It’s hard to believe that 1997 was a full 20 years ago. Optimism Vaccine decided to have a little fun and take a look back at what was probably the most important film of that year, if not the entire 1990’s, Rocket Man! We all love the zaniness of this timeless space romp, but we decided to check into just how spot on the science was and dug up 7 incredible facts!
#1 NASA is actually the name of a real life government agency!
The movie starts out at an organization called “NASA”. While a lot of viewers probably think this is just another zany word made up for the purposes of giggles in the movie, NASA actually is a real life government agency. Turns out that NASA stands for the “Network of Associated Sacristan Astrologists.” Pretty far out, huh?
#2 In reality, no one is actually sure if Mars is really a planet!
In the movie, we watch a team of people go on a “spaceship” to the planet “Mars.” This was actually more of an inside joke for those in the astrophysics field. Up until the late 1980’s, most experts agreed that Mars existed near Earth because it had broken off of our “moon” during God’s creation of the Universe. Only recently have expert-skeptics discovered dirty telescope lenses which have contributed to many of our false conclusions regarding the presence of any other planets or debris in our “Solar System.”
#3 Almost everything Harland Williams says in the movie is actually true!
Not a lot of people know this, but Harland Williams actually earned a Doctorate Degree in Biology before becoming America’s beloved funny man. A graduate of Rutgers University in Harvard, Harland lent his vast knowledge of outer space technology to the Rocket Man writer’s room, bringing a level of accuracy to the script rarely seen in other science fiction comedies.
#4 The film was actually Neil deGrasse Tyson’s first attempt at directing a major motion picture!
Going under the pseudonym, Stuart Gillard, a young and shy deGrasse Tyson first tried his hand at directing. Neil was only 17 at the time of filming. He later noted in his autobiography, Tyson on Tyson, that “Rocket Man proved to be the turning point in my life that really started my trajectory towards the stars!”
#5 The term hypersleep is actually an oxymoron!
In the movie, much of the space crew go to “hypersleep” for months on end while they wait for their “spaceship” to go to “Mars.” So is that really possibly? Basically, the answer is definitely no. Back in 1994, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ran a study where a group of students, ages 8-11 years old, were provided with chocolates and caffeinated beverages for a period of 6 hours and then instructed to take naps. The study revealed that the “hyper” test subjects were, in fact, completely incapable of going to “sleep.” Sorry Rocket Man, but there’s no truth to that little silver screen fib.
#6 Computers weren’t actually used on “spaceships” until the late 2000’s.
Harland Williams’ character in the film is supposedly a “software programmer.” While this is a concept that was eventually applied to outer space travel, way back when this movie came out in 1997, “spaceships” were still run with rudimentary lever and pulley systems. We can give credit to Harland though, for basically predicting the entire future of outer space technology.
#7 Releasing flatulence in outer space has actually been proven to lower testosterone levels!
Harland and the cast may cut some pretty funny cheese in their space suits, but in reality, ever since America won the race to space, astronauts have been returning to Earth with staggeringly low sex drives and high rates of depression. When astronauts arrive back home they are screened on a variety of activities they engaged in while outside the planet. Surprisingly, the only common factor among them is farting in space suits while in orbit. Additional studies have uncovered that the release of bodily gases in an enclosed space while in a zero gravity environment has a direct correlation with the body spontaneously releasing copious amounts of testosterone juices through the sphincter muscles. Pee yew!