To say there are some myths circulating about Martian dust storms would be an understatement. Mars is known for its globe-encircling dust storms, the likes of which are seen nowhere else. Science fiction writers and Hollywood movies often make the dust storms out to be more dangerous than they really are. In “The Martian,” a powerful dust storm destroys equipment, strands Matt Damon on Mars, and forces him into a brutal struggle for survival.Continue reading “Earth has a Water Cycle. Mars has a Dust Cycle”
The first Zinnia flower to bloom in space is dramatically catching the sun’s rays like we have never seen before – through the windows of the Cupola on the International Space Station (ISS) while simultaneously providing a splash of soothing color, nature and reminders of home to the multinational crew living and working on the orbital science laboratory.
Furthermore its contributing invaluable experience to scientists and astronauts on learning how to grow plants and food in microgravity during future deep space human expeditions planned for NASA’s “Journey to Mars” initiative.
NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly is proudly sharing stunning new photos showing off his space grown Zinnias – which bloomed for the first time on Jan. 16, all thanks to his experienced green thumb. Continue reading “First Space Zinnia Blooms and Catches Sun’s Rays on Space Station”
Zinnia experimental plants growing aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have staged a dramatic New Year’s comeback from a potential near death experience over the Christmas holidays, when traces of mold were discovered.
And it’s all thanks to the experienced green thumb of Space Station Commander Scott Kelly, channeling his “inner Mark Watney!” Continue reading “Space Zinnias Rebound from Space Blight on Space Station”
This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Big Sky” site, where its drill collected the mission’s fifth taste of Mount Sharp, at lower left corner. The scene combines images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on Sol 1126 (Oct. 6, 2015). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
See below navcam drilling photo mosaic at Big Sky[/caption]
NASA’s Curiosity rover has managed to snap another gorgeous selfie while she was hard at work diligently completing her newest Martian sample drilling campaign – at the ‘Big Sky’ site at the base of Mount Sharp, the humongous mountain dominating the center of the mission’s Gale Crater landing site – which the science team just confirmed was home to a life bolstering ancient lake based on earlier sample analyses.
And the team is already actively planning for the car sized robots next drill campaign in the next few sols, or Martian days!
Overall ‘Big Sky’ marks Curiosity’s fifth ‘taste’ of Mount Sharp – since arriving at the mountain base one year ago – and eighth drilling operation since the nail biting Martian touchdown in August 2012.
NASA’s newly published self-portrait was stitched from dozens of images taken at Big Sky last week on Oct. 6, 2015, or Sol 1126, by the high resolution Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) color camera at the end of the rover’s 7 foot long robotic arm. The view is centered toward the west-northwest.
At Big Sky, the Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) bored into an area of cross-bedded sandstone rock in the Stimson geological unit on Sept. 29, or Sol 1119. Stimson is located on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater.
“Success! Our drill at “Big Sky” went perfectly!” wrote Ryan Anderson, a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the Curiosity ChemCam team.
The drill hole is seen at the lower left corner of the MAHLI camera selfie and appears grey along with grey colored tailing – in sharp contrast to the rust red surface. The hole itself is 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter.
Another panoramic view of the ‘Big Sky’ location shot from the rover’s eye perspective with the mast mounted Navcam camera, is shown in our photo mosaic view herein and created by the image processing team of Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo. The navcam mosaic was stitched from raw images taken up to Sol 1119 and colorized.
“With Big Sky, we found the ordinary sandstone rock we were looking for,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, in a statement.
The Big Sky drilling operation is part of a coordinated multi-step campaign to examine different types of sandstone rocks to provide geologic context.
“It also happens to be relatively near sandstone that looks as though it has been altered by fluids — likely groundwater with other dissolved chemicals. We are hoping to drill that rock next, compare the results, and understand what changes have taken place.”
Per normal operating procedures, the Big Sky sample was collected for analysis of the Martian rock’s ingredients in the rover’s two onboard laboratories – the Chemistry and Mineralogy X-Ray diffractometer (CheMin) and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.
