Spaceships of 'The Martian' Explained (Infographic)
Ridley Scott's new space film showcases a lot of space hardware derived from actual NASA plans for interplanetary travel.
Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist

Ridley Scott’s film of the Andy Weir novel “The Martian” boasts a wide variety of space hardware, both real and extrapolated from current NASA plans.

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Unrealistically large by NASA standards for a Mars vessel, the Hermes appears to be the size of the International Space Station. Hermes uses low-thrust ion engines to ferry Ares crews from Earth to Mars and back. When one crew returns home, the next crew boards Hermes to prepare for another mission.
 
Hermes has a rotating wheel, or centrifuge, to provide artificial gravity for the crew. Spaceships in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Mission to Mars” were similarly equipped.
 
Although it is not shown in the film, the astronauts would have used a Mars descent vehicle (MDV) to get down from Hermes to the surface. SpaceX’s upcoming Dragon manned capsule would be one option for an MDV.
 
In Andy Weir’s novel “The Martian,” the Ares III habitat is described as an inflated canvas structure. The habitat and its provisions were prepositioned on Mars by unmanned rocket launches.
 
To get back to Hermes in Mars orbit, the Mars ascent vehicle (MAV) is used. MAV resembles an Apollo or Orion capsule mounted on booster rockets and landing legs.
 
To get from Earth to the Hermes, crews ride the Orion space capsule. By 2035, the year in which the film is set, NASA’s new Space Launch System should be available. The film’s producers used footage of Orion’s first unmanned test flight in 2014 to represent the launch. The test flight used a Delta IV Heavy booster.
 
NASA launches supplies to Watney on Mars using an Atlas V rocket. 
 
A Chinese rocket is used to send supplies to Hermes. That rocket is not based on an existing booster, but footage of a real rocket was used to represent the launch.
 
Unable to contact NASA, Watney drives to the Pathfinder landing site to retrieve the probe and use its radio. The Sojourner rover was the first wheeled vehicle on Mars, landing in 1997.
 
The Ares III camp includes two electric-powered roving vehicles. These resemble NASA’s planned Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), which can include a pressurized cabin or be used as just a bare chassis, for cargo runs.
 
Watney’s skintight space outfit resembles the BioSuit, a concept design for an environmental suit that works by mechanical compression rather than pressurized air. Such a suit would be lighter, easier to wear and more flexible than traditional, bulky pressure suits.
 
Watney’s suit also resembles the spacesuit designs in Ridley Scott’s previous space film, “Prometheus,” including the tall helmets, chest armor and wrist computers.
 
When venturing outside Hermes, astronauts wear white pressure suits similar to the EMU suits currently used by American space station crews.

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