Space Cowboys

Corrected entry: As the shuttle approches Ikon, their rader activates the on-board systems. But they are in space. Radar is a sound based system and sound doesn't travel in space.

Correction: Um, no, might want to check your facts there. Radar uses electromagnetic waves, which travel perfectly well in space. You're confusing it with sonar, which uses sound.

Tailkinker Premium member

Corrected entry: When the space shuttle is in outer space several explosions and scrapings occur. The audience hears each of these. These sounds would never be created in the first place because space is a soundless vaccum.

Correction: Sound travels through space when there are air molecules to move the soundwave. There is air in the shuttle and space suits. Thus, the men in the shuttle would have heard the satellite blowing up.

Corrected entry: When the Shuttle is landing at the end of the movie, the wing says Discovery. Earlier they specified that the shuttle they took up was a new shuttle and that it was named Deadalus.

Correction: Watching it right now. The wing is correct and does not say Discovery.

Corrected entry: In the opening sequence Frank and Hawk are testing an X2. When the craft fails they eject. As is typical for such aircraft they are ejected strapped into their seats. Yet when their parachutes deploy and they land they are no longer in their seats.


Correction: This is not a mistake, with ejection seats the pilots are strapped to the parachute which is housed in the seat. Once the seat with pilot attached has vacated the aircraft, the parachute and pilot detach from the seat.

Corrected entry: Just curious - we first meet the characters in the year 1958 when they were test pilots. In real life Tommy Lee Jones was about 12 years old in 1958. The Eastwood, Garner and Sutherland characters' ages made more sense. They would have been in their mid to late 20s in 1958. Oh well, it's still fun watching these four stars together.

Correction: It is very common practice in films to use actors to play characters of certain ages regardless of how old they actually are.

Corrected entry: Clint Eastwood orders everyone to bail out, since his landing is likely to be a spectacular crash. Donald Sutherland blows the hatch and obligingly throws out the two disabled astronauts, though he and Garner stick with Clint through the hairy landing. In all the excitement, Clint forgets to tell NASA that two unconscious guys are now descending into the ocean by parachute, and must be rescued before they drown.

Correction: Mission Control was already aware of a number of other details; it's not inconceivable that the crew could have let them know at some point off-camera.

Corrected entry: In the scene where Frank confronts Gerson in his office about not sending them into space, you can clearly see that the second hand on the clock in the background is not moving.

Correction: Maybe the battery in the clock is dead. Happens often enough.

Corrected entry: So what if the shuttle loses power? Once you re-enter the atmosphere safely, the shuttle does have ejection seats. Granted ejecting at those speeds is dangerous, but it beats the chances an unplanned, manual descent gives.

Grumpy Scot

Correction: Only the Enterprise and Columbia orbiters were fitted with ejection seats, for the pilot and commander positions during the initial test missions STS-1 through STS-4. During later missions the ejection seats were disabled because it was not possible to provide ejection capability for additional crew positions, and later on they were replaced with non-ejection seats which were lighter.

Corrected entry: When the astronauts finally get to IKON, everyone is amazed at how big it is. Now come on! Russia begs the U.S. to fix their satellite, NASA spends about a billion dollars getting a mission up there, man-years are spent training astronauts, and they don't even know what the satellite looks like?

Correction: The Russian Satellite was a SECRET weapon developed in the Cold War. To keep from divuldging secrets and refusal to help, the Russian General kept things secret till the crew needed to know what was going on. Also years weren't spent training the Astronauts for this mission, as they state at the mission briefing that this is an emergency mission to go up in 30 days. In 30 days, lots of information could be passed on a "need to know" basis. To me, this sounds exactly like Russia and US behaviour.


Corrected entry: During the landing, the shuttle is coming in too hot, and the Flight Controller remarks that he (Frank) has fried his antenna. How, then, could he talk to the chase planes when he gets lower? Without an antenna he would not be able to hear or talk to them.

Correction: This is a question, not a mistake. The chase planes are only a few hundred yards away; it would not require the main antenna to transmit to them.

BocaDavie Premium member

Corrected entry: Each STS, or Shuttle Transport System, mission is given a sequential number. STS-1, STS-2, and so on. As of November 2001, NASA was only on its 108th STS mission, yet this movie, which takes place in 2000, refers to a mission as STS-200.

Correction: Not necessarily a problem. When NASA assigns manifest numbers (STS-x) for a "launch on need" (ie rescue) mission, they have used "STS-3xx". The use of a -200 number therefore is conceivable.

Corrected entry: During the countdown to liftoff, the main engines are fired at T minus seven seconds. In reality, they are fired at T minus three seconds.

Correction: The SSMEs (Space Shuttle Main Engine)DO ignite at T-6.7 sec to allow them to be at full operating power (all 3 greater than 90% thrust) before the onboard computers will ignite the SRBs (Solid Rocket Boosters)at T-0.

Corrected entry: When Clint is out of the shuttle, you can see a reflection of the Earth in the visor. On the outer shots you can tell he's at a fairly low altitude in comparision to the distances reached be Apollo. Yet, you can see the whole Earth in the visor - he is far too close to be having reflections of the complete Earth.

