The women who work at NASA are big fans of space movies (no surprise there). And, given their expertise, they’re also quite knowledgeable in terms of the science these movies portray.
BBC asked for their take on space movies, inviting the ladies to tell us which space movies they love and which they really hate or think did a bad job at explaining the science part.
In turns out that they were more than happy to chime in and discuss their favorite space movies. At the same time, they were pretty good at spotting blunders that most of us have probably overlooked. See below if you agree with their comments of what went wrong with some of the more popular space movies.
Best Space Movies According To NASA
The Martian (2015)
Ridley Scott’s space thriller about the challenges of Mars missions really struck a chord with the women at NASA. Many of them named the 2015 movie as their top choice and explained how it impacted their lives.
Allison McIntyre, the chief of NASA’s Mockup Facility, said The Martian is her absolute favorite space movie because it rings true with so many people working at NASA.
“My favorite space film is ‘The Martian’ because that’s where we’re going and it really does show just how hard it is.”
Gioia Massa, manager at NASA’s Veggie Lab, which develops a plant growth unit that astronauts can use to grow crops in space, was thrilled to see a botanist as the main character.
“Not only that, it was a plant scientist who didn’t go insane and cause a lot of havoc,” she pointed out.
Apollo 13 (1995)
The women at NASA connect on a very personal level with Ron Howard’s 1995 docudrama and mentioned it in their top choices for best space movies.
“If it weren’t for ‘Apollo 13’ it would be really hard for me to explain what my job is,” said Emily Nelson, flight director at NASA’s Mission Control.
ISS astronaut Karen Nyberg also had high praise for Apollo 13 and said the movie was very realistically made.
“It just really is relevant to how we actually fly in space,” said Nyberg, who in 2008 became the 50th woman in space, reports UT News.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
The wildly popular sci-fi series starring Patrick Stewart received a lot of positive feedback from the ladies.
Although the series ended more than two decades ago, the seven-season TV phenomenon is still greatly appreciated by the tight bunch at NASA, who shared fond memories about watching Gene Rodenberry’s sci-fi cult series when it first came out.
“I remember rushing home from school and watching that all the time,” said Misty Snopkowski, launch site integrator at NASA.
Snopkowski confessed that the series fueled her love for everything space-related and inspired her to pursue a career in the space industry.
The best thing about Star Trek: The Next Generation is that it portrays “a utopian view of the world and a utopian view of space,” said heat shield analyst Tori Wills.
Other honorable mentions were Christopher Nolan’s 2014 sci-fi blockbuster Interstellar, Star Wars, the 2016 biography drama Hidden Figures — which NASA launchpad project manager Regina Spellman said “it shows the true power of women” — and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was especially popular among the ladies, who just couldn’t get enough of Baby Groot.
Worst Space Movies According To NASA
Time Magazine may have named it “the best movie of 2013,” according to this promotional poster, but the women at NASA were unanimous in giving it a big thumbs down.
Alfonso Cuaron’s sci-fi thriller had a lot of blunders that ticked off the ladies, starting with how it portrayed the space industry.
“Everything that could go wrong went terribly, terribly wrong and that’s not exactly the feeling we want everybody to have about this industry,” Wills pointed out.
Secondly, the ladies took issue with how Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone, was able to effortlessly move from orbit to orbit, as well as with the annoying one-hour of heavy breathing in the movie.
But the biggest faux-pas was the end scene, which the ladies slammed for not being accurate.
“When she gets out of her spacesuit she’s in cute little underwear,” said McIntyre. “Where’s the diaper?” she asked.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
It seems Mark Wahlberg’s desperate attempts to escape a planet of slave-owning primates were not as engrossing as Baby Groot making cute cooing sounds — at least not for Subashini Iyer, lead engineer for NASA’s Starliner.
Iyer, who said she “loved the little plant,” basically called Tim Burton’s movie adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s classic novel a snooze fest and said she always falls asleep watching it.
Among other space movies that got black-listed by the sci-fi fans at NASA were the 2000 thrillers Mission to Mars and Red Planet, mainly because “the science was so bad in them.”
Although a clear fan of Martian movies, Massa pointed out a few blatant mistakes that made both movies “biologically quite bad.”
“In one of them they got the names of DNA base pairs incorrect and in the other they actually called some giant grasshopper-like creature a ‘tiny worm,'” she said.
Last but not least, Michael Bay’s Armageddon (1998) also got bumped to this list for not being scientifically accurate.