About 40 minutes into Sunshine (2007), the crew need to fix the shield. I don't understand this scene. According to Wikipedia's description:

Kaneda and Capa embark on a spacewalk to make repairs while the ship is angled away from the sun.

But how can it be angled away from the sun in the first place? What is protecting the ship from the sun when the shield isn't protecting it?


The shield of the Icarus ships is curved, so you could imagine them being able to angle the ship and the edge of the the front side of the shield would be in shade. They would not be able to angle the ship too much as then the living parts of the ship would be exposed, and then only get to the outside edge of the shield.

There are not that many good images you can find on, but this image shows the curve a bit from the back.

enter image description here

Clearly if the shield was flat, there would be no way they could perform this repair.

  • Hmm... I understood the shield was curved but it still doesn't make sense to me unless it's a complete hemisphere, which it isn't. May 22 '14 at 0:05
  • Another factor, which I'm not sure the OP entirely got, is that they had to change the course to get to the Icarus I, but they forgot to change the shield angle.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 22 '14 at 3:10
  • @DisgruntledGoat - is that true? If the sun is approximately a point source, any (small) amount of curve will hide one point on one edge if the tilt is enough (i.e. worse case 90 degrees will always hide one edge). Of course the more you have to tilt the more likely the ship gets exposed too. As the curve radius gets smaller, the tilt required to hide one edge gets smaller too, until the point where it is a hemisphere. Although I'd be happy to be shown the math doesn't work out for any reasonable interpretation of the images of the ship - I don't think it needs to be a hemisphere to work.
    – iandotkelly
    May 22 '14 at 3:22
  • And of course when its close enough that the assumption that its a point source breaks down makes it yet harder.
    – iandotkelly
    May 22 '14 at 3:53

Normally the Icarus II was kept completely centered in the shadow of the shield. Enroute, Icarus II picks up the distress beacon from Icarus I. The crew decide to investigate, ostensibly because two bombs are better than one, since the whole bomb is theoretical until used (such as the first atomic bomb was theoretical until first exploded).

When Trey performs a course correction in order to bring Icarus I to Icarus II, he forgets to properly realign the ship, which causes damage to the shield. Kaneda and Capa had to spacewalk out to fix the shield. The damage was near the edge, so they instructed Icarus I's computer to swing the ship as far away from the damaged section as possible so as to provide protection to the two walkers.

During the work, IIRC, the ship's aft section sustains damage from a solar flare and the gardens are destroyed, which causes a loss of oxygen and food. In order to save the Icarus II from total destruction, the computer realigns the ship to be properly centered, which is going to put Kaneda and Capa into the sunshine itself.

There is still one bit of damage to repair and they need to close the shield cover, so Kaneda (the Captain) orders Capa back to the Icarus and finishes the repair and closes the shield. As the ship finished realignment, Kaneda witnesses God, in the shape of the fiery furnace of the Sunshine and is instantly vaporized. (Or as instantly as possible, allowing for the drama of "Kaneda, what do you seeeeee?."

The whole preceding bit was the Navigator's (Trey) fault, because it was he who failed to align the ship properly in the first place, damaging the shield. He ends up committing suicide over the guilt of the loss of the Captain, the oxygen, the gardens and potentially, the mission, which would mean the end of civilization.

Pretty big load of guilt there.

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