The date: 20 years in the future. The mission: save a man stranded on Mars.
Next month, a movie called “The Martian” opens, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, but also starring something you don’t always see in a science-fiction movie: a heavy dose of science fact.
“I think ‘The Martian’ is as close to science fact as any science fiction that I’ve seen about the journey to Mars and going to Mars,” said NASA’s director of planetary sciences Jim Green.
Green was a consultant for the movie and he says a lot of what you will see on screen, NASA is already using. The two-story habitat module, for example, NASA already has a training model.
There’s the plant farm featured in the film, which is how NASA would feed astronauts between supply missions. NASA has already grown food on the space station. It’s the same with the water recovery system, where every drop of water from sweat to urine is recovered and recycled.
“NASA doesn’t do ‘Star Trek.’ It’s not ‘Go where no man has gone before,’ as they say,” Green said. “We really have to look at where we’re going, understand it completely, and that prepares us for the future.”
NASA is pretty pumped about this movie and so is actor Matt Damon.
“Hopefully, the message in a movie like this is one that really kind of galvanizes participation in stuff like this, and makes people excited about science,” Damon said.
Which is why Green was delighted to work with the filmmakers on making the movie as realistic as possible. Because while NASA may have the technology to send astronauts to Mars, it doesn’t yet have the money. That takes support from voters and Congress.
“There’s a new, younger group in town, and they’re the Mars generation. And indeed, that’s now implanted in their mind,” Green said.
Although I think there’s probably at least one plot point that NASA doesn’t endorse. After all, the astronauts may mutiny against NASA in the film. It can’t all be rocket science.