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The Martian
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2014 Reads > TM: What does NASA think about The Martian?

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Paulo Limp (paulolimp) | 164 comments I finished the book in less than a week, I could not be far from the book for more than a few hours. I have to admit if you are not into science, the book might tire you out, but if you know the difference between oxygen and hydrogen...

I know Andy Weir did a lot of research before writing the book, but I wonder what NASA has to say about it? Entirely plausible? Do they recognize some part of the story as "not possible"? What about the technology used? Is everything described on the book being developed by NASA? Or at some point it became just "theoretically possible"?

Have anyone found an interview where NASA commented on the story? Or, even better, do we have a NASA employee within the ranks of our humble book club?

Paolo (ppiazzesi) | 51 comments I know that Commander Chris Hadfield who is a Canadian astronaut has read the book and given it a rave review and praised its technical accuracy.

message 3: by Molly (last edited May 03, 2014 09:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Molly (mollyrichmer) | 134 comments Love Chris Hadfield! Any idea where/if his review is posted somewhere on the interwebs? My cursory Google search has turned up zip.

message 4: by Paolo (last edited May 03, 2014 10:36PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paolo (ppiazzesi) | 51 comments I'm reading the hardcover and it has a blurb by him: "A book I just couldn't put down! It has the very rare combination of a good, original story, interestingly real characters, and fascinating technical accuracy. Reads like McGyver meets Mysterious Island."

I'm also a fan of Hadfield. For those of you who don't know about him, you should check out the pictures he takes from the ISS and uploads online. Also there's this quote of his that was illustrated by ZenPencils.

terpkristin | 4190 comments Just keep in mind that Hadfield, like most public figures (except possibly Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who I have no idea if he's read this or not), won't typically say too much that's bad about a book, especially with regards to "technical accuracy," or at least won't be too harsh on its inaccuracies.

I have thoughts but am waiting until I finish to write them up.

Tamahome | 6352 comments I can't wait.

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments I would dearly love it if some sort of NASA-involved person could be interviewed by Tom and Veronica for the wrap-up. I'm honestly more interested in this hypothetical person's analysis of the logistics side of things from NASA's end, and the social aspects of the group effort described than I am of the science involved.

Tamahome | 6352 comments Hmmmm, I wonder who they could get.

terpkristin | 4190 comments Tamahome wrote: "I can't wait."

Well, here's the short version: It has some major technical issues, even trying to see into the future of what it COULD be like if we reverted to an Apollo-era like level of funding and motivation for space. Sometimes, the text more or less contradicted itself, saying in one place that something was more or less trivial, the next time using it as a plot device to insert more drama into the book. The book had a lot "right," too, even if it overlooked some things (like radiation or standard design protocols or the shear strength of bolts). Knowing that Weir's research focused heavily on Robert Zubrin's The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must helps see why this happened--it has issues, but it's hard to find unless you go talk to people doing this. And who knows if we get so far as to mitigate the NASA funding problem, maybe we will get around some of these other issues, so the book ignores them.

But here's the thing. It doesn't matter. This book isn't about the space accuracy. It's about the mental and emotional states. It's about the people. My sister (a counseling psychologist) may be better equipped to talk about that part, though... ;)

Note, I don't work for NASA. I am an aerospace engineer, though, and I do work on satellite mission related things every day. I do not on a daily basis do human factors work, though I have done some in the past. I have worn pressurized space suit gloves in 1G and donned a pressurized mockup of a potential space suit while diving in a big tank. I'm not by any means an expert.

Tamahome | 6352 comments Seems like it's about the scientific accuracy and the adventure to me. And the jokes. Jenny didn't think the characters were that great.

John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1594 comments Kristin,

Reminds me a bit of what they say about News stories. How many times do you read a "news" story on something you are truly an expert on, and you notice they get something wrong? Quite often. So why do we assume the newspapers/ journalists are right about things we don't know much about? Now, I'm not saying that they get it all wrong, just most of the times they are not truly experts in what they are reporting on.

I'm not an expert in the space program in any way, but I do have a BSME and a PE to go along with it. I did have to turn off my critical thinking cap a few times. But once I did, I really did enjoy the story. I could see if I was even closer to the basis of the story, that would get even harder to do.

