I just watched Gravity for the third time. The ending got me to thinking. It's never clearly explained in the movie, but where did Sandra Bullock's character end up landing? To me it looks suspiciously like China, possibly, which makes total sense considering she took the Shenzhou craft from the Chinese space station. I know the actual filming location was Lake Powell in Arizona. enter image description here

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    The screenplay just says "a lake"; screenplayexplorer.com/wp-content/scripts/gravity.pdf – Valorum Feb 11 '15 at 13:21
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    Related: movies.stackexchange.com/q/14377/49. – TARS Feb 11 '15 at 13:41
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    "which makes total sense considering she took the Shenzhou" The fact that she took a Chinese spacecraft from a Chinese space station has absolutely no bearing on where it would land - no manned station is in geosynchronous orbit, so they could come down anywhere. The situation gets even more unpredictable given that the craft and the station were both carrying out an unplanned, uncontrolled re-entry at the time. – anaximander Feb 11 '15 at 16:54
  • @anaximander it landed autonomously so almost certainly on a predefined course to China and not randomly based on the location of initiation. The real question is how did communication or guidance magically start working when 'all the satellites' had been destroyed. Basically the director is covering up his lazy incompetence with a shroud of mystery "oh, I meant to do that" – JamesRyan Feb 12 '15 at 15:39
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    @JamesRyan She undocked from the station when it was already brushing atmosphere. The Shenzhou capsule really doesn't have enough fuel or thrust to alter its landing site that much when starting from that low an altitude. The autonomous landing sequence just does the right things at the right altitudes; it doesn't control which bit of the Earth you come down on, it just makes sure that when you get there, you hit it gently. – anaximander Feb 12 '15 at 20:58

According to IMDB:

The final scene was filmed at Lake Powell, Arizona, which is a giant water reservoir on the Colorado river. Whether this water was meant to represent Lake Powell in the movie itself as well is unknown; however, judging by the path of the debris it's doubtful, since the Tiangong is seen entering the atmosphere above the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, so it would seem that Ryan Stone would have landed on a lake in Central Asia.

Yet, since we clearly hear an American radio station through the speaker of the Shenzhou it's probable that Alfonso Cuarón wanted to leave the exact place of the landing ambiguous.

In one of the bonus featurettes on the blu-ray DVD, the filmmakers address the landscape seen when Stone resurfaces. The surrounding terrain on Lake Powell is normally desert-like, with barren and rocky formations. They show how they took the surrounding landscape of Lake Powell and enhanced it to make it look like a green, living area.

She enters the atmosphere over the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, so she should land in Central Asia somewhere but we can hear an American radio station through the speaker of the Shenzhou, which would indicate she's in America somehow, so we really don't know where she lands... Which apparently was the point.

  • "Which apparently was the point." Well, that and symbolism of birth and evolution. – KSmarts Feb 11 '15 at 16:00
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    @KSmarts Well not really. I was referring to the ambiguity surrounding where she lands, which is what the OP was asking about. No one asked about symbolism or meaning... – Daft Feb 11 '15 at 16:53
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    Isn't Lake Powell also were the initial scenes of the original Planet of the Apes were shot? – David Rouse Feb 11 '15 at 20:22

This blog has dissected the film to determine the location of every shot in the film Gravity and to compare it with the corresponding location on Google Earth.

To cut a long story short, the final shots of the film should take place somewhere in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea or South Aral Sea (and based on the trajectory of the falling debris, the Tiangong Module should land somewhere near to the northern coastline) however the 200KM and below footage has been rendered completely in CGI.

Even ignoring the erratic trajectory (filmmaker's license), the island that she passes over and the lake that she lands in are fictional.

enter image description here

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    Or maybe she's fictional and the island and lake are real... – Daft Feb 11 '15 at 14:07
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    @Daft - * Mind blown * – Valorum Feb 11 '15 at 14:10
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    I don't think you can complain about erratic trajectory and fictional lakes in a film where all satellites orbit at the same altitude and inclination, in the wrong direction. – KSmarts Feb 11 '15 at 16:03
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    Obviously, the movie took place on a different planet remarkably similar to our own, like the ones Captain Kirk kept finding on Star Trek. Maybe on this one, everyone's an astronaut. – John Sensebe Mar 21 '16 at 16:15

I think it is, as you say, deliberately left ambiguous - certainly because in the end it doesn't matter, she's back on earth safe and sound as she wanted to be. Whether she is in-fact safe is subject matter for another film :)

As to where she could possibly be, it could be anywhere - lets not forget that by the time she boarded the Chinese station, it was already in a dire situation due to the fact that it was skimming the atmosphere. She then immediately boards the Shenzhou as the station is ripped apart around her, so there is no real planning on where the deorbit burn will occur (there is typically several hours between undocking and actual deorbit for ISS visitors), it just happens as the station is destroyed.

With that in mind, its unlikely the craft was on target for a Chinese landing, IMHO shes just lucky she didn't end up in the middle of the Pacific.

  • Anywhere? This is a pretty ambiguous answer. I mean, I already ruled out Antarctica, so it can't be "anywhere", as you say. – yuritsuki Feb 11 '15 at 16:42
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    @genericeroticroleplay I can rule out a lot of other places based on biome. She's not in a desert, taiga, plains/savannah, or jungle, either. – KSmarts Feb 11 '15 at 20:59
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    @genericeroticroleplay oh yay, someone took me too literally :/ sometimes I wonder if its ever worth posting here. – Moo Feb 11 '15 at 21:20
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    @Moo a bunch of people avoiding work with Tolkien lore pissing contests? Its always going to be a crapshoot! – Gusdor Feb 12 '15 at 8:34

First check this: http://ogleearth.com/2014/01/every-earth-view-from-gravity-identified-in-google-earth/

I believe "Mystery" landscape 590 is 44°53'59.67"N 51° 6'10.28"E Which puts it at the north east corner of the Caspian Sea. Based on the trajectory in the movie, she appears to be going east and perhaps somewhat south.

My opinion, she ends up in Aydar Lake in Uzbekistan, probably on the eastern end where it becomes smaller.


Without the in depth analysis, I first got the impression she had landed at Lake Zurich, but then I thought that the director would perhapsTo find that ending, too predictable. But I feel I got that impression from the clearly American radio station playing in the escape capsule, and from the mission control's director (Ed Harris). :)

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    There appears to be an incomplete sentence here. Was some text accidentally cut while you were posting this? – Null Nov 20 '15 at 4:43

The location is supposed to represent a primordial place. She has experienced the hero's journey, been reborn. She represents not only Dr. Ryan Stone who has defeated her own grief and transcended literal death as well a figurative death, but humanity--even all land mammals, even evolution. The setting is Galapagos-like. In her skin tight clothes, she is the first creature who climbs out of the sea an onto land, dragging her body as she breathes the air. Then, she is a four-legged animal. Then, a biped. The frog, the insects and the strange landscape are not from our time. Prehistoric. Yet, the space station burns up in the atmosphere above her.

Some theories state that life on earth originated from outer-space.

Is it possible that Cuarón is saying humans must evolve again, that we must transcend our grief, our attachment to time and space and to even life itself. That our pain originates in our attachments?


The fact that the craft was Chinese did not indicate that it would land in China! It was entirely random where it landed. It was not an automated re-entry trajectory. The fact that Houston detected it on radar, and that it was filmed in the USA, rather suggests that she landed in the USA.

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    This seems like pure guesswork. What does it matter where it was filmed? – Valorum May 14 '16 at 8:11

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