How a real NASA patch anchors Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ in reality

23 December 2021

– “Speaking of your office, the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, you have the patch there. In fact, I was observing a little Latin phrase at the bottom, what does that mean?”

“‘Hic Servare Diem’, which means ‘Here to save the day.'”

This exchange, between a NASA commentator and a scientist in the agency’s planetary science division, took place during a live broadcast leading up to the launch of NASA’s first mission to deflect an asteroid. But it could have easily fitted into the new satirical sci-fi film, “Don’t Look Up,” which hits Netflix on Friday, December 24.

In fact, the same patch not only appears in the movie, but it’s highlighted onscreen to emphasize that it’s indeed real – one of the few real-life details that isn’t stretched to the point of ‘be ridiculous (hopefully) to serve. the tone and message on several levels of the film.

” I’m waiting. She calls a doctor Oglethorpe, who is it? Astronomy professor Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) says in a scene shortly after the two-hour film.

“Dr Oglethorpe, head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office,” replies her graduate student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) after researching the name. “Is this a real place? ”

The film then pauses to break the “fourth wall” and answer the question.

“The Planetary Defense Coordination Office is a real place,” one reads an explanatory title, briefly interrupting the film to explain. The screen then displays the patch. “It’s their logo.”

The patch depicts two “shooting stars” crossing the night sky above an astronomer standing atop a castle tower. The character holds a NASA flag on an arrowhead spear in one hand and a telescope in the other.

“It’s obviously a science fiction movie, isn’t it?” We’re flying into science fiction territory very quickly, because obviously we don’t know of a gigantic comet that’s about to crash into Earth. It is not real. So luckily that’s the good news, isn’t it? “Amy Mainzer, astronomer and climate change scientist who has served as a technical advisor for”Do not seek“Said in an interview with collectSPACE.” But the Planetary Defense Coordination Office is very real, and it only really existed recently. “

NASA established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office in January 2016 to organize planetary defense efforts through NASA with other US agencies and with international partners. The office also administers NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation Program, which dates back to 1998.

“You would think it would be a no-brainer to have a comprehensive program to search for asteroids and comets, but even that has been a long time coming,” Mainzer said. “People have been working on it for a long time, but I would say with very modest resources, considering what is really needed to go out and solve this particular problem.”

“We are finally coming to the point where we are undertaking a much more comprehensive study of these objects,” she said.

Mainzer is the principal investigator of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, a space telescope that searches for asteroids and comets approaching Earth. In March 2020, Mainzer and his team discovered comet NEOWISE, the brightest comet in the northern hemisphere since Hale-Bopp in 1997. The Earth threatening comet in “Don’t Look Up” is loosely based on this. discovery.

“I did a lot of work on the design of an orbit and modeled some aspects of the comet in the comet NEOWISE movie to make it somewhat realistic,” Mainzer said in an interview with Netflix. “I tried to choose something that met the needs of the film, but also wasn’t too far removed from reality.”

“Don’t Look Up,” directed by Adam McKay, is meant to be viewed on multiple levels. In one sense it’s a dark comedy, in another it’s the story of Earth’s reaction to a threat from outer space. On a third level again, this is a commentary on our responses to climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other pressing issues of today.

“Part of the reason I was thrilled to be a part of this film is that it has an important message to say about the importance of science in our daily lives and in our society,” Mainzer told collectSPACE. “Science is about what we have proven by evidence to be objectively true.”

“We have to make decisions based on science. This is important because if we don’t, we’re not going to end up with the best possible results for a whole host of different problems, whether it’s from the threat of asteroids and comets or climate change or extreme weather conditions or the pandemic, “Mainzer said.” We have to make scientific decisions and that couldn’t be more important than doing it now. “

Hence the inclusion of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office and its actual patch in the film, as it is a subtle reminder to audiences that “Don’t Look” is not just a Hollywood-made plot.

“This film shows how difficult it is sometimes for people to deal with problems that are difficult to visualize. You cannot see CO2 with your own eyes. [carbon dioxide] methane molecule or molecule, you can’t see a virus with your own eyes, but you still have to watch out for them and they are very real and they can have very serious consequences if we do not treat these things in a way appropriate, “Mainzer said.” So the comet is an allegory for a lot of these types of challenges that we face as a society, long term issues that can have big impacts. “

“Don’t Look Up,” written and directed by Adam McKay and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Ariana Grande and Ron Perlman, opened in limited theaters on 10 December and begins streaming on Netflix December 24th.

About Timothy Cheatham

Check Also

Fall Art Exhibition: Reinvent, Reinvent, Recreate | Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

About Reimagine, Reinvent, Recreate This upcoming installation is an indoor/outdoor exhibition showcasing the creative genius …