“We are all eagerly looking forward to the CheMin results from Big Sky to compare with our previous results from “Buckskin”! noted Anderson.
This past weekend, Curiosity successfully fed pulverized and sieved samples of Big Sky to the inlet ports for both CheMin and SAM on the rover deck.
“The SAM analysis of the Big Sky drill sample went well and there is no need for another analysis, so the rest of the sample will be dumped out of CHIMRA on Sol 1132,” said Ken Herkenhoff, Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and an MSL science team member, in a mission update.
Concurrently the team is hard at work readying the rover for the next drill campaign within days, likely at a target dubbed “Greenhorn.”
So the six wheeled rover drove about seven meters to get within range of Greenhorn.
With the sample deliveries accomplished, attention shifted to the next drilling campaign.
Today, Wednesday, Oct. 14, or Sol 1133, Curiosity was commanded “to dump the “Big Sky” sample and “thwack” CHIMRA (the Collection and Handling for in-Situ Martian Rock Analysis) to clean out any remnants of the sample,” wrote Lauren Edgar, a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of MSL science team, in a mission update.
The ChemCam and Mastcam instruments are simultaneously making observations of the “Greenhorn” and “Gallatin Pass” targets “to assess chemical variations across a fracture.”
Curiosity has already accomplished her primary objective of discovering a habitable zone on the Red Planet – at the Yellowknife Bay area – that contains the minerals necessary to support microbial life in the ancient past when Mars was far wetter and warmer billions of years ago.
As of today, Sol 1133, October 14, 2015, she has driven some 6.9 miles (11.1 kilometers) kilometers and taken over 274,600 amazing images.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Scene from ‘The Martian’ starring Matt Damon as NASA astronaut Mark Watney contemplating magnificent panoramic vista while stranded alone on Mars.
Credits: 20th Century Fox
See real Martian maps and flyover video from DLR and NSA below
Go now and experience Hollywood’s blockbuster new space epic ‘The Martian’ helmed by world renowned director Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon as the protagonist, NASA astronaut Mark Watney. And you can follow Watney’s dramatic fictional path across the Red Planet in newly released real photos and a flyover video of the region, from DLR and NASA, as it looks today.
‘The Martian’ is a mesmerizingly enjoyable cinematic triumph for everyone that’s all about science, space exploration and one man’s struggle to survive while left totally isolated on the Red Planet in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds – relying on his wits alone to endure “on a planet where nothing grows” while hoping somehow for a rescue by NASA four years in the future.
The movie combines compelling and plausible storytelling with outstanding special effects that’s clearly delighting huge audiences worldwide with a positive and uplifting view of what could be achieved in the future – if only we really put our minds to it!
Based on the bestselling book by Andy Weir, ‘The Martian’ movie from 20th Century Fox tells the spellbinding story of how NASA astronaut Mark Watney is accidentally stranded on the surface of Mars during the future Ares 3 manned expedition in 2035, after a sudden and unexpectedly fierce dust storm forces the rest of the six person crew – commanded by Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis – to quickly evacuate after they believe he is dead.
Now you can follow the fictional exploits of Mark Watney’s stunningly beautiful trail across the real Mars through a set of newly released maps, imagery and a 3D video created by the DLR, the German Aerospace Agency, and NASA – and based on photos taken by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
DLR’s stunning 3D overflight video sequence was created from a dataset of 7300 stereo images covering roughly two-and-a-half million square kilometres of precisely mapped Martian landscape captured over the past 12 years by Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). The electric score is by Stephan Elgner.
Video Caption: Following the path of The Martian – video generated using images acquired by the Mars Express orbiter. Scientists from German Aerospace Center, DLR– who specialise in producing highly accurate topographical maps of Mars – reconstructed Watney’s route using stereo image data acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board European Space Agency’s #MarsExpress spacecraft. They then compiled this data into a video that shows the spectacular landscape that the protagonist would see ‘in the future’ on his trek from Ares 3 at Acidalia Planitia/Chryse Planitia to Ares 4 at Schiaparelli Crater. Credit: DLR/ESA
Ridley Scotts ‘The Martian’ takes place mostly on the surface of the Red Planet and is chock full of breathtakingly beautiful panoramic vistas. In the book you can only imagine Mars. In the movie Scott’s talents shine as he immerses you in all the action on the alien world of Mars from the opening scene.
