The film adaptation of Andy Weir’s sci-fi novel “The Martian” opens everywhere on Friday, October 2, and it has amassed a huge fan following — partly thanks to the book’s scientific accuracy and realism.
But does the story’s dedication hold up under scrutiny from real scientists and astronauts?
We’ve rounded up some of the best critiques of “The Martian” from space experts who’ve seen the movie. The reception so far has been positive, but some of the movie’s most discerning critics couldn’t help but point out a few glaring errors.
Keep scrolling to see what they had to say.
Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the book “The Martian.”
As NASA's planetary science director, Jim Green knows a thing or two about Mars. So director Ridley Scott recruited him as a consultant for the movie adaptation.
Green told Tech Insider that he spent hours talking with Scott about Mars in the beginning stages of the movie's production. Green answered questions, and he sent Scott mockups of NASA's plans for a real Mars mission tentatively slated for the 2030s.
All that research and NASA consultation really comes through in the movie.
'It's a visually stunning movie that doesn't look much different than the real versions,' Green told Tech Insider.
'There's a lot of NASA in there, which they captured quite nicely,' astronaut Michael Barratt said during an appearance on KING-TV's 'New Day Northwest' program.
Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, pointed out a more specific example in an op-ed for Space.com:
The movie portrays the operational side of things pretty well. Astronauts and NASA think through every scenario as thoroughly as possible, and plan for every reasonable contingency. Still, we sometimes get surprised. In those cases, it is up to individual and collective creativity to solve the problem and try for a good outcome. The movie holds up on this account.
Astronaut Clayton Anderson told Quartz something similar:
Rather for me, the highlight was the film's refreshing and inspiring depiction of NASA. I'm not talking about physical depictions mind you (the Vertical Assembly Building does not reside at the Johnson Space Center) but instead the film's sense of an ever-present drive on the part of NASA employees to pull together to win the day, even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds. Just as I witnessed so often throughout my own 30-year NASA career, a team of ordinary, caring people with little regard to their personal needs put in just a little bit extra, to do something extraordinary.
Most scientists give props to 'The Martian' for its scientific accuracy. But they can't resist pointing out a few problems.
Like the dust storm on Mars that happens at the very beginning of 'The Martian.'
'The big windstorm on Mars -- that's just not going to happen,' Fred Calef, a geologist and geospatial information scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Smithsonian Magazine. 'Even hurricane-force wind on Mars is going to feel like having paper balls thrown at you.'
Watney grows his own food on Mars by planting potato eyes, fertilizing them with human waste, and creating liquid water out of rocket fuel.
But there might be an easier way, Green told Tech Insider.
We know that Mars has frozen water and the soil contains nitrate, which is 'a great fertiliser,' he said. With so much nitrate, he may have not needed all that 'homemade' fertiliser.
Green also noted Watney also could have skipped a fiery, dangerous chemical reaction to transform rocket fuel into water. Instead, Watney could have extracted water from below the surface -- now more of a certainty, thanks to recent news of flowing water on Mars -- or suck it right out of the air.
Robert Frost, an instructor and flight controller at NASA pointed out a small problem in a Quora thread:
As a NASA geek, I don't find the space stuff to be 100% realistic -- for example Watney's use of airlocks is a lot less arduous than real-life -- but it is one of the most plausible sci-fi books I've read. I wonder if the technical stuff that I so enjoyed in the story might be less interesting to a non-NASA geek.
NASA astronaut and potential Mars candidate Victor Glover said 'The Martian' is now on the shortlist of 'recommended reading' around the astronaut office, Mashable reported.
Glover says the story is like 'The Rocket Company' meets 'The Da Vinci Code.'
There's so much realism in 'The Martian' that it's easy to imagine a manned mission to Mars happening in real life too.
Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, said 'The Martian' is mostly science with only a little fiction.
'What this story does really well is imagine a near-future scenario that doesn't push too far of where we are today technically,' Finn told the LA Times.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab faux-Mars site project manager Jim Erickson agrees.
'It's saying getting someone on Mars is not science fiction,' Erickson told the LA Times. 'It's there. We just have to do it.'
Costume designer Janty Yates actually worked directly with NASA to design the spacesuits used in the film. The result is more streamlined and colourful versions of the real thing.
Former astronaut Leroy Chiao summed it up perfectly:
'Of course, the spacesuits look much cooler than the real ones I used,' he wrote in an op-ed for Space.com.
Many hope the international collaboration between space programs that we see in 'The Martian' happens in real life.
Chiao pointed out the potential benefits of international collaboration in his Space.com op-ed:
The fact is, international cooperation in civil space programs has improved relations between partner nations. Although relations today between the United States and Russia could be better, I argue that they would be worse if we didn't have this highly visible ISS program together. We can and should go down the same path with other countries, like China.
It's no secret that NASA is using 'The Martian' to draw attention to its own Mars program. That effort is ambitious, but stunted by NASA's limited budget.
During a Yahoo interview, director Ridley Scott said that during one of the screenings for the movie, a NASA scientist muttered 'Maybe this (the movie) will help us with the reprogramming and the refinancing.'
'I mean he was partly joking, but that was very nice,' Scott said during the interview.
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