74 votes
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Was a supercomputer really needed in "The Martian"?

The consensus on Space Exploration.SE where this same question was asked is... NO Answer by Mark Adler Well, developing low-thrust trajectories does take more computation than impulsive trajectories (...
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69 votes
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Why didn't Mark Watney start digging downward?

Because he would need to make an airtight seal between the walls of the Hab and the ground. What is shown in the movie is that the Hab is a prefabricated 'tent', and Mark shifts a significant amount ...
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55 votes
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Is it scientifically possible to grow potatoes in Martian soil?

Normally, no, you could not grow plants in Martian soil... but adding nutrients to the soil makes it perfectly usable. There's a great article about it on Modern Farmer: And, yes, it is possible to ...
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36 votes

In "The Martian", why did they catch the probe?

I did not understand why they still had to catch the probe after they already changed the plan to not support Mark with food, but pick him up from the orbit. I'm assuming you are referring to the ...
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  • 128k
33 votes

In "The Martian", why did they catch the probe?

All of NASA's original planning was all about sending more food and supplies to Mars, to keep Watney alive for years before Ares 4 was scheduled to visit Mars. In particular, they needed to launch ...
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31 votes

Why didn't Mark Watney start digging downward?

The question on the potatoes was directly addressed in the book. They gave the most calories per area of farm land. Couple other points where you appear to have miss interpreted/remembered some ...
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  • 411
30 votes
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How did NASA figure out Mark was still alive?

The reason they don't look at the Ares 3 site is that they don't want to get an image of Mark Watney's body which they would have to release to the public (since NASA is a government organisation it ...
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27 votes
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Where did Mark Watney get the escape pod in The Martian?

Watney was on the Ares III mission. Missions up to Ares V were in the works, and equipment such as the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle) were already in place on Mars, waiting for these missions to arrive. ...
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  • 436
25 votes
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Pertaining to The Martian, what is the ratio of SOLs to Earth days?

The physics of Mars in The Martian is identical to the actual physics of the planet, as such, we only need to know the actual length of a Martian sol (in hours/minutes) to know how it compares with an ...
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23 votes
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Does Mark get fuel to make water from the rocket that the other crew members had used to escape?

He didn't. He used the hydrazine tanks from the MDV (Mars Descent Vehicle) - emphasizing that the descent vehicle is completely separate from the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle), which is what the crew used ...
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21 votes

Why was The Martian's NASA lecture on earth at "Day 1"?

I interpreted it as the first day for Mark in his new mission of training future astronauts. This also has nice symmetry with the Sol count, since Sol 1 was the first day on Mars and therefore the ...
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19 votes
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How did NASA astronauts launch the pod from Mars, though they were at millions of Kilometres away?

It is not until late in the movie that they discover he is still alive. It's not late at all that they discover that he is still alive. They discover this in a few weeks (Sol 54 - about 2 months) - ...
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17 votes

What advantage does the hexadecimal numeric system have over the decimal system in The Martian?

First, the degrees being too narrow is a non-starter. The stick he uses for the 22 degree markers provides the accuracy, and a wider circle would compensate for the smaller, 13 degree sections. And ...
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17 votes
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Why didn't Mark Watney grow more crops after malfunction happened in the Hab on Mars?

Because he lacked the resources to start over. All the plants/potatoes were dead from lack of oxygen and sub freezing temperature. The bacteria in the poop soil as well. And his source of fuel that he ...
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15 votes

How did NASA figure out Mark was still alive?

In the film, there's a scene between Kapoor and Sanders, immediately before Park receives the message from Kapoor, which explains the situation (covering much of the novel information from Raidri's ...
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  • 1,443
14 votes
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Did Matt Damon actually lose weight for The Martian?

No. According to Bustle (The interview was a press Q&A on set): "I talked to [Director] Ridley about [losing weight for The Martian] because I’ve lost weight before for movies," Damon told ...
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14 votes
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Why couldnt the crew land on mars to pick Mark Watney up?

While there are several vessels available to both Mark and the Ares III crew, there are a number of reasons why the 5 crew of the Ares III mission couldn't just land and get Mark Watney: The ...
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12 votes
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What advantage does the hexadecimal numeric system have over the decimal system in The Martian?

After reading an answer to the exact question on Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange (as pointed by Richard), it became very clear why hexadecimal is the better system to communicate with. ...
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12 votes

Why does Mark say he hasn't had a shower for a year and a half?

Saving water He has limited supplies of water. Of course he hasn't showered in his entire 561-Sol stay - it's possible (and in Mark's case necessary) to maintain hygiene while spending much, much ...
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11 votes
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Extra oxygen from breathing when lighting up the hydrazine?

Disclaimer: Answer according to the book, not sure if it is the same in the movie. The whole process happens in two steps: Burning the hydrogen directly as it is produced from the hydrazine in the ...
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  • 560
11 votes
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Why can't the second MAV reach the Hermes?

As explained in this answer: Shortly after Watney discovers he's stranded he mentions the Ares IV MAV is already on-planet, though it is far away - much further away than the buggy can take him....
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10 votes

Why was Chiwetel Ejiofor made to be part Indian in The Martian?

The movie character, Vincent Kapoor, was originally Venket Kapoor, and fully Indian in the book of the same name. The casting of Chiwetel Ejiofor required a slight change on background of the ...
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10 votes

Why was the public not upset in The Martian?

Does anyone question how much a Seal Team 6 rescue mission actually costs when they go and rescue a captive from terrorist hostage-takers, let alone protest it? I've never seen it. Perhaps you could ...
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9 votes
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How did they survive the way back?

Then... what? Even assuming they could seal the docking door again It was an airlock door. Airlocks have two doors. They opened one and breached the other. The one that was just opened can simply be ...
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9 votes
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How far did Watney drive to get to the Pathfinder in "The Martian"?

Exactly distance unknown, but likely somewhere between 464.634 miles and 600 miles. It's not directly spelled out in the film. However, in Chapter 8 of the novel, the following discussion takes place:...
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9 votes

Earth Mars chat communication delay

The communication delay was in fact addressed in the movie. Here is a link to the scene with Director Ridley Scott's commentary. Around 3:25 Tim makes a sarcastic comment about the limits of the ...
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9 votes

How did they manage the return home?

The Hermes is on a slingshot around Mars, it doesn't enter an orbit. They are arranging for the MAV to launch to meet its speed as it makes its one fast pass around the planet. After they maneuver ...
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9 votes

Why does Mark lose so much weight in the end?

The current (and longstanding) recommended calorie intake for an active male adult is about 2,500 kcal However, it is possible to survive extended periods on much less - at a cost. A 25% reduction in ...
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8 votes

Why was The Martian's NASA lecture on earth at "Day 1"?

It's a little open to interpretation, but I took it to be somewhat different than Erik did: it's Day 1 for this new class of would-be astronauts. Mark's graying hair and easy comfortable presence ...
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