Tamahome | 6352 comments You have to admit though this is light years of accuracy ahead of anything in current movies.

terpkristin | 4190 comments Indeed, John. And to be honest, I think the story works even if it isn't accurate. Well, works as well as it can. I'm growing bored by it but I think this kind of book just isn't for me. I'm doing everything I can to NOT judge this book by the science/engineering, which is why I've tried to avoid saying where it might not be accurate. :)

terpkristin | 4190 comments Tamahome wrote: "You have to admit though this is light years of accuracy ahead of anything in current movies."

Weir used a very popular mission profile as his basis. Unless you know EXACTLY what to ask and ask it to the right people, you're not going to find a lot that's "wrong" with it. And it has a lot of merits.

That said, if Jenny says the characters are "meh" then I'm not sure what to say about the book. Being an engineer, I'm not known for my people skills. ;) :P (but see previous comment about boredom)

message 15: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc | 6 comments It's very hard to develop the characters when most of the book is written from the perspective of one character and his log entries. I think it's a great book but not an awesome character study.

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments terpkristin wrote: "That said, if Jenny says the characters are "meh" then I'm not sure what to say about the book. Being an engineer, I'm not known for my people skills. ;) :P (but see previous comment about boredom) ..."

I agree with Marc that this just wasn't what the author wrote about, but I felt deeper characterization would have enriched the story for me. I'm not saying people who work in the space industry are inherently problematic or boring personality wise (however Jesse from SFF Audio does say this in our readalong discussion, which won't post for a week or so), I just wanted more internal dialogue. I mean come on, it's a journal!

terpkristin | 4190 comments Don't worry, we are problematic and boring, even in real life. ;)

Tamahome | 6352 comments But programmers are sexy.

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments terpkristin wrote: "Don't worry, we are problematic and boring, even in real life. ;)"

Well I guess everyone has their strengths. ;)

Michele | 1154 comments I'd think NASA would support anything that raised public interest and support, regardless of its scientific/technical accuracy. That said I'm sure they could come up with some interesting comments on the story.

Robyn | 31 comments Brian Enke is a Senior Space Research Analyst at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado and is both a Mars expert and novelist. He wrote a great but little-known Mars novel called Shadows Of Medusa. I think he could offer an interesting critique of the The Martian.

message 22: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
terpkristin wrote: "Well, here's the short version: It has some major technical issues, even trying to see into the future of what it COULD be like if we reverted to an Apollo-era like level of funding and motivation for space. Sometimes, the text more or less contradicted itself, saying in one place that something was more or less trivial, the next time using it as a plot device to insert more drama into the book. The book had a lot "right," too, even if it overlooked some things (like radiation or standard design protocols or the shear strength of bolts). "

terpkristin, could you do a *bit* of a long version? :) I'd love some more specifics of both what Weir got right and wrong in the book's technical details.

message 23: by terpkristin (last edited May 15, 2014 05:38PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

terpkristin | 4190 comments Ok. Full disclosure, I do not work for NASA. I am an aerospace engineer. I have done some human-mission related stuff and I worked in a laboratory where I got to do lots of astronaut-type things including use space suit gloves and work in a space suit. I do currently work in the aerospace industry and everyday I go to work on satellites, just not for NASA. I also don't work on anything these days that interacts directly with humans.

One thing I heard mentioned in the SFF Audio podcast about the book was that the dust is very fine on Mars, and so would never create a dust storm so severe as to create blockages of the type discussed in the book. So that's "an" issue with it (which apparently Weir acknowledged).

One item I said earlier in this thread or in another thread, too, is that I don't believe that NASA would make such a "critical mistake" as to design a single point failure (hereafter called SPF) in the communication system. Weir/Watney goes out of the way to talk about the level to which things were designed to withstand "such and such" forces, so for them to "forget" that the antenna would be exposed to that wind and also to not have a backup is just preposterous. Communication systems are light, relatively cheap (comparatively), and absolutely critical. But again, artistic was a vehicle for the book. I get it.

One thing I also want to point out before I cut and paste in some of the issues I noted when I wrote my review is that things for space are designed to be robust. Hubble Space Telescope was designed as a 10 year mission. Yes, it had issues and was re-furbished by astronauts on a variety of shuttle missions (thus forming the basis for my thesis on robot hands and robotic satellite servicing!), but it's now been up there doing awesome science for 24 years. Geostationary communication satellites are often designed for a 15 year mission life but last quite a bit longer, as fuel ends up being their major limiting factor. And even after the fuel starts running out, there are ways to prolong the service life of the spacecraft.

