Space Cadet: Is Rex Simpson Based on a Real Person?

Image Credit: Eric Liebowitz//Prime Video

Starring Emma Roberts in the lead role, ‘Space Cadet’ follows the story of Rex Simpson. Since childhood, she has harbored the dream of becoming an astronaut, but several things kept her from following the dream. Years later, she returns to that dream and thinks about applying to NASA’s astronaut training program, but she doesn’t have the credentials to back her application. Due to her best friend’s interference and a stroke of luck, Rex is approved for the program, but this only marks the beginning of her problems. Considering the elite nature of NASA’s program, it feels impossible for a person to get into it so easily. However, the point to remember here is the message the movie wants to send through Rex Simpson and her story.

Rex Simpson’s Relatability Makes Her a Compelling Fictional Protagonist

‘Space Cadet’ is an original story written and directed by Liz W. Garcia, who came up with the idea after reading an article where NASA revealed that, for that year, half of the trainees in their astronaut program were women. This was an inspiring read, but it also led Garcia to wonder about being a woman in a male-dominated world and what it takes to get into the program. She was interested in exploring the story from the lens of a female astronaut, but she wanted someone who felt more relatable to the audience, someone who didn’t have their life figured out quite like the ambitious people in the astronaut training program.

The relatability of the character was the topmost priority for Garcia. She wanted to focus on someone “not changing to become a hero but is given a chance to do so” while being who they are. Inspired by the likes of ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Private Benjamin,’ she wanted someone fun as the protagonist, and the image that popped up in her head was that of a “Florida girl.”

Despite the desire to keep Rex grounded, Garcia knew that the protagonist needed to bring something to the table for her to be accepted into NASA without it seeming too preposterous. The character didn’t go to college, had nothing to do with STEM, and had no skills required for applying to the space program. Why would NASA see her as a possible candidate to send into space? For this, Garcia made Rex a “DIY Imagineer,” an engineer with a knack for inventing things on the go and coming up with solutions to things that no one else can envision. Above all, Rex had to be someone who was not only willing to work with people but could emerge as a leader, keeping the team together, a quality not everyone has, regardless of their qualifications for the space program.

Not Giving Up on Dreams Drives Rex’s Story

Image Credit: Eric Liebowitz//Prime Video

Garcia revealed that when she started working on ‘Space Cadet,’ the one thing she wanted to do with the story was to bust the myth that you cannot accomplish your dreams past a certain age. She remembered turning thirty and feeling utterly unaccomplished, but also remembering that reaching a certain age doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world. There is no deadline for a dream if you are passionate about it, and this is what she wanted to reflect in Rex’s story.

For someone wanting to be an astronaut, Rex doesn’t have any necessary degree or experience to deem her suitable for an astronaut. Yet, she has a unique talent that would make her quite a good option for being sent into space. Through this, Garcia wanted to highlight that we often have dreams for which we might not have the right credentials but for which we might have talents that can be used in the field we are interested in. She wishes that people like that could get a chance to pursue their passion and employ their talents in the field they are interested in, even if they don’t hold proper degrees for it.

The writer-director also emphasized the importance of having a support structure behind a person to encourage them to follow their dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem. Through Rex, she gives all of that to the audience, hoping that they will see a part of themselves in Rex, even if she is a fictional character.

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