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NASA and Hollywood meet in ‘The Martian’

August 20, 2015

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What a Mars colony could look like. Image courtesy of NASA.

Astronauts are a perennially popular topic for the movies. Everyone from Tom Hanks to George Clooney and Sandra Bullock have played them.

Now, Matt Damon is set to join the cadre of actors who’ve traveled to outer space. And this time, he’s getting help from NASA, reports Popular Science.

Director Ridley Scott contacted the space agency as he was laying plans for The Martian, which opens Oct. 2. It is based on the successful novel by Andy Weir.

Damon plays an astronaut named Mark Watney, who is presumed dead in an accident on Mars, and left behind by his crew. The movie focuses on his efforts to survive and eventually escape.

The movie has an all-star cast including Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Pena.

According to the magazine, the agency invited Weir, who researched his novel almost entirely online, to its Johnson Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The result was a book that coincided with NASA’s push for a manned Mars mission.

When Scott started working on the film, he called NASA, too. Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary sciences, answered Scott and his crew’s questions about rockets, habitats, and rovers, and then invited the director to see prototypes of what NASA was building.

Meanwhile, tech writers and NASA staff were invited to view 49 minutes of the movie and take part in a question and answer session with Damon and Scott.

As Popular Science points out, there’s a big reason why NASA wants the film to be successful. It wants continued Congressional funding.

“…You have to realize that this movie more or less presents exactly their future vision, minus all the drama.”

Expect to hear plenty more about The Martian as the launch date (no pun intended) draws near.

For story ideas, do you have a NASA-related company in your area? Check to see whether it is participating in any Mars related activities. See how space themed movies have performed in your city. And, look at how your lawmakers vote on space appropriations.

Then, take a look at the trailer for The Martian.


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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