Astronaut Scott Kelly Gives Advice on Apple’s New Space Thriller ‘Constellation’

By | March 2, 2024

Scott Kelly recently returned to the International Space Station – during a trip to Berlin.

The first American astronaut to spend more than 500 days off the planet, including nearly a year aboard the space station during his fourth and final spaceflight in 2016, Kelly was in Germany when he returned to his exotic home away from home.

“The outside was just plywood, but the inside looked better than the space station training model we have at Johnson Space Center,” Kelly said in an interview with collectSPACE. “Well, not functionally, but in terms of appearance it looked a lot more like the real thing.”

“But the one at NASA was designed for different things,” he said.

Studio Babelberg’s nearly entire space station was built to film the scenes beyond Earth in “Constellation,” the new psychological thriller now streaming on Apple TV+. Production spent five weeks on the set of the space station, capturing sequences set in the microgravity environment of the orbiting laboratory, including a mysterious accident that propels the series’ main storyline.

“They really wanted it to look real,” Kelly said. “I tried to get them to put a lot of junk in there, like cables, boxes and power supplies, and they did that as much as possible. They even put food and coffee stains on the walls, just like there are stains in the room. ” station, trying to make it as realistic as possible.”

Related: ‘Constellation’ season 1 episode 4 review: Riveting drama makes up for a thin mystery

Boot camp in space

In addition to serving as a consultant to the production crew, Kelly also met with the actors playing astronauts to ensure their performances were as true to life as possible.

“We had boot camp sessions in space,” he said. “We had some Zoom calls and then we had some meetings as a group in Berlin, and then I had individual conversations with them.”

a man in a blue flight stands in a white hallway with many wires and other equipment on the wallsa man in a blue flight stands in a white hallway with many wires and other equipment on the walls

a man in a blue flight stands in a white hallway with many wires and other equipment on the walls

The cast of “Constellation” includes Noomi Rapace, who plays Swedish astronaut Johanna “Jo” Ericsson at the European Space Agency (ESA); William Catlett as Paul Lancaster, the NASA astronaut in command of the expedition; Henry David as Russian cosmonaut Ilya Andreev; Sandra Tele as Yazmina Suri, an ESA astronaut; and Carole Weyers as French astronaut Audrey Brostin.

Simulating weightlessness was challenging and required skills from set design to cinematography, stunts and special effects. In addition to using in-camera techniques to capture the actors’ freedom of movement, the cast (and their stunt team) were connected to an extensive wiring harness system.

“I did that once for a commercial, but for a short period of time, and it’s not easy,” Kelly said. “It’s uncomfortable, it’s painful.”

After speaking with Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut and technical advisor for another space-themed Apple TV+ series, “For All Mankind,” Kelly took a leveled approach to advising the “Constellation” cast.

“The highest category was things you just didn’t want to mess up. For example, I was watching Naomi in a scene on the space station where she was almost on the verge of crying. And I thought, ‘Don’t let that happen.'” tear!’ and so they cut themselves off from her. That’s something you just didn’t want to see on screen.”

(Without the pull of gravity, tears don’t roll down astronauts’ cheeks as they do on Earth. Rather, surface tension causes them to pool around the eye.)

Related: Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks on the Making of Apple TV+’s Twisty Space Thriller, ‘Constellation’ (Exclusive)

two photos, one above and one below, of a woman and a man respectively, sitting in a cockpit full of wires, levels and cablestwo photos, one above and one below, of a woman and a man respectively, sitting in a cockpit full of wires, levels and cables

two photos, one above and one below, of a woman and a man respectively, sitting in a cockpit full of wires, levels and cables

“Then there was the middle category – they should sort this out, but if they don’t I won’t be heartbroken about it. And then there were the little details, little details that no one would notice.’ I would say to them, ‘If you want this to be right, then it is, but no one is going to care.'”

“Definitely, people changing direction mid-module without using any counter force, like they had a jetpack on, that was the worst,” Kelly said.

Watch with us

Even though he was working on it, Kelly’s first time watching “Constellation” was when it debuted on Apple TV+. The first three episodes started streaming last week, with the fourth premiering on Wednesday (February 28).

His first impression of the series is that it is “great”.

“Especially space travel,” Kelly said. “Obviously I’m a little biased since that was the part I worked on, but I think it probably has some of the best depictions of life on the space station that I’ve seen. The other things are – Well, I understand it can be a little hard to follow, but I guess that will all happen as you get further into the story.”

Kelly doesn’t make a cameo, although his daughter thought she had picked up on a familiar, or rather, family theme.

“My daughter texted me, ‘Wait a minute, it’s those two old, bald guys [Henry and Bud Caldera, as played by Jonathan Banks] twin astronauts?” And I replied, “Do you want me to tell you?” She didn’t want me to tell her,” said Kelly, whose twin brother Mark was also a NASA astronaut before being elected to the U.S. Senate, representing the state of Arizona.

a woman in a blue flight suit looks out of a round windowa woman in a blue flight suit looks out of a round window

a woman in a blue flight suit looks out of a round window

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— Everything we know about ‘Constellation:’ Release date, plot, cast and more

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As for the show using the real space station to set up a suspense thriller, Kelly thought it was a natural connection.

“I think it’s just people’s natural tendency to be afraid of things they don’t understand much about, or things that are dark and creepy, like you might imagine space to be,” Kelly said. “There’s definitely a lot of risks involved and it’s dangerous, so it just makes sense.”

“But that can be funny too,” he said. “One of my neighbors texted me angrily: ‘Why didn’t you tell me not to watch that right before bed? Now I can’t sleep.'”

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