Here’s why this is the decade of superstar astronaut movie roles

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In the recent science fiction film Ad Astra, Brad Pitt plays an astronaut, and the only surprising thing about it is that he hasn’t played one before. His Ocean’s Eleven ringleader George Clooney already went to space on film in Gravity and Solaris, and their co-star Matt Damon did in The Martian. Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Robert Pattison, Juliette Binoche, and Ryan Gosling have all gone into some form of make-believe orbit, too. Now, a few weeks after Pitt charted a course for Neptune in Ad Astra, Natalie Portman is playing a more earthbound (but still active) NASA star in Lucy in the Sky.

That’s a lot of movie stars in the stars, and most of them have made the journey fairly recently. Hanks and Willis did their astronaut movies in the 1990s, but most of the others blasted off in the past five years or so. Though the Moon landing recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, movie astronauts were mostly featured in science fiction, horror, and / or shlock for much of the 1970s and 1980s,

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