Disaster movie causes small storm at NASA


May 02, 2004|By New York Times News Service

Urgent: HQ Direction," began a message e-mailed on April 1 to dozens of scientists and officials at the Goddard Space Flight Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Greenbelt.

It was not an alert about an incoming asteroid, a problem with the space station, or a solar storm. It was a warning about a movie.

In The Day After Tomorrow, a $125 million disaster film that is to open on May 28, global warming from accumulating smokestack and tailpipe gases sets off an instant ice age.

Few climate experts think such a prospect is likely, especially in the near future. But the prospect that moviegoers will be alarmed enough to blame the Bush administration for inattention to climate change has stirred alarm at the space agency, scientists there say.

"No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with" the film, said the April 1 message, which was sent by Goddard's top press officer. "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA."

By mid-April, however, NASA appeared to relax its stand on discussing the movie. Though she did not disavow the e-mail message, Gretchen Cook-Anderson, a spokeswoman at NASA headquarters, said the agency would make scientists available to discuss issues raised by the film.

The new movie's script contains a host of politically uncomfortable situations: The president's motorcade is flash frozen; the vice president, who scoffs at warnings even as chaos erupts, resembles Dick Cheney; the humbled United States has to plead with Mexico to allow masses of American refugees fleeing the ice to cross the border.

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