The rest of this is cut and paste from my review for the book, with some minor modifications/additions. There were other issues I found/had (I didn't even start to talk about issues with Hermes), because I really didn't want to make the review about the tech. This book shouldn't have been about the tech, but I got so bored while I read it that I ended up picking on the tech.

Last and certainly least, the book didn't live up to the technical hype. In retrospect, I wouldn't expect NASA or an ambassador for NASA (such as Cmdr. Chris Hadfield) to be anything but positive, and in truth, the book was more accurate than most I've read. It's in NASA's interest for people to be excited about space, and if books like this do it, then so be it. From the Sword & Laser podcast and SF in SF reading/Q&A, I have gathered that Weir's basic mission profile came from The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must. There are issues with that plan, at least by today's technology.

The most glaring omission from The Martian is the effect of radiation. All of the equipment was designed to withstand the environment (radiation included), but space suits typically don't offer much protection. Cmdr. Hadfield has mentioned that when he (or other astronauts) are in space, they have to wear radiation dosimeters to ensure that they know how much exposure they've had any given day and cumulatively. This PDF from NASA gives a lot more information on radiation. An estimated 3-year Mars mission (it's not clear how much time would be spent on Mars in this profile, though I only skimmed the document) would violate some of the total dose requirements for younger astronauts (those most likely to be healthy to go on such a mission). The space environment would also likely wreak havoc on the jury-rigged things that Watney put together since he wasn't able to do any extra shielding of those MacGyver-isms.

Another fairly major technical issue that was used for convenience was the EVA suit. While I would hope that by the time we'd be ready for a mission to Mars, we would have improved our suits from what they are now, EVA suits are a nuisance. In fact, at one point, Watney complains about how difficult it is to move and do things in his suit. But most of the time, he's just bending over, digging, doing fine-control tasks (such as changing the wiring on the rover batteries) all while wearing his suit and gloves. Having worn a suit prototype in a dive tank and having participated in space glove research (and therefore worn suit gloves to do tasks), I can attest, it's not like going for a stroll...even a stroll in a big puffy snowsuit. When I did the glove tasks, I could only do tasks that involved grabbing bulky things. I had to use all my hand strength (at the time, I was a regular climber, so my hand strength was pretty good) to close and open my hand. I was left with callouses and bruises on my knuckles, and I certainly wasn't doing anything that actually needed to work. I was putting 1/4" diameter pegs into holes and such. It strains logic. Similarly, at one point (37% according to where I marked it), Watney is noted to be exerting a lot of energy trying to work with Lewis to setup the solar panels and stuff (Weir actually says he was wheezing, which I took to be with the effort of the exertion). But later, he can move 29 panels on his own!?

Speaking of those solar panels...At one point, the book said that the panels had about 5% efficiency (I think--I remember because it stuck out how low efficiency that was). A simple Google search for "solar cell efficiency for space" will take you to websites for companies that make space solar cells. They are quoting ~28% efficiency. That's quite a difference. Further, I know that the satellites I work on support up to ~5.5 kW spacecraft. That is, the solar arrays can provide ~5.5 kW of energy. Watney said he was using 36 kW (actually I think he said 36 kW/h or 36 kWh, neither of which makes a lot of sense) per travel day. Without getting into too many details, suffice it to say that solar arrays are big. He said he was carrying 29 panels, I have to wonder what strikes me anything that gigantic (and again, depending on voltage, since P=IV) wouldn't be conducive to carrying on a rover. It was hard to figure out what he was talking about in that respect. As a point of reference, the ISS cells are ~14% efficient and the power bus is ~125 VDC, providing about 84 kW per the overview from Boeing. Watney needed about 1/3 of that power assuming a similar power bus (though also for reference, many of the Space Shuttle and Russian interfaces actually use only 28V power bus), and I just don't know how those panels would fit on a rover...really, I don't know how big the rover is, either, but that's beside the point...

