"Gravity," which is now the highest-grossing October release of all time, depicts destruction caused by out-of-control satellite debris ripping through anything that happens to be in its way -- including the International Space Station. In the film, the fragments are caused by a Russian anti-satellite test gone wrong -- but could this happen in real life?
Well, yes, unfortunately. It's called the Kessler syndrome, which basically dictates that with more and more debris orbiting around Earth, the chance of a collision becomes more likely. And once there's a collision, the debris from the collision could cause a chain reaction.
The film #Gravity depicts a scenario of catastrophic satellite destruction that can actually happen.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 6, 2013
Before the film's release, we broached this subject with "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuarón and asked him how it would differ from what we see in his film. He argues that what we see in the film is pretty accurate -- but perhaps with a sped-up time frame.
"If that would happen -- it's called the Kessler syndrome," answered Cuarón. He continued, "if the Kessler syndrome would actually occur, it would occur at a different timing. Maybe it would be in the lapse of many months and years that that would start happening. But, then, the outcome would be that we would lose a lot of our satellites. And our economies are based on satellites."
So, yes, "Gravity" is fiction. Or, perhaps a "hyper-stylized" version of the facts is a better way to put it (there's also the matter of the true distance between the Hubble and the International Space Station). But, yes, it's still probably the closest thing a normal person will get to the actual feeling of being in space.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.