In Brief

Don't Miss NASA's Cameo in Sci-Fi Film 'Oblivion'

The NASA logo is clearly visible in this still from the film trailer of the 2013 science fiction movie "Oblivion" starring Tom Cruise.
The NASA logo is clearly visible in this still from the film trailer of the 2013 science fiction movie "Oblivion" starring Tom Cruise. (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

When it comes to science fiction all eyes may be on 'Star Trek Into Darkness' right now, but last month's 'Oblivion' grabbed my attention and not just because it's one of the slickest sci-fi movies I've seen in years. No, what really grabbed my attention was NASA's hidden cameo — an appearance that sets up a pivotal plot point for the film.

"Oblivion" stars mega-star Tom Cruise as the glorified drone repairman Jack Harper, who serves as witness to an Earth ravaged and a moon destroyed in the wake of an alien invasion. There is A LOT going on in the film aside from the spectacular visual effects — it's amazing by the way, you should go see it — and that is where NASA comes in. NASA's cameo in "Oblivion" is actually revealed in the film's trailers, but if you blink you'll miss it. I know I did. There's a spot where Cruise's Harper runs up to what appears to be a stasis pod with a woman inside. What's that on the front? NASA's iconic meatball logo! What the What!? Is a NASA mission involved?

Later in the trailer, we see what is clearly some sort of spaceship cockpit, and it is strangely reminiscent of the flight deck of NASA's space shuttles. "Oblivion" has some extreme plot twists, so I can't go into more detail without revealing some crucial spoilers, but I will say that NASA's meatball logo is not the only space agency icon in the film. The woman Harper finds in the pod, Julia (portrayed by Olga Kurylenko) wears a flight suit through most of the film that is emblazoned with NASA's classic "worm" logo. If you stay through the credits of the film, you'll find out why that spaceship cockpit may resemble NASA's shuttle flight deck. It turns out former NASA astronaut Rick Searfoss, a retired space shuttle commander and Air Force colonel, served as a technical advisor. Searfoss spends his time these days as chief pilot for the private space plane company XCOR Aerospace.

In the science fiction film "Oblivion," a spaceship cockpit looks remarkably similar to the flight deck of NASA's space shuttles. This still is taken from the 2013 film's trailer. (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.