I also took umbrage with some of the various crises/perils, technically. I find it impossible to believe that for this type of mission, that only 1 HAB-based antenna would be provided, that all of the backups would rely on the MAV. Weir/Watney goes out of his way to tell you about all the extra things he has, all the stuff he can use to be MacGyver, yet they somehow managed to have a single point failure of so critical a system!?! I almost threw the book down then. Weir's lack of engineering knowledge also showed when he said that Iris was "held in place by 5 bolts..." Those must be big bolts (1/2"+). But one of those bolts was sheared by a direct smack from a 300-lb payload (around the 51% mark for those playing at home). A direct smack on the bottom or top of the bolt (the "logical" way for it to have hit based on the description) would put force in the tensile direction, not shear. But let's say it imparted a shear force. They pack that stuff in there quite securely (look at the 6th picture down on the left side), it would never float around like he says. And 300 pounds? Bolts are much stronger than that. Even if it sheared off a part of a bolt, the truth is, you don't need full thread engagement so you may still be OK, depending on what's been lost. Further, 5 bolts is somewhat ludicrous based on my experience but I can't find any public domain stuff on that unless you like math. So instead, I'll point out that the systems that are designed to separate and carry big mass and not have any "direct contact" with "loose payload" use 4-bolt systems with bolts that are either pyrotechnic, clampband, or use 3/4" bolts (which are ridiculously strong).

In the end, I could have been OK with the "crises" being as silly, if the rest of the book held up, and possibly if there had been fewer crises. But it went through too many rinse/repeat cycles and I got bored and then I got picky. And don't get me started on the end...

Also, I have a semi-serious question. If the crew aboard the Hermes ship decided to commit suicide to ensure that at least one of them lived, would the remaining astronaut be able to eat the others, as was implied would happen at ~69%? If the others take OD on morphine, wouldn't their bodies be toxic? I don't know, I'm not a doctor nor a biologist...I guess if I were in the situation I'd assume that they don't metabolize enough of it out to their tissues...but I am kind of curious...

I could go on, but really, it's not important. The technical stuff just started to grate on me as I got more bored with everything else. I guess I got my hopes up for more, but in the end, the book didn't live up to the hype. I guess Major Tom is the only stranded astronaut for me.

message 24: by terpkristin (last edited May 15, 2014 06:20PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

terpkristin | 4190 comments Oh yeah, one other thing. Current policy with respect to satellite imagery is that it doesn't go public until 1 year (sometimes longer, I think) after it's taken. This gives the physicists/astronomers who requested the imagery time to analyze the data and publish before it goes to the public domain. So the concern at NASA about people seeing the images "immediately" wouldn't be a concern today. I'm not saying it wouldn't be a possibility in the future, but I'd imagine that there would still be delays of release of data in order to protect the studies that funded the mission or formed the basis for the mission...

Tamahome | 6352 comments I won't ask what you thought of the Gravity movie...

terpkristin | 4190 comments I didn't watch it. I am not a fan of Sandra Bullock and I knew it would irritate me from the trailers alone.

If someone wants to see amazing space stuff and amazing non-CGI shots, go watch the Hubble IMAX. Real struggle and engineering, beautiful views/scenes, and no Hollywood! ;)

Michele | 1154 comments Hey terpkristen, question - does Mars being farther from than the Earth from the sun affect solar panel efficiency? Just curious, since you say space solar panels are more efficient than in the book, if it makes a difference - Earth satellites being closer to the sun than Mars.

message 28: by Dara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2702 comments I thought Gravity sucked but I will look for that Hubble IMAX movie now.

message 29: by terpkristin (last edited May 18, 2014 07:27AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

terpkristin | 4190 comments It shouldn't impact the efficiency of the solar cell--how much of its received energy it can translate to usable power. That is dictated by the cell substrate and the cell design. It would impact the total solar energy reaching the array, though. The intensity of the light will drop off with the square of the distance, meaning you'll need bigger panels on Mars to get an equivalent amount of power with the same panels in low earth or GEO orbit (not factoring in LEO special considerations). Note in low earth orbit you get other issues to degrade the solar arrays, such as radiation.

terpkristin | 4190 comments Oh, lest this entirely be about what's wrong, here are some things he did pretty alright with...

-The basic Mars mission outlines in The Case for Mars isn't a flawless plan but isn't as crazy as many others out there. So there is a lot of accuracy there.

