Five Things Movies Get Completely Wrong about NASA

There are certain subjects in the movies that tend to get stretched out of proportion and thrown out of whack with very little effort and NASA seems to be one of them. NASA is the favorite subject of a lot of movies and yet it never seems to get represented one hundred percent correctly and it’s usually because the story that’s using NASA as one of its major plot points is so unbelievable. In fact one of the only movies I think that I can pull from memory that used this program in a way that made absolute sense was Apollo 13, and that’s largely because the movie was based on a real event that occurred in history. Any other time it seems like Hollywood is fully intent on taking what they want and leaving the rest, the reality, on the cutting room floor.

It makes for better theater to get things wrong sometimes.

5. They don’t send people to space that aren’t prepared for it.

In several movies people are shot into space because they have a skill set that is useful on the ground or somewhere on the earth’s surface. That doesn’t mean that they’re ready to blast off into space and search for stable ground to do the same kind of work. This very big flaw in the films that have utilized such a tactic is kind of a big deal.

4. There is a definite chain of command that has to be followed.

In some movies the chain of command has been subverted to either avoid disaster or to thwart the efforts of someone that’s about to do something that could be entirely detrimental to the overall mission and only end up making things worse. The funny thing about it is though that while there are plenty of smart folks that could do the wrong thing for the right reasons they’d likely be dismissed and prosecuted.

3. NASA is not perfect.

They’re as close to perfect as can be since they check everything and then check it again a good number of times before continuing forward with a project. But that doesn’t mean that things can’t happen. Look at what happened to Apollo 13 and other missions that went awry. It’s usually no one’s fault that things such as this happen but it does mean that NASA is not all about perfection.

2. The NASA program is not as costly as it’s made out to be.

If you were to ask a lot of people how much NASA spending is they would likely tell you that it’s about 20 percent of the nation’s budget. Now as it’s reflected in film this makes the NASA program a high priority and something that tends to take in a lot of funds that many believe could go elsewhere. The trick of this is that NASA’s funding takes up a very small fraction of the nation’s budget.

1. NASA is not strictly attached to the Department of Defense. 

At this time NASA is not directly available to the Department of Defense. Back in the days of the first moon mission the DOD was a prominent attachment to the NASA program, but as of now it maintains a very distant relation to the program.

Sometimes not getting it right makes for a better movie.

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