Why NASA Loves the Tech in ‘The Martian’

By Vince Matthews

Movies can have a very powerful impact on an audience. Take, for example, the 1986 Tom Cruise actioner, Top Gun. That film did more to help Navy recruitment than any other effort in military history. NASA is hoping a new Matt Damon film called The Martian will do for space exploration what Top Gun did for the Navy.


The Martian stars Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney, who is left stranded on Mars. The movie follows his journey to survive on the desolate planet and ultimately, get back home.

It’s Science Fact, Not Fiction
Based on the best-selling book by Andy Weir, The Martian is science fiction that borders on science fact. Weir (a self-professed nerd) who studied computer science at UC San Diego, spent months researching the book, Googling facts to make sure his vision of traveling to Mars was realistic – and even going so far to write a program that would calculate spaceship arrival times between Earth and Mars.

As soon as Ridley contacted us and we recognized that he wanted to paint that really accurate picture, it was easy for us to endorse the movie…
– Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Sciences

It was incredibly important to Weir to get the science as close to real as possible. That’s part of what attracted director and filmmaker Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) to the project. Scott had read Weir’s book and realism was his top priority. And that meant involving NASA, which is already developing a plan to get humans to Mars.

To get NASA in the movie meant getting NASA’s involvement and approval of the script. Scott’s first call was to Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary sciences. He spoke with Green at length about the reality of the book.

“As soon as Ridley contacted us and we recognized that he wanted to paint that really accurate picture, it was easy for us to endorse the movie and then provide whatever kind of consultation and advice he needed to be able to execute on it,” NASA’s Green said in an interview.

mars-exploration-the-martian
Scientists agree that colonizing other planets, like Mars, is man’s best hope for longterm survival. (Image: 20th Century Fox)

It is Rocket Science
While movies like Interstellar and Gravity have helped bring awareness to the struggling space program, NASA believes The Martian will have even more of an impact on the Mars Generation because (minus the drama) it’s the closest to NASA’s vision of future space exploration.

Engineering and rocket science camps agree: The Martian has the potential to inspire future generations in the same way televised lunar landings inspired previous generations.

The Martian releases October 2, 2015.