The Martian: Everything you didn't understand during the film — explained
There's lots of science in the new film The Martian, starring Matt Damon. Some of it authentic and some of it, well, invented for Hollywood. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
1. Weather on Mars
The temperature on Mars is shown in Celsius, but here in America, we're used to the temperature being in Fahrenheit. Mars has a wide range of temperatures, but mostly just really cold. Real Mars temps get as frigid as -242.4 degrees Fahrenheit and as warm as 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. No breathing on Mars
The air is 95 percent carbon dioxide, so good luck with visiting without a fancy spacesuit designed to provide oxygen.
3. Water on Mars
While NASA just announced that it has credible evidence that liquid water exists on Mars, it's still unknown if there is enough to rely on as a resource. Mars is drier than any of the driest deserts on Earth, but just under the planet's surface is ice that can be heated up and turned into water.
4. A "day" versus a "sol"
The work sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to one single solar day on Mars. Surprisingly, their days are very similar in length to those on Earth. A Mars sol lasts 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.
5. About that nasty, severe windstorm
It couldn't happen because Mars has super low atmospheric pressure (less than 1 percent of Earth's), which means a severe storm would feel like a soft summer breeze. Andy Weir, who wrote the novel, The Martian, said this about the unrealistic storm, "I needed a way to force the astronauts off the planet, so I allowed myself some leeway. Plus, I thought the storm would be pretty cool." He was right, especially watching it in 3D.
6. A spacecraft call Hermes
The Mars Ascent Vehicle called Hermes was named after the ancient Greek messenger of the gods. Though NASA doesn't currently have any long-term space travel vehicles, it's plausible one could look like the Hermes, but it would most likely be a lot more compact.
7. Very green source of electricity
Everything on Mars is powered by solar panels. This is very realistic, considering this is how the power on the International Space Station is generated.
8. "EVA" suits
"EVA," or Extra Vehicular Activity, where scientists would work outdoors, would certainly require its own suit for conducting zero-gravity activities. Director Ridley Scott called the costume the "doughboy" because it was so puffy.
9. Farming in your own feces
In the film, Watney (Matt Damon), uses packages of human poop to add bacteria to the Martian soil so he can grow potatoes. Thanks to real experiments conducted by Mars Rovers, we know the soil on the red planet already contains nitrogen in a biologically usable form, but farmers in China have been using human feces as a fertilizer for centuries.
Because of galactic cosmic rays in space, the trip to and from Mars would expose the astronauts to more than 30 times the annual radiation limit for a nuclear power plant engineer. Some scientists believe this would severely shorten the lives of Mars visitors.
The Martian opens in theaters on Oct. 2.