This past weekend, The Martian debuted in theaters to much fanfare, and the Cliff’s Notes version of this is: it’s not undeserved. The film adaptation of Andy Weir’s runaway bestselling novel tells the harrowing tale of one man’s endurance, ingenuity and determination to survive as a lone astronaut accidentally left for dead on the surface of Mars. With limited food and supplies and no way to reach Earth, astronaut Mark Watney must make equipment meant to last only 30 days keep him alive for over a year until the next crew can reach him, using only his wits. It’s a tale of survival against impossible odds, like Apollo 13— or, for that matter, the Firefly episode “Out of Gas.” Coincidentally, one of the NASA managers tasked with coordinating the interplanetary rescue effort is played by Chewitel Ejiofor, better known to fans of Serenity as The Operative.
Here’s the rare instance where you’d actually WANT that “warship in deep orbit”…
The film itself has been pretty well hyped by 21st-Century FOX and eagerly awaited by the novel’s many fans. The good news is, it essentially lived up to said hype. Being an avid reader myself, comparisons to the book are inevitable. In this case, though, we have one of the rare instances where a film adaptation may not necessarily improve on its source material, but does an excellent job of bringing it to life and telling it in a way that novels often can’t.
For nearly four years now you’ve been listening to us tell you all the reasons why Serenity is the perfect name for the next manned US spacecraft. If you’re a Browncoat, you probably didn’t take much convincing, but even those who aren’t big fans of the series Firefly or the film Serenity would most likely still agree that the name Serenity embodies the ideals of 21st-century space exploration, which is certainly built more upon a foundation of peace and cooperation than the space race of the Cold War era was.
But some of you may still be asking yourselves, “Why are they so fixated on SpaceX?” After all, it was NASA who chose the name Enterprise at the urging of tens of thousands of letter-writing Star Trek fans, and NASA is still the driving force (and paying customer) behind the Commercial Crew Project. Besides, if what we read in the press is to be believed, NASA wants Boeing’s CST-100, not SpaceX’s Dragon 2, to be the first manned US spacecraft to break atmo since the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched into the black for the final time (on this very date four years ago).
Given the fact that SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon has already completed six successful resupply missions to the International Space Station and Boeing’s CST-100 has yet to leave the launch pad, I’m sure there is a lot of room for debate as to which ship will be ready to make the trip first. But we’ll save that debate for another time. Suffice it to say that we believe that when the chips finally hit the table, it’s going to be SpaceX’s Dragon v2 that’ll be ready to answer the call.
But that’s not the only reason why we’re focusing our efforts on SpaceX instead of NASA or Boeing. It’s also because we believe that SpaceX, unlike the others, cares about the relationship between pop culture and the space industry. In short, Elon Musk, Gwynne Shotwell and the vast majority of their employees at SpaceX are our kind of people. And that’s not just some vibe we’re getting. You only need look at their track record to see exactly what we’re talking about.
Remember the last time you spoke with a friend, and realized he’d never seen Firefly before? After you both had a chance to catch your breath after you tackled said friend and pinned him to the ground, do you remember the urgency with which you pleaded with him to watch it, so that he too might have that Whedon-borne life-changing experience? Ever since reading The Martian by Andy Weir recently, I’ve been pressing it upon people in the exact same way (just ask Chris). Well, okay… maybe minus the tackling and pinning part.
The Martian is a gripping, white-knuckle account of a lone astronaut accidentally left for dead and stranded on the surface of Mars by the rest of his NASA crew. How’s this for an in-media-res opening: Flight engineer Mark Watney regains consciousness in a ditch in the middle of a howling Martian dust storm, hours after the rest of his crew has left in their only ride back home to Earth, impaled by part of an antenna in his abdomen– which means his suit is leaking both air and blood! With no one there to help him, he realizes that even if he can survive, somehow crawl back into the airlock and tend to his wounds, the hab module only has enough supplies for 30 days. Due to the nature of planetary orbits, the next crew won’t be coming to rescue him for over a year!
Not that they’ll be coming to rescue him in the first place, because the only means of communicating with Mission Control is sticking out of his gut at the moment. Having no means to contact and counsel with NASA back on Earth, Watney is forced to get by on sheer determination and clever ingenuity.