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'Big Bang Theory' finale blasts into space with a real astronaut

May 10, 2012 |  4:39 pm

Kunal-Nayyar-Kaley-Cuoco-Simon-Helberg-Melissa-Rauch-Mayim-Bialik-and-Jim-Parsons-in-THE-BIG-BANG-THEORY-Episode-5.24-The-Countdown-Reflection

A wedding and a launch into outer space. There aren’t many TV shows that would attempt to tackle both of those in under 30 minutes, but “The Big Bang Theory” does just that in its Season 5 finale, which airs tonight.

The episode, “The Countdown Reflection,” features Howard (Simon Helberg) onboard the space capsule awaiting its launch, cut with flashbacks to the days prior, when he and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) scramble to finally get a wedding together before he leaves for Russia’s launch site.

Following up on the recent guest appearance of Stephen Hawking, the CBS show has brought in another man who’s had a few real-life brushes with science to play himself: NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. Massimino, who has been on two Space Shuttle missions, compared the experience on set to his real journeys into the final frontier.

“Being around [the cast and crew] felt like being around a family,” Massimino told press at the Paley Center for Media last week. “That feeling was similar to what I feel at NASA.… I felt the same camaraderie when I was on the set with these guys.”

The astronaut-engineer also affirmed “Big Bang Theory’s” reputation for scientific accuracy. Not only did he give his stamp of approval to the replica of the Soyuz space capsule — on display at the Paley Center — but he also said how the scene on the launch pad plays out is pretty close to reality.

TBBT_MG_7465r“The conversations [in the episode], believe it or not, are pretty realistic of what you might talk about laying on your back on top of a rocket,” Massimino said.

For Howard, that meant begrudgingly responding to the nickname his two fellow space-explorers had picked for him — “Fruit Loops” — and making little attempt to hide his anxiety about blasting beyond Earth's atmosphere: “Quick question — how much urine do these [space] suits hold?'” he says.

Helberg actually channeled that fear with the help of Massimino.

“He was talking about the mental state that you get in and what it’s like seeing space, and I started all of the sudden just sweating, and I felt like I was in that mindset at that moment — I felt like I was going to space, and I was terrified,” Helberg said.

The replica of the Soyuz space capsule used in the episode will be on display in the lobby of the Paley Center for Media until May 17.

RELATED:

CBS' 'Big Bang Theory' tops ratings for first time this season

Warner Bros. TV stars gather to celebrate Paley Center exhibit

Stephen Hawking works his comedic chops on 'The Big Bang Theory'

— Emily Rome

Top photo: "The Big Bang Theory" gang watches the TV coverage of Howard's launch. Credit: Michael Yarish / CBS.

Bottom photo: Executive producer Bill Prady (left), Simon Helberg and Mike Massimino in the show's replica of the Soyuz space capsule. Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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