The Martian: Fact or Fiction?

by COLIN MANGAN

Based on Andy Weir’s novel of the same name, The Martian stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut marooned on Mars after he is separated from his crew. With limited supplies and the possibility of being stuck on Mars for at least three years, Watney must figure out how to survive on Mars’ merciless landscape. Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA discovers that Watney is still alive and must formulate a plan to rescue him before it’s too late. The film also stars Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara and Sean Bean.

So far the film has grossed a total of $114M worldwide and has been praised by critics for it’s visual affects, acting performance and scientific accuracy. But come to think of it, how scientifically accurate is The Martian? In the movie, Watney is separated from his crew by a violent windstorm. The wind was supposedly the speed of about 100 mph and that wind literally blew Watney away. However in reality, Mars’ atmospheric pressure is only about 1% of Earth’s. So 100 mph winds on Mars would have the dynamic pressure of 10 mph on Earth. Also, Watney had to grow food on Mars. Mark Watney was a botanist, so he mixed Mars’ dirt with nature’s fertilIzer. So is it possible to grow potatoes on Mars? The answer is yes, but the process would have been very dangerous and in real life, Mark Watney would have become very sick from eating those potatoes.

First of all, Mars’ dirt contains a dangerous amount of perchlorates, a type of salt that is very hazardous to humans. However these materials can be separated from the dirt by rinsing the dirt in water. Secondly, Watney used human feces as fertilizer. Human feces is a biosolid so it does contain a certain level of bacteria but if you heat it up to 160° F for 21 days, it should kill most of the harmful bacteria. Next, Mark Watney engineered water by dissociated hydrogen and nitrogen from hydrazine rocket fuel and then burning it with oxygen. Yes, this is very accurate but there is an easier way to create water. Watney could have simply just burned the water from the soil since Mars’ soil is 5% water and 60% water near the poles.

The Martian is a movie that questions whether we can survive on Mars and colonize it. Is it possible to survive on Mars? Recently NASA discovered water on Mars and have concluded that Mars had lakes roughly 3 billion years ago. NASA now plans to manufacture oxygen on Mars. NASA is already making plans to send astronauts up to a Martian moon and eventually establish a permanent base. NASA has had a solar-powered rover on Mars for over ten years. So if you like science or you just like sci-fi movies because you think you sound smart for seeing them then see The Martian at a theater near you.