-The basic issues with ion engines were well handled. While I don't know of any human mission or even a Mars non-human mission that uses them, his mission planning was fairly well-done. He also correctly identified issues with launch windows and optimal launch planning. I didn't look at the specifics but the high level ideas were there.

-His representation of engineers as a whole was pretty spot-on. The character I liked best was Mindy (?)--the operator who happened to realize first that Watney was still alive. At one point someone made a point that she got brought to "the adult table" because she was in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, that's exactly how it works, though it doesn't hurt that she was smart, too.

-The breadth of training that the astronauts received and the cross-training was equally pretty accurate. For such a limited mission as ANY space mission, crew members have to be versatile, maybe even more than Weir made them.

message 31: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Thanks, terpkristin. I like that kind of technical analysis/nit-picking because I always learn something from it.

On the subject of Gravity, astronomer Phil Plait exposed a lot of its technical flaws in his review, but still found it a film worth recommending. He doesn't have your Sandra Bullock dislike to contend with as well, though. ;)

terpkristin | 4190 comments Well, I always feel bad nit-picking on stuff like that because I don't want to judge the book by it's technical stuff. If I'd enjoyed the story more, the technical wouldn't have mattered--the technical is the vehicle for the story, after all. But I hope our next SF pick isn't related to space travel.. ;)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2502 comments terpkristin wrote: "-His representation of engineers as a whole was pretty spot-on. .."

Yeah I have to agree. I'm a senior network engineer and two of my associates are from JPL & Cal Tech. There's definitely a lot of real smart-ass humor in our office :)

Caitlin | 355 comments I work in the nuclear field and I kept thinking to myself "all this work to get him back to Earth after he's been exposed to this much radiation?" (lack of magnetic field on Mars PLUS all that time in close proximity to the RTG.) I guess people really want to survive long enough to get cancer. (Caveat: I don't calculate dose in my job. From reading about how much dose an astronaut would theoretically receive on their way to and from Mars with a reasonable time on planet, it looks like that would get you the lifetime administration dose. That only increases your chance of getting cancer a few percent above the general population. Adding his extra mission time and the proximity to the source... I don't think he's guaranteed to get cancer, but he's definitely upped his chances.)

message 35: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen | 5 comments I think it's easier to write fiction that happens in distant universes or deep in the future (think Vernor Vinge) because you can begin with basic assumptions that these issues (radiation, communications, etc.) have been solved effectively. Writing this kind of story as set in the near future in our universe is more difficult because you have to deal accurately with science as we understand it at this moment. When currently available technologies are highly important to a story, it should be as accurate as the author is capable of making it _without undercutting the story_. In the end, all stories are about conflict and how the characters survive - or don't. The telling of that story obliges the writer to be truthful to the story above and beyond adherence to fact, or even their own preferences. We've all seen one of those Hollywood movies where the studio made the director change the ending to be more positive -- and it never rings true. We know in our hearts we've been cheated. So I am usually able to live with a bit of slipperiness as to facts if it's in the service of the story. If it's just laziness, that's a different matter!

Daniel Hooley | 30 comments I just wanted to mention that Watney does actually say (though I can't give an exact location) that they improved the design of the EVA suits and that what he was trying to do would have been impossible in the EVA suits of a few years/decades ago. I think it was around when he was trying to (view spoiler) but I can't be certain.

message 37: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Mackay | 2 comments I teach engineering in high school and am planning to have my students analyze the science/technology (in particular, the MacGyverisms). They will write a "sidebar" commentary suitable for informing the reader about the technology employed by the author. I appreciate what terpkristen contributed in this thread. His "nit picks" are a great place for my students to start. My partner in this project teaches writing and she will focus on how you decide when it's ok to strain credulity (per Karen's comment). I would love to connect with anyone that feels they spotted either good or bad compromises made by Weir. Or just point me to where/what in the book you found cause for alarm or celebration.

terpkristin | 4190 comments Don wrote: "His "nit picks" are a great place for my students to start. "

If you're going to tell a class about it, feel free to tell them that I'm a woman. I mean, I am...and it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for potential future female engineers to know that there are others out there... ;)

message 39: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Mackay | 2 comments The scraping sound you hear is me removing egg from my face. Obviously some stereotypes die harder than others. Since half of my students are females, they will be excited to hear about you. It will be a great object lesson for them. Would you be willing to share your professional story?

terpkristin | 4190 comments Sure. Message me and we can talk about what you are looking for.

message 41: by Scott (new)

Scott Hatch | 1 comments terpkristin wrote: "Tamahome wrote: "I can't wait."

