'Ad Astra' Star Brad Pitt Asks NASA Astronaut: Clooney or Pitt?
Fresh from his role as astronaut Roy McBride in the upcoming sci-fi film Ad Astra, Brad Pitt made a (very) long distance call to the International Space Station to speak with NASA astronaut Nick Hague about what day-to-day life is like in space, as well as how he maintains a regular sleep schedule under 16 sunrises and sunsets a day.
The call aired live on NASA Television on Monday, as Hague answered Pitt’s questions on zero gravity, space walks, and whether he or George Clooney played a more believable astronaut.
“We got a chance to sneak preview the movie a few weeks back,” Hague told Pitt. “Thank you for what you’re doing to contribute to the mission of awareness and light that fire of imagination in the next generation of explorers.”
Ad Astra, directed by James Gray, follows McBride’s journey into deep space in search of his father (Tommy Lee Jones) who had been presumed dead for years. Set to be released on September 20, Ad Astra promises to deliver a pretty accurate depiction of space travel — for a Hollywood movie.
NASA consultants reviewed the script for the film beforehand and provided some of the agency’s imagery and footage collected over years of space exploration for the scenes that visualized cosmic objects such as the moon and Mars.
Hague also gave it a stamp of approval: “It was really good. The depictions, the settings looked very similar to the type of setting I’ve got around me,” he said during the call.
However, Pitt joked, “Our ship was a bit cleaner.” The camera then cut to Hague on the ISS, as the astronaut stood in front of a mess of nets and wires — all presumably organized, of course — on the space station some 220 miles above Earth.
The film also deals with the psychological toll of being an astronaut, as the character struggles with feelings of isolation during his space journey.
Hague has been in space since March 2019, over 180 days now, as part of the Expedition 59 and 60 crew. To this point, Pitt asked Hague, “How do you keep your mental state at peace?”
“Being apart from your family, your loved one is a challenge,” Hague said. “One of the luxuries we have of working in lower orbit close to the earth is the amount of connectivity we have.”
As a result of the ISS’s relatively low orbit, Hague is able to have a video conference with his kids every weekend to catch up on their lives down here on Earth.
Pitt was also curious about maintaining regular working hours aboard the ISS gauging a sleep schedule when the astronauts witness 16 sunrises and sunsets as the station orbits around Earth at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour.
The light inside the space station mimics the different hues of light one would witness during a regular day on Earth in order to give astronauts the illusion of day and night.
“We do a lot to manage circadian rhythm,” Hague said. “If you’re not smart and you’re new to the station, you run to the windows and you want to check things out right after you get done with your work day. You get a face full of sun, it gets very difficult to go to sleep for a couple of hours.”
Hague is on the tail-end of his time on the ISS, scheduled to return to Earth in October after he completes his 200 day mission.
During his mission, Hague assisted with a number of science experiments that ranged from testing flames under the effects of zero gravity to develop cleaner burning fuel to 3D printing organs such as cardiac muscles and tissues. “Growing up on a farm, I never thought I’d be involved with things like that,” the Kansas native told Pitt, a Missouri native.
Hague also recalls some special moments he’s had as part of the ISS crew, the last one during his most recent space walk on August 21. During a space walk, astronauts step out of the hatchway and into space, usually to run maintenance on the outside of the space station.
“I looked up and there was the curve of the earth and terrain coming underneath me, and I could feel the speed of the station…as I’m riding on the front just looking out over everything in front of us,” Hague said. “The emotions that wash over you are just hard to describe.”
Finally, Pitt launched one last question into space, jokingly asking Hague to compare his performance with that of his Hollywood colleague George Clooney, star of the 2013 movie Gravity: “Who is more believable, Clooney or Pitt?” Hague answered, “You were, absolutely!”
Watch the full conversation in the video below: