If you want a vision of how NASA see its future playing out in 15 to 20 years, hit your local movie theater on Oct. 2 and purchase a ticket to see "The Martian." The Mars survival thriller by director Ridley Scott, based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, is science-fiction on the absolute cusp of reality. It's also the kind of entertainment billboard that NASA hopes not only inspires the next generation of astronauts and engineers, but also spurs interest - and most importantly - funding for future missions.
To celebrate the launch of the first full trailer for "The Martian," NASA yesterday hosted a screening of the film's first 50 minutes, as well as a Q&A with Scott, Weir, the film's star Matt Damon, astronaut Drew Feustel and NASA Director of Planetary Sciences Jim Green. The space agency also gave journalists a tour of its Jet Propulsion Lab, as well as the technologies in development to make a human mission to Mars a reality.
"As soon as Ridley contacted us and we recognized that he wanted to paint that really accurate picture, it was easy for us to endorse the movie and then provide whatever kind of consultation and advice he needed to be able to execute on it," NASA's Green told Reuters.
Damon, who plays the stranded astronaut Mark Watney, added that the film's technology is rooted in technology that's 100% possible. All that's really needed is support. "With the right funding and the right attention, these are the kinds of things that we will be exploring in the very near future and this is going to be a part of our kids' lives."
As author Andy Weir recently found out, NASA has already made some of the tech featured in his book outdated.
“I’m learning that the technology NASA is working on now is more advanced than the fictional technology that I thought was unreasonably advanced,” he said after a recent visit to the Johnson Space Center.
“The stuff they’re doing with ion propulsion now — workable plans, not theoretic physics — are considerably better; triple the acceleration than the ion propulsion system for Hermes [the spacecraft in the book],” he said. “And the spacesuit design system, which keeps the astronaut alive, are more advanced than depicted. They don’t even need expendable carbon dioxide filters anymore.”
While both "Interstellar" and "Gravity" had aspects of real science, "The Martian" basically throws a giant spotlight on NASA's full tool kit. Everything from plant farms to life support habitat is covered - all the while giving us this incredible look at a planet just waiting for humans to set foot on. As Damon shared earlier, it's a true love letter to science.
Check out the most recent trailer below.