The Martian

Watney launches in the MAV at the Ares 4 site, then leaves the capsule to be physically grabbed by Commander Lewis and pulled into the Hermes airlock. Everyone heads back to earth safely.

Factual error: After Watney patches the blow out of one of the HAB's airlocks with plastic sheeting, tie down straps, and duct tape, he pressurizes the HAB and the plastic sheeting pushes out like an inflated balloon. Assuming the plastic and duct tape would hold this is correct, however the plastic would be much more taut given the pressure difference inside and outside.

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Suggested correction: The plastic would certainly be flexing in and out because of the pressure of the wind gusts during the storm. We saw earlier that the gusts of the storms were strong enough to blow a suited explorer off their feet and push them across the surface. Let's say that the HAB is pressurized as much as it can be without blowing out of the plastic, tape, and bungees sealing the airlock. A storm gust would still be able to push the flexible plastic in momentarily, and it would pop back out after the gust passed.

The movie took liberties with the physics of Mars. The gusts on Mars wouldn't be able to blow over a person or a spaceship, let alone push them across the surface, but they needed it for the plot. But using the same physics they then have wedded themselves to, it could then be strong enough to cause the plastic to flap, even though in real life it wouldn't. This is more of a deliberate mistake than a factual error since the writers certainly knew what they did didn't match reality.

Except they didn't 'wed' themselves to their fictional physics. Towards the end of the film NASA tells Watney that a flimsy plastic covering on his ascent vehicle will not be dislodged on acceleration to Martian escape velocity because the atmosphere is too thin to cause any problems. That's cheating in anyone's books.

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Mark Watney: I admit it's fatally dangerous, but I'd get to fly around like Iron Man.

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Trivia: The secret project created to use the Hermes to return to Mars to rescue Watney was called Project Elrond, a reference from the Lord of the Rings (also used in the original book of The Martian). Mitch Henderson, played by Sean Bean, was an attendee at the Project Elrond meeting. Sean Bean also played Boromir, who was an attendee at the Council of Elrond in the LOTR movie.

Blathrop

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Question: If the MAV could be blown over by a storm of sufficient force, wasn't it very risky dropping the Ares IV Mav five years in advance of the mission?

Answer: The crew (and mission control) are in constant contact with the previously dropped MAV and would have aborted the mission and continued back to Earth had the MAV become inoperable before their arrival. Weir states this explicitly early in the book.

Answer: Yes, it is very risky unless the new Ares MAV is in an area with much calmer weather patterns.

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