Brad Pitt’s space-themed movie “Ad Astra” hit theaters nationwide today (Sept. 20). The sci-fi adventure is directed and co-written by James Gray. Pitt plays Major Roy McBride, who goes into space in search of his lost father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).
Earlier this week, the Oscar-winning actor-producer spoke with NASA astronaut Nick Hague who is aboard the ISS. They talked via video satellite from NASA headquarters.
The space agency broadcast their conversation and shared it in a video on Twitter.
Hague told Pitt the ISS crew watched a sneak peek of “Ad Astra” a few weeks ago. They all enjoyed the film. Pitt asked him how they did with their simulation of Zero-G in the movie. Hague replied that the depictions and settings were “really good.”
Overall, the pair talked for about 20 minutes. Pitt called the experience “a dream” and said he could ask Hague questions for hours.
Here are some interesting things we learned about living in space from their conversation.
Color Spectrum Helps Crew Transition from Day to Night
Astronauts living at the ISS see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets a day. So, Pitt wanted to know how they gaged their waking hours.
Hague explained that using different hues of the color spectrum helps them manage day-to-night transitions. In the morning, a bright blue light signifies the daytime. Later, they switch the light to “a more normal, balanced spectrum.” At night they remove the blue light altogether.
Overall, the space station follows Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). This establishes a universal time for partnering space centers around the world. Facilities in Houston, Huntsville, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Montreal are on the same clock as the ISS crew to help maintain ground to space communication.
ISS Crew Members Work 12-Hour Shifts
Pitt was curious if there was “a night shift” or if everyone onboard the ISS keeps the same hours. Hague explained that the entire crew works 12-hour shifts, from about 7:30 a.m. to about 7:30 p.m. each day.
That said, ground crews that support the astronauts in space do work night shifts. According to Hague, teams on Earth control “95 percent of what happens at the space station.”
As such, control center employees around the world support the station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“It is an amazing orchestration of an international program that comes together to truly achieve something that we can’t do alone,” Hague told Pitt. “It’s through that strength and diversity and strength through diversity that we’re able to successfully have operated this station for two decades.”
Footholds and Handrails Help ISS Crew Stay in Place
The “Ocean’s 11” actor was amazed that Hague could stay in one spot during the call. The astronaut explained that he was using a foothold. Crew members also use handrails located throughout the orbiting lab to stay in place
Otherwise, astronauts float through the station. Hague shared that calluses on the soles of his feet from walking on the ground are gone. Now, they’re on the tops of his feet and toes due to repeatedly using the footholds.
The Crew has 3D Printed Organs
Hague described several experiments that he and his crewmates are currently working on aboard the floating lab. He talked about setting fires and studying flames, developing a new kind of rubber for tires, using gene editing in the search for cures to Alzheimer’s and cancer, and 3D printing organs.
“One of the more interesting ideas behind 3D printing that we just wrapped up an experiment session with was 3D printing organs,” Hague advised. “So, we had cardiac muscle and veins, and there was an ink printer that we loaded in the ‘inks’ if you will into the printer and watched it try to print out samples of tissue.”
Researchers ultimately hope astronauts can use 3D printing as they travel deeper into space. The technology could be beneficial on future trips to the moon and Mars.
By 3D printing tools and other supplies, space explorers won’t have to pack as much on a ship for longer missions. Instead, they could 3D print what they need on demand.
The ISS Travels at 17,000 MPH and the View on a Spacewalk is Amazing
To date, Nick Hague has completed a career total of three spacewalks. Pitt asked him to describe what he feels when he’s outside of the station in space.
Hague noted that in putting on a spacesuit, astronauts are essentially wearing their own spacecraft. The helmet provides a 180 degree, unobstructed view of the “vacuum” of space. Plus, the only audible sound is the hum of the suit’s ventilation system.
The Kansas native astronaut also described an emotional moment he experienced during a recent EVA at the front of the space station.
“I was out on the very front of the space station, and I was getting ready to pack up a bag and come back inside, and I looked up, and there was just the Earth, the curve of the Earth and terrain coming underneath me,” he said. “I could feel the speed of the station – you know, we’re going 17,000 miles per hour through space, and I could feel the speed of that as I’m riding on the front just looking out at everything in front of us and the emotions that just wash over you are hard to describe.”
When inside the space station, astronauts can look 250 miles below them at the Earth. Remarkably, with only their naked eye, they can see crop circles in Kansas and Missouri.
Space Offers a New Perspective About Humanity
At one point, Hague told Pitt that living aboard the ISS shows him how small we are compared to the vastness of space. He has also gained a new perspective on Earth and humanity.
He said, “In the same view you can see the moon rising over the horizon, and you get this idea that I’m not on the Earth and I’m not at the moon, but I’m just kind of in the cosmos. That perspective really challenges you because now you’re looking down at everything you’ve ever known – all of humanity, right there, and you have this deep appreciation for how big the universe really is. And for me, it’s just made me cherish and appreciate how delicate and how precious the little island we live on really is.”
“Ad Astra” starring Brad Pitt is currently playing in theaters across the U.S.