"Space Cowboys" Movie Summary

by Rachel Murray
Clint Eastwood stars as astronaut Frank Corvin.

Clint Eastwood stars as astronaut Frank Corvin.

Chris Weeks/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

An adventure drama riddled with humor, "Space Cowboys" was directed by Clint Eastwood and was released in 2000. The movie focuses on four men who get a second chance of fulfilling their lifelong dreams of going to outer space. All well into their 50s, members of the team not only have to struggle to pass their training and physicals but must also face unforeseen complications while in space.

Plot Summary

When an old Russian satellite threatens to fall out of orbit if not repaired, NASA must call on Frank Corvin, the only engineer familiar with the satellite's design. However, Frank refuses to help unless NASA agrees to hire his old team. In 1958, Frank and his three friends were to be the first Americans in space until NASA was formed and sent a chimp in their place. Now, 40 years later, the four men are given the opportunity, but when they finally make it to space, their simple mission to repair a satellite becomes much more complicated.


Clint Eastwood plays Frank Corvin, a retired United States Air Force pilot and the electrical engineer on the team. After his team disbanded, Frank retired and was living a quiet life with his family until NASA called for his help. Tommy Lee Jones stars as Hawk Hawkins, the team's risk-taking pilot who is working as a crop duster in the beginning of the film. The movie also features Donald Sutherland as Jerry O'Neill, the women-chasing structural engineer who now designs roller coasters, and James Garner as Tank Sullivan, the navigator turned Baptist minister.


"Space Cowboys" earned positive reviews from critics such as the Village Voice, which called the film "an entertainingly raffish action-comedy." The New York Post's review said the film was an "expertly directed, acted and written crowd pleaser" and the Chicago Reader praised the special effects. Roger Ebert gave the movie three out of four stars and praised the cast, saying "there's an abundance of charm and screen presence from the four veteran actors."


While completing their pre-mission physicals, we learn that Hawk has terminal cancer and only has eight months left. However, NASA declares him flight-worthy, along with the rest of the team. Once in space, the team learns that the satellite they were sent to repair is armed with nuclear missiles. After a plan to use their shuttle's rockets to push the satellite out of orbit fails, they decide to use the rockets attached to the satellite instead. The plan requires someone to stay behind to manually launch the rockets from the satellite, and Hawk volunteers himself. After leaving Hawk, the rest of the team manages to fly the heavily damaged shuttle safely back to Earth.

Photo Credits

  • Chris Weeks/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images