NASA Congratulates Gravity’s Seven Oscar Awards

On its website, NASA and several of its astronauts have congratulated the makers of the movie Gravity for winning seven Oscar awards this year, including an award for director Alfonso Cuaron.

The Oscars are an annual American awards ceremony honoring achievements in the film industry.

“Thank you for making a movie in our backyard and showing everyone around the world that it’s their backyard, too,” says NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, who lived on the International Space Station while the movie was being made.

In the Warner Brothers movie, two astronauts find themselves struggling for survival after their spacecraft is destroyed by space debris. But space debris is no fictional threat, as it is capable of damaging or destroying the communications satellites that modern societies on Earth rely on.

According to NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, the debris now in orbit from derelict spacecraft, satellite explosions and collisions ranges from 21,000 for pieces larger than 10 centimeters to more than 200 million for particles smaller than 1 centimeter.

“Space is more congested now than ever before,” says Frank Rose, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance.

Rose told attendees of a seminar for space situational awareness held in Tokyo on February 27 that even miniscule pieces of debris present serious hazards. “In fact,” he said, “in recent years, the International Space Station has opted to maneuver numerous times to avoid a potentially catastrophic collision with debris.”

NASA has taken the international lead in developing measures to protect users of space, such as space shuttle astronauts shown here working on the construction of the International Space Station in December 2006.

“The United States continues to provide notifications to other governments and commercial satellite operators of potentially hazardous conjunctions between orbiting objects,” Rose said.