Monday, October 12, 2015

Survival on Mars

Last nite, me and my incredible watched the latest sci-fi movie The Martian.

In the movie, an adaption of Andy Weir‘s book of the same name, we follow Astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) as he is stranded alone on Mars and must survive on the planet until NASA can mount a rescue (which would take years). Watney must not only grow food but come up with a creative way to make water. I find it really fascinating.

When Watney gets stranded on Mars, he plants potatoes in a greenhouse using Martian soil and the crew's "metabolic waste." And it works: He's able to stay alive for more than a year living largely on potatoes.

But in reality, does it really work ?

Please read this article : 'The Martian': What Would It Take to Grow Food on Mars?

Though the movie is fairly realistic, growing food on Mars wouldn't play out exactly as described on the big screen. Ok. Now I know.

In the movie, Watney also explains how to make water.  He takes the risk of creating his own water by using his oxygenator (a device that creates oxygen from carbon dioxide), extracting hydrogen from the crew's unused hydrazine fuel (from the MDV, or Mars Descent Vehicle), and burning them to create the extra water he needs to nourish his potatoes. The process is painstaking and risky, since burning hydrogen has a tendency to go poorly. I am wondering if it is an actual way ?

Here is an explanation I found online.

Yes, it is. Hydrazine is a common monopropellant used for maneuvering spacecraft. The decomposition reaction in the presence of a catalyst can be found in the subsection of the Wikipedia article - note the final products are molecular nitrogen and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas undergoes combustion to create water, which is exactly what's depicted in the movie.

Unlike being stranded in a forest, it is crucial to science the shit out of this in order to survive in such an inhospitable planet.

Quotes by Mark Watney :  
They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it. So, technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!

I'm the first person to be alone on an entire planet.
It's a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I'm the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn't moved in a million years! I'm the first guy to drive long-distance on Mars. The first guy to spend more than thirty-one sols on Mars. The first guy to grow crops on Mars. First, first, first!

Technically, Mars is international waters, meaning Maritime Law applies. And since I am illegally commandeering a vessel in international water under maritime law, that makes me a pirate. Mark Watney : Space Pirate

There are many interesting finds in the official NASA Tumblr account at

Here to find out five of The Martian's boldest scientific twists, explained

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