The Martian

By Andy Weir
pub. 2011

Overall, this is a fun read. It’s dense with technical jargon, so if you’re into that kind of material (like me), you’ll enjoy every bit of the book. I can’t help but also enjoy Weir’s promotion of JPL throughout the text. By far, it is the institution which, even more than NASA, gets the accolades. If I’d have to describe it in one sentence, I’d say its a technical manual on Martian survival disguised as an action thriller. We need more of that kind of literature!

Science factiods

The Martian has some pretty incredible technical facts to be absorbed. If you ever need to know how to survive on Mars (or another planet), Weir is your guide.

To make water on Mars, Watney collected CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) from the Martian atmosphere and fed it to the “Oxygenator” in his Hab facility – thus releasing O2 (Oxygen). He made the Hydrogen by slowly burning off Hydrazine fuel. Using the atmosphere of the Hab as the reaction chamber, he created water vapor that was collected by the Hab and dumped into an excess tank. 1Rishi, 25-29

They say no plan survives first contact with implementation. 2Weir, 41

Watney risks death by suffocation not due to lack of oxygen, but due to excess of carbon-dioxide, which becomes lethal long before oxygen runs out. 3Rishi, 47

I’m the first person to be alone on an entire planet. 4Weir, 99

I never realized how utterly silent Mars is. It’s a desert world with practically no atmosphere to convey sound. I could hear my own heartbeat. 5Weir, 284

Humor

Mark Watney, the protagonist of the book, is not going to wither away on another planet, without a biting dose of humor. This is really one of the best facets of the book; humor is the vehicle Andy Weir uses to allow the technical jargon of the book to be swallowed without protest.

I wonder what NASA would think about me fucking with the RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) like this. They’d probably hide under their desks and cuddle with their slide rulers for comfort. 6Weir, 77

There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies. So Mars is “international waters”… here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this… that makes me a pirate! A space pirate! 7Weir 260

I’m a well-honed machine in times of crisis. As soon as the rover toppled, I curled into a ball and cowered. That’s the kind of action hero I am. 8Weir, 312

Survival

Ultimately, this is a book about human survival against all odds. Although fictional, there’s definitely something to be learned from Watney’s extraterrestrial predicament.

Thank God all the air lines and valves are standardized across the mission. That’s no mistake. It was a deliberate decision to make field repairs easier. 9Weir, 272

I like how Watney preplanned his food rations so that every couple of weeks he would have something other than potatoes, i.e. real food. Doing this helped him have something to look forward to, which is absolutely essential in any desperate situation. 10Rishi

References   [ + ]

1. Rishi, 25-29
2. Weir, 41
3. Rishi, 47
4. Weir, 99
5. Weir, 284
6. Weir, 77
7. Weir 260
8. Weir, 312
9. Weir, 272
10. Rishi

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