Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Martian

If you haven't already read it, then I highly recommend The Martian by Andy Weir.  The story begins in a way that grabs your attention...

"I'm pretty much f*d.
That's my considered opinion.
Six days into what should be the greatest month of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare."

Set in the not-too-distant future with the third manned mission to Mars.  NASA astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after his fellow astronauts abort the mission and leave, believing Watney is dead.  The story is largely told in first-person log entries by Watney.  

This is very realistic science fiction, with an unending stream of challenges Watney must solve in order to survive.  At one point, he's using the hydrazine fuel to make hydrogen, then burning that (carefully) to make water.

"Firstly, hydrazine is some serious death.  If I make any mistakes, then there'll be nothing left but the Mark Watney memorial crater where the Hab once stood."

At this point when I was reading it, I was thinking: you are insane!  You see... I have actually designed spacecraft hydrazine propulsion systems that have flown in space.  And so I happen to know how dangerous that stuff is.  It was reassuring that Weir put in the details and described a remotely feasible way this would work.  Watney didn't have a problem until he was burning hydrogen to make water.  

"Everything went great right up to the explosion."

This is a great book and I wish Weir the success he deserves.

The film adaptation is already being produced with Ridley Scott directing and Matt Damon starring as Watney.  Filming began last month and release is planned for November 2015.

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