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Photos from 'The Martian': Space Movie Strands Matt Damon on 'Mars'

'The Martian' - Drew Feustel

Olivia Hemaratanatorn/Space.com

Astronaut Drew Feustel talked about the drama of the movie versus real life. "We've been exploring space for a long, long time with humans -- 50 years. The challenge we have is that we do it well and we do it right and we try not to make any mistakes and we try to keep the drama out of it," he said. "Unfortunately for us, for entertainment, that's what makes the movies great. I watched this movie and I read the book, it's just amazing -- I'm really captivated. "But as an astronaut, as an operator, the last thing we want to happen is for something to go wrong, for someone to get left behind, someone to be dead. That's not part of our business. We have this ultimate struggle where our job as NASA is to get public support and we've been doing this for 50 years. We're doing a great job, we're exploring and we're going to get to Mars with humans." He added that it's great to have Hollywood help through the combination of arts and sciences to keep support going. "We've been doing the best job that we can but I guess we don't do it as dramatic as we should but that's the good side, right?" he asked. "That's the way we're successful."

'The Martian' - Matt Damon

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During the Q&A, actor Matt Damon was asked about inspiring young people with this film. "Drew Goddard, who adapted the ('The Martian') screenplay ... said: I want this to be a love letter to science," Damon said. "We had a long conversation about that and how that's a really wonderful thing to put out into the world right now. I don't have any lofty expectations but I do hope some kids see it and geek out on the science and enjoy it. Maybe it's one thing in many other things in their life that push them in that direction."

'The Martian' - Andy Weir

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Andy Weir, writer of 'The Martian' book, talked about his journey as computer programmer and posting chapters of the story online to the book being adapted for the big screen. "It's been a ridiculous Cinderella story," he said. "You fantasize about these kinds of things when you're writing but you never really think they're going to come true. It's kinda like when you're a little kid baseball and think someday I'm going to be in the bottom of the 9th in the World Series. But this actually happened. I mean, Jesus!"

'The Martian' - Jim Green

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"Going to Mars is not like Star Trek," Green said. "It's not, as they say, go where no man has gone before. There's really an evolution. There's really a strategy of deep exploration to understand where we're going. That's so vital for us to be able to ensure that humans can land safely, work in that environment, live in that environment but also return from that environment. That's what's critical about the three organizations at NASA headquarters pioneering our approach to go to Mars."

'The Martian' - Charles Elachi

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Director of JPL Charles Elachi started off the morning by talking about how difficult it is to land on Mars and touted JPL and NASA's successes.

'The Martian' - Charles Elachi

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Elachi also joked about clothing worn in the movie and how that contrasts with real life.

'The Martian' Group

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'The Martian' Q&A was moderated by Wired writer Angela Watercutter and included astronaut Drew Feustel, actor Matt Damon, director Ridley Scott, the book's author Andy Weir and Dr. Jim Green.

Martian - Ridley Scott

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Why did Ridley Scott decide to direct 'The Martian'? "Sci-fi is mostly fantasy," Scott said. "What was attractive about ('The Martian') was the reality of the situation."

Martian - Jim Green

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"From my perspective, what Ridley did is that he reached out to us. He really wanted to paint a picture," Green said. "He wanted to make it realistic and I really appreciate pulling together teams of people and answering the questions that Ridley asked. The more that happened, the more I got excited about that because it does indeed look very realistic and have a lot of realistic elements in it. That's very much appreciated from a NASA perspective."

Martian - Jim Green

Olivia Hemaratanatorn/Space.com

Dr. Jim Green, who is in charge of planetary exploration, spoke about about how three different organizations within NASA that cooperate in his introductory remarks. The activities of the science mission directorate, human exploration directorate and space technology mission directorate are intertwined and enables humans to be sent to Mars.

The Mars 2020 rover is one metric ton rover than will launch in the year 2020 and land on Mars in 2021. It has an instrument called Moxie "that will bring in the carbon dioxide air, pop off an oxygen through a particular process and then store that oxygen for later use. It will do it at various times during the day and at various times during the night throughout the year so that we gain experience on how to extract oxygen which will be so critical to support humans on Mars."

The oxygen will be used to breathe as well as for rocket fuel. "It's an incredible way for us to be able to begin to test the systems that we will use when humans go to Mars," he said.

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Space.com Staff
Space.com Staff

Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.