Colbert has no idea how female astronauts really train

His show may be off the air, but I have yet to close the book on Stephen Colbert.

Back on 10/2 (fun fact: today is 2/10), he hosted Lynn Sherr, former partner of U.S. astronaut Sally Ride. Their conversation turned to a discussion of Ride’s training when C.O.L.B.E.R.T. (of all people) betrayed his tremendous ignorance about the space program:

SHERR: There was no difference in the training. The men and the women trained exactly alike. They did things like they had to learn how to jump out of a parachute, and they had to —

COLBERT: — hopefully out of a plane, but in the parachute. Jumping out of the parachute is very tough.

Wrong and right, in that order. Jumping out of the parachute is very tough. But that’s precisely why astronauts (male or female) need to learn how to jump out of them.

Don’t believe me? Look no further than the scene in Gravity (pictured at top) [spoilers ahead…], when Sandra Bullock gets all tangled up in a parachute. Scientists and journalists have had a field day picking over Gravity’s portrayal of science, and more specifically, the many errors it committed in the attempt. This particular dramatic scene was no exception: reviewers criticized it for the fact that George Clooney needlessly and unrealistically floats off into space, never to be seen again. Good point, reviewers.

But Colbert’s mistake has brought to light one inaccuracy everybody else seems to have missed: if Bullock and Clooney had received real astronaut training, they’d have learned how to safely jump out of that parachute, and George might still be alive today. Good point, Stephen.


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