Kerry asked Andy Weir:

Did you draw a lot of inspiration from the Apollo 13 mission? I seem to recall from a documentary them having a square battery from the lander and trying to make it fit in round hole in the capsule, needed for same purpose but different design. I think duct tape was involved.

Andy Weir Apollo 13 (both the movie and the real life events) was a huge inspiration for The Martian. And the "mailbox" scene (the scene you're describing) was my favorite part. I basically wanted to make a while book of that.
Andy Weir

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