Netflix’s ‘Away’ follows the journey of the Atlas crew, who have embarked on the first manned mission to Mars. The show not just relies on solid science behind space exploration, but also depends on the emotional journeys of the characters. We see the astronauts struggle mentally and physically in space, and we also find their families trying to cope with their absence on Earth. All of this makes the story utterly human, and it makes us wonder if it is based on true events. Here’s what you should know about ‘Away’.
Is Away based on a true story?
No, ‘Away’ is not based on a true story, but it is partly inspired by a real one. Creator Andrew Hinderaker decided to create the show when he came across an article on Esquire. Written by Chris Jones, the article of the same name focuses on astronaut Scott Kelly’s six-month mission aboard the ISS. During that time, his family went through a serious crisis when his sister-in-law Gabby Giffords was shot. In the article, Kelly talks about the feeling of being away from one’s family just when they need you the most.
Hinderaker felt personally connected to Kelly’s experience because he had been through something similar. He had been working on a play in Chicago when the news about Eileen, his wife of fifteen years, having been diagnosed with a terrible disease was delivered to him. “The feeling of what was being described in that article, of what Scott felt to in one moment feel like you’re doing exactly the thing you’re meant to be doing, and then this piece of news is delivered where someone you love’s life has been turned upside down and your life has been turned upside down, and all you want to be is home,” he said to CBR. The protagonist of ‘Away’ goes through a similar experience when immediately after the take-off from Earth, her husband falls ill. This distance between them in the time when her family needs her the most is what becomes the primary driving emotion of the story.
Another thing that Hinderaker wanted to do with the show was to create a global story. “One of the pieces of Chris’ article I really responded to was his exploration of the International Space Station and how it came to be this improbable alliance of countries that normally don’t get along but were willing to work together because they had to, because what they were trying to do was so difficult and because it was an opportunity for the rocket scientists to build technologies and discovery instead of tools of destruction. I found that simultaneously pragmatic and hopeful and it felt like an incredible analog for a mission to Mars. So we knew it would be a story of the world coming together to take us farther than we’ve ever been,” he explained.
In addition to this, Jones was also brought onboard the writing staff where he, as Hinderaker puts it, “was a conduit for numerous conversations with astronauts, with astronauts’ families, with engineers and mission control personnel at Johnson Space Center and JPL. Those conversations and the support of NASA was absolutely invaluable, not just in getting the science right and we did do our best to get the science right where we could, but even more importantly, to capture what it feels like for everyone involved, the real lived experience.”
Hinderaker also met astronaut Don Pettit to get his perspective on the subject, and he also had an enlightening conversation with his wife Micki about the experience of staying behind on Earth. “ She described to me the experience of watching her husband launch into space and how it felt just minutes before that rocket took off, knowing that her best friend, in a few minutes, was either going to break through the atmosphere or blow up into a million pieces and how it was the most terrifying and most exhilarating moment of her life,” Hinderaker said. The emotion was captured impeccably in the show where the families struggle to grapple with the possibility that they might never see the crew of Atlas again.
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