How Accurate is Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’
“I was on my way back from the cafeteria and our public affairs officer came up to me and asked if I had time to talk to Ridley Scott,” saysDr. Jim Green, director of Planetary Science at NASA. “I said I could probably clear my schedule.”
The film director who kicked offthe Alien franchise was calling the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to discuss his big budget science fiction film The Martian, based on the book by Andy Weir. The tale follows Astronaut Mark Watney, who becomes stranded on Mars after being knocked out during a freak dust storm and accidentally left for dead by his colleagues. It’s a move that likely wouldn’t work for the standard indie filmmaker, but your chances of being taken seriously increase dramatically if the movie stars Academy Award winner Matt Damon.
“Science Fiction is an important part of our culture and pursuits. We need that dream of what the future could bring to drive us,” says Dr. Green about the incentive for assisting Scott and his production crew in the technical planning of the film. He read the book the weekend after receiving the call and discovered that, though Weir had researched the best selling novel almost exclusively using data he found on Google, much of it was accurate.
The beginnings of The Martian are humble. Uploaded to the Internet as a serialfor free by Weir, the son of a particle physicist, he was convinced by fans to sell the complete novelthrough Amazon for 99 cents. Itspopularity eventually led to Crown Publishing buying the print rights in 2013. Though editors found a few small issues with the storytelling, what was clear was the fact checking done on the science aspect of the tale was impeccable.”I didn’t know anyone in aerospace at the time I wrote this. I didn’t know anyone at JPL or NASA. I was just a dork writing a story,” Weir says, laughing. Believing him to be dead, the crew departs Mars without him, kicking off the drama. According to Dr. Green, the atmosphere is too thin to create wind gusts able to toss the team’s communications equipment around like a toothpick. “We’ve never seen one that powerful,” Dr. Green assures.
Here’s what they get right:The LabThe Martian takes place, in the late 2030s. To allow the most realistic portrayal of the habitat as possible, Dr. Green arrangedfor Scott’s production designer Arthur Max to visit both the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “I had a whole day with him walking around and showing him all the designs and mock ups that we have for the Habs,” Dr. Green says. “He wanted to know everything: where the microwave was, where they slept, and he was just taking pictures the whole time. He must have taken a few thousand pictures.”
In terms of the vehicles, Hermes was made to reflect the current concepts that NASA is working on for their own spacecrafts destined for Mars. There was similar attention to detail paid to the rovers that Watney is left to cruise around on the surface with, except that NASA’s model has a round front screen, while Scott’s has a square window. Dr. Green says, “We have several large prototypes already made up.” There is even a crowd pleasing cameo appearance by the Mars Pathfinder rover Sojourner that Scott had re created almost identically.
The SuitsThe Martianthat has been a standby for NASA missions for decades. Duct tape. In the movie Watney logs an entry, “Yes, of course duct tape works in a near vacuum. Duct tape works everywhere. It is magic and should be worshipped.” The iconic silver tape has bailed astronauts out of a pinch before. In 1972 the crew of hermes evelyne replica bag
Apollo 17 lost the fender off their moonbuggy, allowing space dust to kick up into the cockpit, and they fixed the problem with duct tape. Dr. Green laughs, “It’s a universal tool, and one of the great inventions.”
The CropsThe Martian is meant to entertain, but there is hope from NASA that the movie will help keep the world looking up at the stars. As Dr. Green says, though, “Check your science at the door and just enjoy it.”For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!
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