Five films Thomas Pesquet must have seen before returning to space

The extraordinary feats of space adventurers have always inspired cinema and moviegoers. Small review session before the departure of the Norman astronaut for the ISS.

Out of the ordinary workouts, magazine covers and breathtaking views of the Earth from his window: from the social media window, the life of Thomas Pesquet has everything of a Hollywood blockbuster. The youngest European in history to have floated in space with the Proxima mission in 2016, the 43-year-old Norman will take off again for the international station on April 22. If this return to space promises its share of spectacular images through the prism of the astronaut, Le Figaro offers you, to wait, five essential films set in the suburbs of the blue planet.

The Cloth of Heroes

We are ready to take the bet that Thomas Pesquet has seen him at least 50 times. Before the United States and the Soviet bloc scrambled to conquer space, a handful of test pilots defied death to break the sound barrier. These are the same modern day adventurers who piloted the first rockets from Cape Canaveral, ten years before man finally set foot on the moon. The Cloth of Heroes tells the true story of its pioneers of the sky (and the stars) in a long historical fresco where the wind of the epic constantly blows. The feature film by Philip Kaufman remains, 38 years after its theatrical release, the benchmark for films of the genre.

Apollo 13

“Houston, we have a problem. “ On April 13, 1970 at 9:17 p.m., we held our breath in the NASA control room. One of Apollo 13’s oxygen tanks exploded. The technicians will do everything to save the three astronauts in distress thousands of kilometers from Earth … If the film takes some liberties with the events, Apollo 13 worth the detour. Ron Howard’s meticulous production mixes archival footage and reconstruction to plunge into the heart of this now legendary space adventure. The filmmaker has taken the attention to detail to the extreme: from the lunar module to the control room, including the cup of coffee from Gene Kranz, the director of operations, nothing has been forgotten. Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Alone in the world) excels as an astronaut willing to do anything to survive. He wears this film and in the process wins the Oscar for best actor. Beside him are the comedians Bill Paxton (Twister), Gary Sinise (CSI: Manhattan) and Ed Harris (The Cloth of Heroes), whose performance as COO would also have earned an Oscar. And too bad if Jack Swigert never said “Houston, we have a problem” but “We’ve had a problem”.

Apollo 11, the documentary

Landing the moon was not child’s play. And yet. When their capsule arrives in lunar orbit, the gaze of the three men sent into space by NASA quickly resembles that of young boys, in this documentary by Todd Douglas Miller. “You saw how big this mountain is!One of them marvels, forgetting the arrests of the control center in Houston. In an hour and a half, the film returns from the inside to the space epic during which humanity set foot on the Moon, fifty years ago. The documentary resuscitates previously unseen archival footage found in a storage site in Maryland by Dan Rooney, supervisor of the film section of the National Archives. 177 tapes in 70mm and over 11,000 hours of audio recordings were used to create this film with breathtaking image quality.


The opening scene, a 16-minute sequence shot with invisible seams, gives one to imagine what Thomas Pesquet sees when he puts on his diving suit and gazes closely at Earth and space. We keep our breath away. Fortunately for our Normand, he does not have to suffer the setbacks of the two American astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney), small fragile bibendums that Alfonso Cuarón takes pleasure in shaking 360 °. “I was stunned, absolutely floored by the movie“, Greeted James Cameron, who however does not lack imagination and talent to describe the space. These astonishing and sidereal panoramas are limited only by the story, simple “survivalThat it remains despite its spectacular setting. But from fall to slide, Gravity comes out from the top thanks to Sandra Bullock who surveys the mountains of special effects. And by the clever choice of Alfonso Cuarón to make a relatively short film (1h30 credits included), when many would have made the “pleasure” last. In short, a great entertainment, awarded with seven Oscars including that of the best director and the best photography. It’s only justice.

Alone on Mars

In Alone on Mars, it is less pure science fiction than space travel treated in a realistic mode. We are in the very near future. Mars is not home to any three-headed monster. It’s just an inhospitable planet for its only settler Mark Watney. Except that the astronaut does not lack humor or imagination. Growing potatoes has never been so breathtaking. Mark Watney brings to mind Ulysses and his dreams of returning home. The man with a thousand tricks, or a thousand expedients, according to the translation of the Homeric epithet polymetis, it is he. Earth is his Ithaca. Under his blockbuster guise, Alone on Mars is a tremendous praise for science and ingenuity. The Earth is populated by men of good will, explains Ridley Scott, and the conquest of space has always been the best demonstration of this.


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