Correction: The visors on the helmets are convex, thus, "objects in mirror are larger than they appear".

Corrected entry: The Russian satellite was said to be 1,000 miles up. They should have known it wasn't a communications satellite because they are 23,500 miles up in geosynchronous orbit.

Correction: It makes perfect sense to put a comsat in geosynchronous orbit. In fact, the Russians are the only people who don't: their Molniya series of communications satellites have very eccentric orbits with an apogee of around 25,000 miles and a perigee of around 150 miles (this is to allow one satellite to cover all of the USSR/Russia at once). See So it would be reasonable to find a Russian communications satellite at either distance. Whether or not an unmodified space shuttle can reach an orbit of either 1000 miles or 23,000 miles is another question since most US space missions have orbits of less than 300 miles.

Corrected entry: In the final scene we see the wreckage of IKON on the moon and Tommy Lee Jones' body propped up against a rock, where he has supposedly dragged himself. In reality his spacesuit's air supply would have run out long before he ever reached the Moon.

Correction: When Hawk first makes the decision to fly to the moon, he says "I'm going to need all the extra O2 modules you've got. Even if they couldn't load the spacesuit with oxygen, they could have put even more modules on IKON. There would have been plenty of oxygen to get him to the moon, as extra O2 is always sent up on missions in the event of an emergency EVA.

Corrected entry: When Eastwood leaves the cabin in his space suit, he fails to close the airlock hatch door and proceeds to the MMU station, yet when Sutherland comes out the door it has been closed. Eastwood is the only one who could close the door as the others would have no way of accessing the hatch into the shuttle bay.

Correction: As Frank exits the spacecraft, the secondary airlock door opens itself, as it controlled by actuators. Therefore, the door likely closed itself, or was closed by the crew, while the camera was focused on Frank and the MMU.

Corrected entry: When the team is preparing for Blast off they all pull down their visors prior to launch. Before the visor is pulled down Jerry doesn't have his sunglasses on, yet immediately after he pulls his visor down they're on his face.

Correction: Jerry's sunglasses are on the whole time, his face is just blocked by Tank's arm during the shot where they're pulling down their visors. (It may take viewing the shot frame by frame, possibly with a "zoom" option on, but the glasses can be seen for a brief moment over Tank's arm.)

Corrected entry: In the first mess hall scene, Eastwood has his ID card but after the young astronaut team sends them drinks the ID card is gone but is seen again in the next shot.

Correction: The ID is on a chain around Clint's neck. It's not visible because James Garner's shoulder is blocking Clint, but that doesn't mean the ID is no longer there.


Corrected entry: The Junior Astronaut pulls a plug on the dodgy Russian satellite and explosion follows following which the shuttle is hit by debris. There is a small fire in the shuttle. The smoke goes up. As the shuttle is supposed to be in weightlessness this means smoke will hover around the fire rather than go up (the fire could in theory extinguish itself due to carbon dioxide building up near it as well (which would normally go down to the floor as it is heavier than air) (for the physicists amongst us: that's why a candle can't burn in weightlessness).

Correction: Candles burn just fine in zero-G. See:

Corrected entry: Have you ever heard of them re-naming a shuttle based on the first team that flies it?

Correction: Eastwood refused to do the mission if he didn't get his team and the shuttle name.

Grumpy Scot

Revealing mistake: While the guys are going for their physicals, there's a scene in which blood is drawn and you can clearly see the tube connected to the end of the syringe pumping fake blood into the container.

More mistakes in Space Cowboys

Sara Holland: I have never met a kid who didn't dream of being an astronaut when he grew up.
Col. William 'Hawk' Hawkins: Did you ever meet a kid who didn't grow up?

More quotes from Space Cowboys

Question: What are the chances of four guys of their age ACTUALLY passing the physical to the required standards? I know they all kept reasonably fit but they struggled with running etc. so it seems unlikely they would pass all the tests. I know movie rules dictate suspense of disbelief to a certain degree, I'm just wondering what their chances would be in reality.


Answer: Eastwood would be out on height alone and the rest probably have high blood pressure.

Chosen answer: It wasn't a matter of how physically fit they were, but that their particular combination of knowledge, skills, and past experiences were needed for this specific mission. The physical criteria would be amended in order to recruit them for that mission.

raywest Premium member

They were specifically told they wouldn't be given an easier ride and would need to pass the exact same tests as the younger astronauts. The physical criteria wouldn't have been amended to suit them so is it possible for 4 guys of this age to pass?


Remember that at some point in the process it became a political issue - the old cowboys were wanted for their PR value, so physical test results would have been "fudged", if not ignored altogether.


Agree that the physical requirements were a major plot point and part of the 'deal' for the team to go, but there was some relaxing of requirements and politics. In general, the answer is YES, old folks can go to space without major fudging of the requirements as was demonstrated by lots of astronauts in their late 50s, a few in their 60s, and John Genn at 77. Just recently an 82-year-old woman flew on Jeff Bezos' tourist rocket.

More questions & answers from Space Cowboys

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