Although it’s now been a few years since Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar came out, it’s a movie we really enjoyed. Today, we’d like to take a look at it from a different perspective: space systems operation consulting.
If you haven’t seen the film, we’d encourage you to do so; here’s a quick recap: a team of astronauts must take to space to figure out a way to keep the human race alive on Earth. Along the way, they travel through a wormhole, visit new planets, and race against the clock in attempt to save Earth. It is a very visually appealing film that not only contains breathtaking visuals, but also a compelling story that’s brought to life with some exceptional acting.
We loved the film for the way it artfully combined science fiction with clever storytelling for a result that (pardon the pun) was out of this world. But does the science in the movie actually hold up?
At this point, Neil deGrasse Tyson is a household name when it comes to astrophysics and, luckily for us, he decided to weigh in on the subject. Tyson said in an interview with NBC that “when you approach a black hole, the black hole is distorting space in its vicinity, and this was captured beautifully.” There’s one point for the movie’s science.
Later in the film, there’s a scene that actually takes place inside of a black hole. Because we don’t truly know what that looks like, the filmmakers had to provide us with a visual interpretation. According to Tyson, “It’s an attempt to show a person who is no longer bound into the present, a person who has access to the timeline of your own life the same way you can move around in space.”
In another scene, the astronauts travel to a planet that’s extremely close to a black hole and experience the theory of relativity firsthand. Not only does time move more quickly (one hour on the planet is roughly seven years on Earth), but there were massive waves on this planet that was mostly covered in water. Tyson notes that “there was an orbital physics motivation to make that happen” which is why the team of astronauts fights against the massive waves.
At the very least, the film respects the science that it’s portraying. American theoretical physicist Kip Thorne has also released a book called “The Science of Interstellar” for those are interested in his work as the scientific consultant on the film. At any rate, it’s nice to see a movie that doesn’t take space systems operation consulting and throw it out the window like so many other films coming out of Hollywood these days.
If you’d like a systems engineering partner for training, coaching, and consulting in space and other domains, we offer both onsite courses and online courses for those who are seeking to understand space through an introduction to astronautics and space systems engineering. Check out our course intro video, browse our downloadable materials, and then decide for yourself whether the science in Interstellar is plausible or not.