This article is a list of all the inaccuracies in Gravity.
While it's true that the film is very scientifically accurate; even down to the star patterns in space, some liberties were made to sustain the story, leading to some minor yet rather glaring inaccuracies.
Reaction from scientists
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"This is not a documentary," Director Alfonso Cuarón said. "It is a piece of fiction." Therefore, some elements of the film such as the Shuttle missions and Tiangong station were merely artistic liberties.
Garret Reisman, a former NASA Astronaut, noted that, "The pace and story was definitely engaging and I think it was the best use of the 3D IMAX medium to date. Rather than using the medium as a gimmick, 'Gravity' uses it to depict a real environment that is completely alien to most people. But the question that most people want me to answer is, how realistic was it? The very fact that the question is being asked so earnestly is a testament to the verisimilitude of the movie. When a bad science fiction movie comes out, no one bothers to ask me if it reminded me of the real thing." In an interview with Conan O'Brian, astronaut Chris Hadfield said he liked the film and noted its realistic and accurate visuals (although he stated that he noticed a lack of garments and a diaper under Stone's spacesuit), he said Gravity had great attention to detail and the finest space photography ever done. In James Cameron's documentary, Story of Science Fiction, astronaut Cady Coleman, who advised Sandra Bullock on the movie, said: "The only really big mistake they made in the movie, is that if you were up on a space station, the last thing you do is let George Clooney go."
On the other hand, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, astronomer and skeptic Phil Plait, and veteran NASA astronaut and spacewalker Scott E. Parazynski have offered comments about the film's inaccuracies. Nonetheless, Tyson, Plait and Parazynski have all said they enjoyed watching the film. Retired Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin hoped that the film would stimulate the public to find an interest in space again, after decades of diminishing investments into advancements in the field.
- Ryan Stone's tears first roll down her face in zero gravity, and later are seen floating off her face. Without sufficient force to dislodge the tears, the tears would remain on her face due to surface tension. However, the movie does correctly portray the spherical appearance of liquid drops in a micro-gravity environment.
- Stone was not shown to have worn a liquid-cooled ventilation garment or a diaper or even socks under the EVA suit, all of which are always put on to protect against temperature extremes of space.
- Hitting things in space is hard on fabric spacesuits due to excessive momentum. The spacesuits in the film would have ruptured the first time they hit the ISS.
- The communications with Earth wouldn't have been cut out because the communication satellites operate 100 miles higher than the debris field.
- If the astronauts weren't wearing their gold solar visors, they would have been blinded by the sun and their face would be severely burned. No character in this film ever wears theirs.
- Stone's hair would be floating in outer space, although this can be explained by her having short and thick hair, which would prevent it from moving. This was admitted as a liberty also.
- The satellite debris orbited Earth east to west, not west to east as would be correct. (and how would we know it was east to west. we had no clue where they were in position to earth.
- In what is largely thought of as the most glaring and unnecessary inaccuracy in the film, Matt Kowalski unclips his tether and floats away to his death to save Dr. Ryan Stone from being pulled away from the ISS, several observers (including Phil Plait and Neil Tyson) contend that all Stone had to do was to give the tether a gentle tug, and Kowalski would have been safely pulled toward her, since the movie shows the pair having stopped and there would thus be no force to pull Kowalski away. Others, however, such as Kevin Grazier, science adviser for the movie, and NASA engineer Robert Frost, maintain that the pair are actually still decelerating, with Stone's leg caught in the parachute cords from the Soyuz. As the cords absorb her kinetic energy, they stretch. Kowalski's interpretation of the situation is that the cords are not strong enough to absorb his kinetic energy as well as hers, and that he must therefore release the tether in order to give her a chance of stopping before the cords fail and dooms both of them. If the astronauts were truly still decelerating slowly, they would have been continued to be pulled into space, making this a misconception, not an error.
- The Hubble Space Telescope (HST), which is being repaired at the beginning of the movie, has an altitude of about 559 kilometers (347 mi), and an orbital inclination of 28.5 degrees. The International Space Station has an altitude of around 420 kilometers (260 mi), and an orbital inclination of 51.65 degrees. With such significant differences in orbital parameters, it would be impossible to travel between them without precise preparation, planning, calculation, appropriate technology and a large amount of fuel. This was admitted by the director to not be a mistake, but an artistic liberty.
- It is actually very dangerous to make a re-entry without meticulous planning. Several astronauts have died from sloppy re-entries.
- In the ISS, flames are blue and round. In the film, they are shown as regular orange flames. However, in the script it is confirmed that the flames were intended to be blue balls, but the production must either done this as a liberty or a last resort because they may not have had time to do the correct flames.
- Although space exposure is largely portrayed quite accurately, the bodies of Evans and Thomas are not bloated and it would take hours for frost to develop on corpses, not moments like in the film.
- It would take years to amass a field of catastrophic satellite debris, not minutes as portrayed in the film.
- Having Dr. Stone detach from the Canadarm may have been a worse decision because she flew off in an unpredictable direction at a much more rapid speed.
- When repairing the HST, Stone would have had her own emergency MMU.
- The real Soyuz Capsule does not feature a window. Only the training simulator module does.
- The spacecraft seem to go straight. In any case, objects moving at different velocities in space wouldn't stay at the same orbital elevation unless they had independent thrusting means.
- Debris traveling at 50,000 miles per hour couldn't be seen by the naked eye.
- Kowalski pronounces Soyuz differently depending on when he says it. It is possible that he was trying to say Soyuz in plural or that he just put emphasis on wrong consonants therefore misspeaking, but most see this as a small error.
- Mission Control clocks the debris at 20,000 MPH but Kowalski later claims it to be 50,000 MPH. However, this is likely not an inaccuracy, since Mission Control later noted that the debris had picked up more satellites and got much faster as a result, and Kowalski had a new estimate for its speed.