The Martian: How accurate is the terrain?

How Accurate Is the Terrain in The Martian?

How Accurate Is the Terrain in The Martian?

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 14 2015 7:15 AM

Mars Mars The Martian

Terrain in Chryse Planitia, not far from where the novel The Martian takes place.

Photo by NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

So I read the sci-fi book The Martian a while back, and I loved it. It’s hard sci-fi, an adventure tale with a lot of solid science and engineering in it. Despite being laden with technical stuff, it’s a page-turner, and I highly recommend it (especially since it’s being made into a movie with Matt Damon).

It seemed pretty accurate to me (I spot-checked some of the math, actually, because me = dork), but I’m not an expert in Martian geography. It turns out the terrain astronaut Mark Watney had to drive over on Mars is actually a little bit different than advertised.


I didn’t know this, but planetary geologist Alfred McEwen did! The folks with HiRISE (a camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) got him to describe the landscape there, and I’m honored they asked me to record an audio version of the article.

They also made a video using HiRISE images of the area in questions, and it’s very cool. It still blows me away that we can get images like this of Mars!

I imagine the movie of the book will make extensive use of HiRISE images. If they stick close to the book’s story, this’ll be a great movie. I can’t wait!

(N.B. The title of this post makes sense when you realize the second word is a verb.)