Science of ‘The Martian’ gives viewers taste of deep space travel

Published: March 10, 2016

ALEX HABER
Science & Tech Editor

Released to theatres in October 2015, “The Martian” starring Matt Damon, follows the tale of survival of an astronaut stranded on the planet Mars. The movie was hosted by the Royal Astronomy Club at The University in the Moskovitz theatre on March 3.

The movie, a work of science fiction, does contain many plausible and validated scientific possibilities. In a recent article published ‘Astronomy’. The article had interviewed the director, producer and writer of the movie.

The movie is based off the New York Times bestseller by Andrew Weir, and retains much of the scientific accuracy that Weir tried to employ in the novel.

In order to ensure the accuracy of the movie, producers interviewed members of NASA and other scientists in the field to be sure to the movie remained accurate. Many of the experiments that Damon performs in the movie were tried and tested to ensure the realism of the movie.

As an example, when Damon must make water in order to water his crops, he uses the rocket fuel hydrazine. To make sure that this reaction was possible, the producers contacted one of their scientists, who performed the experiment to confirm its validity.

NASA also played a heavy role in the design of the spacecraft, named the Hermes, and the miscellaneous space equipment from the Hab, astronaut habitat, to the space suit that Damon wears. The movie went for authenticity, and struck gold.

The attention to detail in the movie reflects the goals of NASA and other space agencies to place a man on Mars. Prolonged space travel is still more than a few years off, but the images we got in “The Martian” are not far off from what NASA expects the mission to look like.

The movie reflects the United States’ and other countries’ intentions of placing a man on Mars. NASA is currently working on step one of their three step mission to Mars.

With the return of Scott Kelly from his one year aboard the international space station, scientists are able to run twin studies to determine the effects of long term exposure to zero gravity and radiation in space. NASA must first understand the effects of space and develop safety protocols for astronauts.

The second step is the development of habitation facilities for astronauts. NASA intends to study this by capturing an asteroid in 2020. They will use the surface of the asteroid to test facilities for human habitation.

The third phase is called Earth independence phase. It consists of long term lunar surface habitats that require little to no maintenance. This would also require the testing of acquisition of materials from Martian resources. This phase of the plan will be the longest, yet NASA is still committed to placing a man on Mars in the 2030s.

“The Martian” is a reflection of mankind’s obsession with space travel. It embodies the sense of adventure characteristic of NASA and space and enthusiasts around the globe. Hailed for its scientific accuracy, “The Martian” gives a taste of what may be to come.

Contact the writer: alexander.haber@scranton.edu

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