Last night, Gravity, the harrowing sci-fi blockbuster about a routine space mission gone horribly awry, picked up seven trophies at the Academy Awards. The film's striking realism—and its still-growing $270 million in revenue—has been hailed as a victory for science and space exploration. Too bad Gravity has a high-profile critic: NASA.
Gravity's success presents a quandary for NASA: Embrace a film that, despite its realistic sheen, has glaring scientific inaccuracies, or risk alienating what could be a new generation of space enthusiasts with criticism and correction?
As Wired reports, the agency seems to have taken a three-step approach: "acknowledge, support, and deflect." Although the film didn't paint space exploration in a particularly flattering light—kids probably don't dream of shooting into space only to float around in spacesuits with nothing to grab on to—NASA successfully harnessed the film's spectacular majesty to come out ahead.
In a truly savvy publicity move, NASA's Twitter feed lit up as the Oscars telecast began, tweeting 31 times with a blend of admiration for the movie and gentle promotion of real-life space travel, using the hashtag #RealGravity.
After the awards wrapped up, NASA—and some special guests—offered the film their support:
The best part of NASA's Twitter offensive were its photos. Building off Alfonso Cuaron's masterful (and now award-winning) cinematography, the agency tweeted impressive shots from space that also happen to be completely real.
Astronauts in 20 years might not say Gravity inspired their careers, but they might thank #RealGravity. If this all sounds familiar, recall that astrophysicist and de facto NASA spokesman Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter upon the film's release for more pointed criticism:
Mysteries of #Gravity: When Clooney releases Bullock's tether, he drifts away. In zero-G a single tug brings them together.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock's hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
Mysteries of #Gravity: Why we enjoy a SciFi film set in make-believe space more than we enjoy actual people set in real space— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013