Ask an Astronaut (or Two) About 'Interstellar'

Ask an Astronaut (or Two) About 'Interstellar'

Hollywood space epic “Interstellar” raked in more than $500 million worldwide during its first month in theaters. Hyped as a modern day “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the movie is getting more attention for the science behind it than for its plot or performances, with much of the chatter devoted to black holes, wormholes and time dilation.

Many experts in the field, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, weighed in with some positive comments, but we wanted to hear from someone who’s actually been in space.

Retired astronaut Owen Garriot spent 60 days aboard the Skylab space station in 1973. Ten years later, he returned to space for 10 days aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. In 2008, Owen’s son, Richard Garriot de Cayeux, road a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station as a private astronaut. They are the only American generational astronauts.

Owen and Richard attended separate pre-screenings of ‘Interstellar’ and were asked to speak about the importance of space travel. Each had a significantly different reaction to the movie.

Richard Garriot de Cayeux

I very much enjoyed ‘Interstellar,’ but it’s important to know how I judged the film as well. The pageantry and power of this film are some of its greatest assets. It is a roller coaster ride of complex events: complex, hypothetical arguments about science working both for and against humanity, and the complex, interpersonal strain that might be plausible in such a doomsday scenario. If you quiet your rational mind and go along for the ride, it is a wonderful romp into a fictional future.

But for me, the limitations of ‘Interstellar,” in contrast to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001,” are that “2001” felt consistently visionary and powerful—until the odd and “trippy” ending. ‘Interstellar’ was a much more of a constant barrage of unlikely or implausible events that viewers needed to forgive for the sake of story.

I have also been surprised to see numerous reviewers refer to the movie’s statements about global warming, when the source of the devastation is described as “blight” (something that consumes nitrogen and various crops). I see this as a sign of story pseudoscience that’s too complex for viewers to understand.

Enjoy this wonderful movie purely for the fun of it, but do not expect it to become timeless classic like “2001.”


Owen Garriott

I am not a fan of ‘Interstellar.’ To be fair, as my son would promptly point out, I am not a science fiction or fantasy fiction fan.

One of my favorite space movies was ‘Apollo 13,’ but it was written to be an accurate depiction of real events. It was a great space movie.

Now, ‘Interstellar’ has an interesting storyline about a space trip through a black hole and “singularity” into another complete universe (I think!) and then back again. But there were far too many loud explosions and disconnected events to hold my interest during this very long film.



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