This is how I was introduced to The Martian by Andy Weir. Mooch asked, “Remember that scene in Apollo 13 where the engineers get together and have to figure out how to fit the square pegs into the round holes or everyone will die?”
“Yes,” I said.
“That’s The Martian. That scene. For the whole book. On Mars.”
I’m a sucker for stories about Mars.
The novel follows NASA engineer and biologist, Mark Watney, after he becomes stranded early in the Ares 3 mission, the third of five manned missions to the red planet. What follows afterwards a series of unfortunate events– each one requiring ingenuity and creativity to resolve. And not a small amount of 70s nostalgia. They’re not simple problems. This is rocket science we’re talking about.
It’s a quick read, and most of the science is real. Robert Zubrin detailed a plan for manned exploration of Mars almost twenty years ago: the Mars Direct proposal. Weir borrowed heavily from this proposal. Not too far-future science fiction allowed for his inclusion of the constant-thrust, nuclear-powered VASMIR rocket for the Mars transfer orbit. “Not some boring Hohmann Transfer, either!”, Weir wrote for Salon about the novel and about how science shaped his writing.
I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.
If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.
Like I said, I’m a sucker for stories about Mars.