Life as an astronaut must be pretty cool. (Okay, probably the coolest and most profound job a human on this planet — and off it! — could possibly have.) But we imagine that when you aren’t doing space station repair missions or analyzing various other ~*space science*~ things, there are moments of downtime when you just kind of want to, like, binge a TV show or catch up on terrestrial cinema. Alas, we don’t think that Netflix auto-updates regularly beyond the stratosphere. Luckily, the International Space Station is equipped with a surprisingly deep and diverse film and TV catalogue, which was obtained by Gizmodo via a Freedom of Information request.
There are some “duh” picks on the list, including Galaxy Quest and all of the Star Trek and Star Wars movies. (Alas, it doesn’t appears the former TV series is on board the ISS.) There are also some space-adjacent movies that, while absolutely stunning pieces of cinematic art, we wouldn’t necessarily want to put on an actual space craft, including Gravity, the Alien films, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And of course, it’s fun to see what curve balls the ISS offers its passengers, from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa to Ninja Assassin to the original Father of the Bride. (For “classic family hijinks night,” we guess?) Of note, at least for this particular fantasy fan: None of the Lord of the Rings films or most of the Harry Potter films are included. (The lone HP film is Half-Blood Prince; catch the full list here.)
It makes sense that recent Oscar-winning flicks like Birdman make the cut — these are immediate reflections of the contemporary society astronauts have immediately left. But there’s something kind of sweet in also including older films like North by Northwest, as well as more oddball choices. (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves!) For most folks, the sardine-can isolation of being in space would be unthinkably difficult; these pieces of pop culture through the ages is, in its own little way, a salve to the loneliness of space, a way to reach back into humanity just for an hour-and-a-half, or even less time for a quick episode. For me and many other compulsive media consumers, films and TV are the glue that keep our casual conversations going and also provide a mirror for current events and ever-changing values. For astronauts, it’s a peek at the lives that are passing literally under their own.