Oscar On Mars: Fact Checking 'The Martian' With The Scientists Sending MOXIE To Mars

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The NASA rover astronaut Mark Watney uses in "The Martian." (Courtesy 20th Century Fox)
The NASA rover astronaut Mark Watney uses in "The Martian." (Courtesy 20th Century Fox)

Part four of our special four-part series, “Oscar on Mars.”

We're wrapping up "Oscar on Mars," our special series exploring the art of filmmaking through one movie, Ridley Scott's "The Martian."

The movie picked up seven Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for Matt Damon. Over the course of the week, we talked with folks in the Boston film industry, and examined why "The Martian" was also nominated in some of the nuts and bolts categories, such as best visual effects, best adapted screenplay and best sound mixing and editing.

"The Martian" is science fiction, but how close is it to science fact?

Above all, we're journalists here, so let's close our series by fact-checking "The Martian."


Michael Hecht, associate director for research management at MIT's Haystack Observatory. He's principle investigator of MOXIE and was a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for almost 30 years.

Jeffrey Hoffman, professor of aerospace engineering at MIT and deputy principle investigator of MOXIE. He was a NASA astronaut from 1978 to 1997.

More In This Series

Radio Boston: Oscar On Mars: What Makes For A Great Fiction To Film Adaptation?

  • "Debbie talked with us about why she thinks “The Martian” deserves the nomination for best adapted screenplay."

Radio Boston: Oscar On Mars: Behind The ‘Invisible’ Visual Effects Of ‘The Martian’

  • "We’re calling our series 'Oscar on Mars,' and we’re first tackling the movie’s Academy Award-nominated visual effects."

Radio Boston: Oscar On Mars: How Sound Editing And Mixing Flesh Out A Movie’s World

  • "Now, we’re tackling sound mixing and sound editing with Brian McKeever, senior audio post production mixer at Soundtrack Boston."

From Our 'Spotlight' Series

Radio Boston: Phil Saviano: ‘My Abuser Was My Confessor’

  • "We’ve talked to members of the original Globe team, to a lawyer, and a priest. Now, we hear from someone who represents the most important group of people in this story: the survivors."

More 'The Martian' Might Be The Most Realistic Space Movie Ever Made

  • "A scientist — as portrayed in most big-budget movies — usually resembles a robot more than a human. These caricatures of scientists show them as dorky, calculating, anti-social, almost never cool or confident, and rarely funny (and if they are, they usually crack jokes about "Star Wars.") Mark Watney, the lead character in 'The Martian,' is an antidote to that tired trope. He's funny, and his humor may be what saves him from losing hope — and his mental stability — when he gets stranded alone on Mars. And Watney isn't alone — many of the scientists and engineers in the movie (and even more of them in the book) match him in wits and humor."

Gizmodo: Science Of The Martian: The Good, The Bad, And The Fascinating

  • "The Martian is a love letter to science, but what does science think of The Martian? It’s time for a report card on what’s dead-on accurate, where the facts are fudged, and what’s plausible for a future that could one day happen."

NASA: Nine Real NASA Technologies In 'The Martian'

  • "'he Martian' merges the fictional and factual narratives about Mars, building upon the work NASA and others have done exploring Mars and moving it forward into the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface to explore. Although the action takes place 20 years in the future, NASA is already developing many of the technologies that appear in the film."

The Boston Globe: Elder Scientists Work To Send Humans To Mars

  • "They are graybeards still going boldly: the retired astronaut; the researcher whose career began before the first Viking craft touched down on the red planet nearly 40 years ago; the octogenarian just now updating his 520-page tome, 'Human Missions to Mars.'"

This segment aired on February 26, 2016.


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