THE MARTIANtells the story of wisecracking astronaut Mark Watney, a crew member on the third manned mission to Mars. After an epic dust storm threatens the crew’s ascent, they are forced to abort the mission. Watney, separated from the rest of the team, is unintentionally abandoned, with the rest of the crew believing him to be dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old “human error” are much more likely to get him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his MacGyver-esque ingenuity, mechanical engineering skills, and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit, he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next.
In THE MARTIAN, all of the obstacles Weir’s hero confronts, and the solutions he engineers, are entirely believable and science-based thanks in large part to Weir’s relentless research and fascination with NASA, orbital mechanics, relativistic physics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight. If we started planning a manned mission to Mars tomorrow, it would look a lot like what’s depicted in these pages. Weir even calculated the various orbital paths involved in the story to make the physics of space travel as accurate as possible, which required him to write his own software.