My childhood bedroom had two awesome perks: a half-finished crawlspace through my closet where I could hide away if I wanted to be alone, and a window that provided access to the roof. While my parents weren’t super thrilled about me hanging out with rat poison and fiberglass insulation in the crawlspace, they were decidedly not okay with my solo nighttime adventures onto the roof.
Despite how many times I was told not to go on the roof, I couldn’t help myself. The vast night sky called to me on summer nights, especially as a teenager, and I felt so at peace lying with my back against the asphalt shingles and staring at the cosmos. Our neighborhood was dark and the sky was infinite; if I lay there long enough, sometimes I felt like I was falling down into the depth of the sky instead of looking up at it. I was enchanted by the notion of a constantly expanding space, without boundaries, wild, predominately unchartered. It intoxicated me with its mysteries.
I’m a curious being who wants to understand how the world works and question important philosophical uncertainties. I’ve always been very reading-writing-arts-orientated, but science is a secret passion. How can one not respect a field where the general principal is “It turns out I was wrong, but this is what I learned”? Observing this in my nature (and probably hoping I was genius in some sense), my parents got a subscription to Scientific American when I was in seventh grade. Most of the material was way over my head, but there was an article on parallel universes that I read over and over again in an effort to fully understand it. I still couldn’t explain it to you, but I do know that it fueled my hunger to learn more about space.
All those nights staring up at the sky and reading articles about the possibilities out there in the final frontier resulted in me signing up for a class Astronomy trip in eighth grade. We stayed up late and gazed through telescopes at Saturn and the moon and any star we wanted. The sky was so much darker, the stars so much brighter, the infinite realm of deep space all the more intimidating. It made me want to spend every night under the stars and never stop questioning why we’re here and what else is out there.
I’ve never been a Trekkie (but I love the new movies) and I’m mildly bored by Star Wars (feel free to hate me). Lately, there’s a new wave of space movies that are so beautiful and ask such important questions that I’m remembering why I fell in love with the night sky in the first place. (I’m not going to claim that I can point out all the scientific flaws in these movies because I can’t, and frankly, I don’t care. I watch movies to escape, and exploring space through so many different storylines is thrilling and terrifying to me—regardless of any scientific inaccuracies.)
Gravity kicked it off for me. Sandra Bullock kept my heartbeat racing, adrenaline pumping, and positively scared the shit out of me on multiple occasions during the course of the film. I remember driving home late at night after watching Gravity and thinking to myself, There are people in space all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Aside from being one of the most beautifully filmed movies I’ve ever seen, I loved the cinematography and visual storytelling that Alfonso Cuarón utilized to weave a tale of chain-reaction disasters and an individual’s capacity to overcome the greatest of odds when they don’t give in.
I know not everyone loved Interstellar. There was that one part when everyone said “WTF?” and lots of people took issue with the sloppy science and thin plot of the movie, but hear me out on the parts that were good. It’s an unbelievable movie from a visual standpoint, and there’s no getting around that. I also like that Christopher Nolan dares to present so many different philosophies at once, even if it’s a lot to take in at once. In terms of backstory, Nolan crafts my favorite: we need to find life on another planet because we killed Earth. To me, its environmental undertones send a really powerful message and justify the astronauts’ suicidal mission. Sure, it’s true that the part I really like about this space movie has little to do with space, but as a die-hard Nolanite I’ll continue defending the pieces I like and ignoring the somewhat flaky parts.
And then, most recently, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing Matt Damon star in The Martian. I’ve not read the book, and I know I should, but if I’m being honest…I loved this movie so much that I don’t feel the need to read the book right now. The first time I saw The Martian, I left the theatre feeling nauseous from emotional overload. I cried the first time I saw it, and I cried the second time I saw it. This movie sealed the deal on my love for space movies and my desire to never, ever, ever want to go to space. I can’t wait to see this one again.
Regardless of factual inaccuracies and some flat-out crazy stuff, these movies make me appreciate those who explore the cosmos on behalf of mankind and seek answers in the great beyond. For now, I’ll take in the night sky from the safety of earth, always curious for the new adventures waiting for me here.