship - this would supply centrifugal force which would explain it, but I would have to watch the film again to check. I certainly don't recall any spinning.  (BTW why has nobody else noticed this??)

mdimauro
mdimauro

@mvernengo See  my comment. Of all inconsistencies, this one seems actually physically plausible!

mattwolfca
mattwolfca

@mvernengo  Yes, precisely, it is the biggest mistake, I noticed immediately. The debris couldn't return to the same coordinates. Different speed = different orbit.

JohnBailey
JohnBailey

You certainly don't have a degree in mathematics. It is infuriating when somebody says that they are greater than 100% certain of anything. There's no such thing as 150% certainty.

capital.connection
capital.connection

@larrybud @drdsgolf  @larrybud @drdsgolf  @larrybud@drdsgolf

With all due respect, those who shred the movie on science grounds  may not have been with the characters. I am pretty  physics au fail  but only one 'error' jerked me out of my oneness with the people  and their story.


In addition the story did not give the  science orientated  viewers of the film all the initial conditions and without all those people in this column should not   be going after minutia. For example they make assumptions about the satellite hit but they know nothing about the projectile used , whether it was explosive, in what way was it explosive and what was its trajectory .  All such stuff should be dumped at the door as people enter the film.


This is nothing like the film U-571 for example  which shattered the viewing of those in an entire nation (the UK) when they saw in disbelief a US warship removing the first  navy enigma machine found from the submarine .

capital.connection
capital.connection

@larrybud @drdsgolf  @larrybud@drdsgolf

With all due respect, those who shred the movie on science grounds  may not have been with the characters. I am pretty  physics au fail  but only one 'error' jerked me out of my oneness with the people  and their story.


In addition the story did not give the  science orientated  viewers of the film all the initial conditions and without all those people in this column should not   be going after minutia. For example they make assumptions about the satellite hit but they know nothing about the projectile used , whether it was explosive, in what way was it explosive and what was its trajectory .  All such stuff should be dumped at the door as people enter the film.


This is nothing like the film U-571 for example  which shattered the viewing of those in an entire nation (the UK) when they saw in disbelief a US warship removing the first  navy enigma machine found from the submarine .



Read more: Gravity Fact Check: What the Movie Gets Right and Wrong About Space | TIME.com http://science.time.com/2013/10/01/what-gravity-gets-right-and-wrong-about-space/#ixzz2ukSJdoy0

capital.connection
capital.connection

@larrybud @drdsgolf  

With all due respect, those who shred the movie on science grounds  may not have been with the characters. I am pretty  physics au fail  but only one 'error' jerked me out of my oneness with the people  and their story.


In addition the story did not give the  science orientated  viewers of the film all the initial conditions and without all those people in this column should not   be going after minutia. For example they make assumptions about the satellite hit but they know nothing about the projectile used , whether it was explosive, in what way was it explosive and what was its trajectory .  All such stuff should be dumped at the door as people enter the film.


This is nothing like the film U-571  which shattered the viewing of those in an entriel antions when they saw in disbelife a UYS warship resuing the  cypher machin efomrthe submarine

xpusostomos
xpusostomos

I'll have to watch it again, but it looked like their position relative to the earth was static = no spin.

GustavoPereira
GustavoPereira

@KolyaMatteo @BienySolis  BUT, if that was the case, Bullock would feel a centrifugal force keeping her away from the space station even after she released Clooney...

GustavoPereira
GustavoPereira

@DavidHWatson @AndrewHaueter Doesn make sense either. Because, if there was this spinning, Bullock would feel a centrifugal force keeping the rope stretched and keeping her away from the space station even after she let Clooney go..

mdimauro
mdimauro

Well, that's not entirely correct. In fact if the debris orbit met the shuttle orbit at perigee, then yes you would expect if it was travelling faster it would have had higher apogee hence a greater semiaxis hence period and it would have had only one rendezvous. But it is perfectly possible that the orbit of the debris had the same semiaxis but different shape - ellyptic- hence the same period and then in this case the two orbits (the shuttle circular and the debris elliptic) would have crossed each other at two points. This would mean that the debris orbit would have a lower altitude perigee but a higher apogee than the "shuttle" circular orbit, but with same semiaxis hence same period hence with periodic "rendez vous" every 1hr 30 min or whatever. Perfectly possible. Difficult to depict but you can just draw a circle and an ellipse where the ellipse "perigee" is inner to the circle and the apogee is "outer", and the two have same semiaxis. The debris would come from a "higher" altitude.

See here under "Orbital period"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-major_axis

I guess from this point of view it is plausible. What is less convincing are all those space stations so close to each other. It would mean they are on practically the same orbit while in reality they are on different orbits in term of inclination (especially), semiaxis, altitude etc I guess.

daconta
daconta

@mdimauro Just as a guess, I think that a 90 minute period, in elliptic orbit, and 30.000 Km/hr of perigee speed is not compatible. Period should be far large.

Another issue is the way the radio communication worked...