Well, here's the short version: It has some major technical issues, even trying to see into the future of what it COULD be like if we reverted to an Apollo-era like..."

Regarding technical accuracy in a major crux point of the plot: how could a Mars wind be strong enough to topple a MAV weighing a few dozen tons?--given that a 170 km/hr Mars wind would be the force equivalent of about a 17 km/hr earth wind. (Martian atmosphere has about 6/1000 the density of earth's atmosphere, so (1) a 170 km/h wind would be barely perceptible as a 1 km/hr breeze, and (2) its kinetic energy content would be about 1/10 that of earth’s or as impactful as a 17 km/hr earth wind.)

message 42: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 846 comments In his Google Author Talk, I think (it could have been another online interview), Andy Weir says he knows the winds would actually be more like a breeze, but he decided to allow himself the error. I wonder if he wrote it, *then* figured/found out it wouldn't really work? Dunno.

Vandy Beth | 1 comments I don't know if this changes anything re: bolt shear, but Iris's payload was actually 300 kg. Not 300 pounds.

message 44: by terpkristin (last edited Jun 30, 2015 03:52PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

terpkristin | 4190 comments It changes nothing. Especially since bolts don't typically shear when a tensile force is applied, and definitely not one that small

message 45: by John (Taloni) (last edited Jun 30, 2015 04:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4076 comments terkpristin, do the technical errors ruin the story for you, or is it "good enough"?

I've gotten to where I don't expect that any movie will ever approach "2001" for accuracy, from zero g AI execution to soundlessness in a vacuum, to the orbital mechanics. But there's a difference between "good enough" which I think "The Martian" will be, and "flagrantly wrong" like "Gravity."

terpkristin | 4190 comments It depends...I actually talked about this in my review a bit. This book, I got bored with (too much repetition of the same thing), so I started picking on the technical accuracy. I tried to rate the book, though, on the actual book, not the technical side. That said, I did probably pick on the technical accuracy more in this one even than I might because it was so widely praised as being "correct." Yes, it was more correct than many. But still very wrong. But if I'd thought Watney had any depth, I might not have cared at all...

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4076 comments ^Thanks, yeah, I guess the writing and character depth can matter. As a teen I loved Niven for technical accuracy, then found out later how much he'd gotten wrong. Decided I didn't care because I still liked the stories and the attempt at large-scale writing (big objects, long sublight travels and the like.) As for the Pern series, I didn't need any scientific accuracy at all! Flaming telepathic dragons and Thread was all I needed.

Trike | 8768 comments I recall some of the folks at NASA saw the original manuscript online and offered pointers, many of which Weir incorporated and some of which he decided not to use for the sake of story. Since he was originally just doing it as a way to goof off, it's hard to fault him for that.

I also totally bought into the fact that some things weren't robust or had backups. Weir does mention funding issues a couple of times, and there's been a long history of "make do" in government projects. After all, this is the organization that crashed a hundred-million-dollar Martian orbiter because they forgot to switch between Metric and the English units that the lowest bidder had used.

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4076 comments ^One of my 'net friends, an engineer who works with the National Space Society (Bob Lee) told me early on that he had read a copy before it got pulled and that I should watch out for it. He loved it, even with the problems.

terpkristin | 4190 comments Interesting. I had no idea that NSS had engineers or did anything but issue statements on policy without effecting much actual change. And I used to work for their aol site back in the day.

Trike, I never said I was knocking Weir or the book (in score at least) for technical inaccuracy. I was even reluctant to criticize it in this thread until someone explicitly asked for some examples of what was wrong. I gave the book 2 stars because it bored me and Watney was flat as a character (which I noted in my review may be endemic to the survival story genre and that the genre doesn't particularly interest me). As for the metric/US thing and design robustness, I'm not going to bother explaining why it's not as simple as the media made it out to be and why the single point failure in the book made no sense. It's not worth my time nor is it really relevant to this thread. But as with most things the media reports, they have no idea what they're talking about. Don't get me started on people bringing in Bill Nye as a science correspondent about space things...

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