To some, “The Martian” might just sound like “Interstellar” 2.0: a big budget sci-fi movie where Matt Damon gets stranded in space. We’re all very aware of the symmetry:
Why yes, Matt Damon did play a stranded astronaut in Interstellar. Thank you, thousands of people, for pointing that out over and over.
— Andy Weir (@andyweirauthor) June 8, 2015
But there’s going to be a huge difference between the two sci-fi movies: “The Martian” is going to be heavy on the science fact, and light on the science fiction.
Weir is a self-described lifetime space nerd, and that becomes obvious just a few pages into “The Martian.” The movie adaptation doesn’t shy away from the science either.
“The Martian” is a gritty survivalist tale that follows the story of astronaut Mark Watney after he is stranded on Mars when his crew is forced to leave without him.
He’s left in a space habitat designed to last for 30 days with no way to contact home. The next crew isn’t coming for another four years, but Watney is determined to be alive when they get there.
“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,” Watney says in the trailer. Hell yes he is.
That sentiment is already present in the book — it’s what keeps the plot moving. Before writing the novel, Weir imagined what a manned mission to Mars would look like, and all the things that could go wrong.
“So I made one unfortunate protagonist and I subjected him to all of them,” Weir said during a talk at the Humans to Mars Summit.
The story doesn’t read as one random disaster after another though. Watney relies on his science background to tackle each problem of being a lone, stranded human on an inhospitable planet — securing food, oxygen, and transportation on Mars.
“To a nerd like me, working out all the maths and physics for Mark’s problems and solutions was fun,” Weir wrote in a Q&A at the end of the book. “The more I worked on it, the more I realised I had accidentally spent my life researching for this story.”
Weir even wrote his own software to calculate the orbital paths he uses in the story.
The film looks like it’s going to keep a lot of the science intact.
It’s full of the same kind of science-backed disasters, like dust storms on Mars:
What can happen when you mess with rocket fuel:
And when a space habitat airlock breaks:
We aren’t the only ones excited for the movie. Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield gave the book a glowing review: “It has the very rare combination of a good, original story, interestingly real characters and fascinating technical accuracy…reads like ‘MacGyver’ meets ‘Mysterious Island,'” Hadfield wrote.
NASA is even involved in the film. While the government agency can’t support a private enterprise, their experts have consulted on the movie, and production has worked very closely with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab officials, Weir said. European Space Agency officials have also been on the film set.
NASA also gave permission for the film to use the copyrighted NASA logo on its costumes, as you can see in these screenshots from the trailer:
NASA has even pointed out how realistic parts of Weir’s book is:
So yeah, Watney is going to be science-ing the shit out of things in the movie too.
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