The movie, The Martian, is a testament to fierce human determination to survive, and it is also a tribute to human ingenuity. I predict it will be good for NASA and for STEM broadly.
Mark Watney, the Matt Damon character, describes his predicament
“I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty- one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.”
But he does not crawl under a rock and die, he innovates and then some as the movie vividly shows.
The characters are science polymaths as one explains
“Everyone has multiple roles. I’m the doctor, the biologist, and the EVA specialist. Commander Lewis is our geologist. Johanssen is the sysop and reactor tech. Martinez pilots the MDV and MAV. “
Ridley Scott, the director, is no stranger to space and science fiction with credits like Alien and Promotheus. This movie weaves in the Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA locations in Houston and Cape Canaveral, and from the Chinese space agency – and celebrates astrodynamicists, botanists and a variety of other STEM careers.
The movie is adapted from a book which in itself is a tribute to crowdsourcing of STEM disciplines. In 2009, Andy Weir
“started posting the story chapter by chapter on his personal blog where anyone could read it for free. The early version of his self-published book attracted a lot of science-minded readers, and they offered feedback. Weir is a (software engineer and) space nerd, but he says chemistry is not his area of expertise. "Chemists actually pointed out some problems in early drafts," Weir said.”
NASA is basking in the PR from the movie. In a blog post they say
The Martian movie is set 20 years in the future, but here at NASA we are already developing many of the technologies that appear in the film. The movie takes the work we’re doing and extends it into fiction set in the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface. Here are a few ways The Martian movie compares to what we’re really doing on our journey to Mars.
Go enjoy the thrilling movie. Even more so, thank it for the next generation of STEM enthusiasts it will encourage.