For these last few months, the phrase “ad astra” has had one meaning; that new space movie starring Brad Pitt. But, this is more than just a movie title. Ad astra is not just some lyrical sounding made-up word, as it’s actually a real phrase, and it actually has a much deeper meaning when you pair it with Pitt’s new movie. The title Ad Astra is reflective of not only what astronauts do, but also the greater theme of the movie as Pitt’s Roy McBride blasts off into the cosmos.
Ad Astra tells the story of McBride, an astronaut, who travels into the depths of space in hopes of finding his missing father whose extraterrestrial experiments threaten the solar system, and consequently, life here on Earth. Along the way, McBride discovers some secrets of the universe himself.
Essentially, McBride is heading “to the stars,” and guess what? That’s exactly what ad astra means. It’s a Latin term, and maybe anyone who was kindly forced to take the dead language in high school is slowly beginning to recall a thing or two. Ad astra is also commonly found as part of a longer Latin phrase, “ad astra per aspera,” which translates to “through hardships to the stars.” It literally means exactly what you think it means, which is that you’re going to pass through some rocky times trying to reach the outer limits of what you want, or the stars. So, basically the entire plot of the new Pitt-starrer.
It’s entirely possible you’ve come across some form of ad astra in your everyday life because it’s frequently used as parts of a motto, especially among different Air Force branches around the world. The Royal Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand Air Force use the phrase, “per ardua ad astra” — which means “Through struggle to the stars” as their motto. And then there's beloved writer John Steinbeck, who frequently used a stamp that said “ad astra per alas porci.” That means “to the stars on the wings of a pig.” Meanwhile, the whole state of Kansas uses, “ad astra per aspera” as their motto, which translates to “a rough road leads to the stars."
Unless you’re getting ready to take the SATs, you really don’t need to brush up on any of these Latin phrases yourself, but it is certainly a fun fact you can use to impress others. Maybe even your date to Ad Astra when you lean over and tell them what it means.