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Biomedical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone is on her first space shuttle mission, accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski, who is commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk, debris from a satellite crashes into the space shuttle Explorer, destroying most of it and leaving them stranded in space with limited air. The debris continues to hit other satellites, causing a chain reaction of destruction until the satellites necessary for the two astronauts to communicate with Mission Control in Houston are also destroyed. Nevertheless, both Kowalski and Stone continue to transmit "in the blind" to Mission Control, in the hopes that Mission Control can hear them, regardless of whether or not they receive messages from Mission Control.
Stone tumbles out of control after separating from the shuttle's cargo bay arm. Kowalski, who is wearing a thruster pack as part of his spacesuit navigates to Stone and retrieves her. The two tether together, and make their way back to Explorer, where they discover the shuttle has been damaged beyond repair, and the rest of their crew are dead. They then decide to use the thruster pack to make their way to the ISS, which is nearby in orbit. Kowalski sets the timer on his suit for 90 minutes, estimating the debris that destroyed Explorer will orbit the Earth and come back around in that amount of time.
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