24 August 2015 News

The science of space movies: Matt Damon, “The Martian,” and the great Mars gamble

Most dramatic films set in space aren’t too concerned with reality (nor do we ask them to be). Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” promises to be different.

“The Martian” is based on a bestselling e-book by software engineer Andy Weir. Weir poured a ton of his energy into finding out countless technical details in his quest to write a realistic scenario featuring an astronaut stranded on Mars.

Starring Matt Damon, the film even has NASA excited (and when is NASA ever excited about Hollywood films featuring space?).

Ridley Scott has been on a downward spiral as of late – as far as reviews of his films go, anyway. Perhaps “The Martian” will be different. And not just due to technical detail – there is, today, a great sense of mobilisation, as humanity continues to strive to make a trip to Mars an actual reality.

Based on the trailers, the plot of “The Martian” may not be particularly reassuring – at least not in the beginning, anyway, as Matt Damon finds himself stranded and abandoned on Mars – but it also reflects our greater acceptance of the fact that things can go wrong on such a mission so far away from Earth. We were nervous about the Moon (rightfully so, by the way), and the Moon is so much closer.

With Mars, the whole of humanity will be dealing with our most ambitious endeavour yet. In some ways, the very plot of “The Martian” reveals our subconscious understanding of this fact.

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