Space garb isn’t as sexy as Sandra Bullock’s in Gravity, and real-life spacewalk dangers can be even worse, says astronaut Major Tim Peake
I’m in Houston at the moment, training with Nasa for a mission to theInternational Space Station. I’ll be blasting off in 2015! Before I saw this film, about two astronauts on a not entirely dissimilar mission, my friends warned me not to take it too seriously – since the astronauts end up floating in space. So I took their advice and loved it.
- Production year: 2013
- Countries: Rest of the world, USA
- Cert (UK): 12A
- Runtime: 91 mins
- Directors: Alfonso Cuaron
- Cast: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock
I found the scene where Sandra Bullock flips out of her spacesuit in a couple of seconds very amusing. Anyone who’s ever worn one knows that’s impossible: it takes about three minutes just to wriggle into the upper torso section. And as for what she’s wearing underneath: well, we certainly don’t wear anything that sexy! We’re in long-johns, a cooling suit covered in narrow tubes filled with water, and a nappy – since a spacewalk usually lasts around eight hours and you have to stay well-hydrated. But showing Bullock in a nappy probably wouldn’t sell so many tickets.
It’s unlikely, too, that her character, an engineer sent to attach some device to the Hubble telescope, would be on a spacewalk after just six months of training. You can certainly go into space then: Sarah Brightman, for instance, is coming with us in 2015, and will have notched up that amount of time. But at that level, you’re very much a space tourist rather than a fully fledged astronaut.
‘With six months’ training, you’re a space tourist’ … GravityThe shuttle that Bullock and veteran spaceman George Clooney use to get to the ISS has actually been retired: the only vehicle we have to get there and back today is the Russian Soyuz rocket. The film does capture the essence of what it’s like to be in zero gravity, though: how difficult it is to move; how you have to struggle to stop yourself from just rotating endlessly. And the vistas of Earth and space are stunning, very much like the movies you can see on YouTube made of time-lapse photographs taken from the ISS.
None of the astronauts I know have been put off going into space by seeing Gravity. We all know the risks. And the real dangers can be much worse: my spacemate Luca Parmitano had his helmet fill up with water while on a spacewalk. It was just about the worst disaster Nasa had ever had at the ISS. Like Clooney, you do have to keep a cool head when you go out into space. You never know what might happen.