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From 'The Martian' to Mars: How Hollywood Aids Space Exploration

Though Hollywood doesn't get everything about space exploration right, entertainment is an important way to get space-related messages out to the public, a panel of experts said this week at the 2017 Human to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C. "For me, when I'm writing papers about whatever scientific project I'm doing, there's often a very long background piece — very dry, and not interesting to the general public," Peggy Wu, a human-machine interaction engineer at United Technologies, a conglomerate whose portfolio includes aerospace products said Tuesday (May 9) at the summit. "Usually, I don't have a fun time reading it, and I don't think the general public does," Wu added during the panel discussion, which was webcast live. "Media helps make that more accessible and more exciting." Even many movies without a direct space connection — some in the Marvel comic book universe, for example — tend to use space technology, said writer and producer Tamara Krinsky. Her credits include the 1996 film "Star Trek: First Contact," and she is a part of The Scientific Research and Education Network, which aims to increase science literacy in youth. Krinsky noted that Marvel uses science as a core for a creative concept. The 2015 film "Ant-Man," for example, mentioned the multiverse and nanotech. While such scientific concepts are starting points for inspiration, she said, "You're not getting an education in nanotech technology, and you're not expecting an education in nanotech technology." The panelists agreed that it's OK for a sci-fi film to get some of the science wrong, for storytelling purposes. Wu, however, cautioned that there is a spectrum between "just plain wrong" and "it could be misleading." She said the best way for artists to avoid misleading work is to lean on programs such as the National Academy of Science's Science and Entertainment Exchange, which aims to increase public knowledge of science through entertainment.

Read More: Space.com

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