Starting with the landing site for Watney’s Ares 3 mission crew at Acidalia Planitia, the book and movie follows his triumphs and tribulations, failures and successes as he logically solves one challenging problem after another – only to face increasingly daunting and unexpected hurdles as time goes by and supplies run low.
The DLR route map shows a real topographic view of Watney’s initial journey back and forth from the fictional Ares 3 landing site to the actual landing site of NASA’s 1997 Mars Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover mission at the mouth of Ares Vallis.
The map continues with Watney’s months-long epic trek to the fictional landing site of Ares 4 Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) spacecraft at Schiaparelli Crater, by way of Marth Valles and other Martian landmarks, craters and valleys.
At the request of Andy Weir, the HiRISE camera on NASA’s MRO orbiter took photos of the Martian plain at the Ares 3 landing site in Acidalia Planitia, which is within driving distance from the Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover in the book and movie.
The Martian is all about how Watney uses his botany, chemistry and engineering skills to “Science the sh** out of it” to grow food and survive until the hoped for NASA rescue.
Learning how to live off the land will be a key hurdle towards enabling NASA’s real strategy for long term space voyages on a ‘Journey to Mars’ and back.
‘The Martian’ is a must see movie that broadly appeals to space enthusiasts and general audiences alike who can easily identify with Watney’s ingenuity and will to live.
Since its worldwide premiere on Oct. 2, ‘The Martian’ has skyrocketed to the top of the US box office for the second weekend in a row, hauling in some $37.3 million. The total domestic box office receipts now top $108 million and rockets to over $228 million worldwide in the first 10 days alone.
I absolutely loved ‘The Martian’ when I first saw the movie on opening weekend. And enjoyed it even more the second time, when I could pick up a few details I missed the first time around.
The movie begins as the crew evacuates after they believe Watney was killed by the dust storm. Watney actually survived the storm but lost contact with NASA. The film recounts his ingenious years long struggle to survive, figure out how to tell NASA he is alive and send a rescue crew before he starves to death on a planet where nothing grows. Watney’s predicament is a survival lesson to all including NASA.
‘The Martian’ was written by Andy Weir in 2010 and the film could well break the October movie box office record currently held by ‘Gravity.’
The movie closely follows the book, which I highly recommend you read at some point.
By necessity, the 2 hour 20 minute movie cannot capture every event in the book. So there is an abbreviated sense of Watney’s detailed science to survive and lengthy overland trips.
All the heroics and difficulties in traveling to Pathfinder and back and getting communications started, as well as the final month’s long journey to Schiaparelli crater are significantly condensed, but captured in spirit.
The Martian is brilliant and intelligent and rivals Stanley Kubrik’s space epic ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as one of the top movies about humanities space exploration quest.
The one big science inaccuracy takes place right at the start with the violent Martian dust storm.
On Mars the atmosphere is so thin that the winds would not be anywhere near as powerful or destructive as portrayed. This is acknowledged by Weir and done for dramatic license. We can look past that since the remainder of the tale portrays a rather realistic architectural path to Mars and vision of how scientists and engineers think. Plus the dust storms can in fact kick up tremendous amounts of particles that significantly block sunlight from impinging on solar energy generating panels.
Personally I can’t wait for the ‘Directors Cut’ with an added 30 to 60 minutes of scenes that were clearly filmed – but not included in the original theatrical release.
THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.
“NASA has endorsed “The Martian’” Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Sciences, told Universe Today. Green served as technical consultant on the film.
The DLR film was created by a team led by Ralf Jaumann from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Principal Investigator for HRSC. He believes that producing the overflight video was not just a gimmick for a science fiction film:
“Mars generates immense fascination, and our curiosity continues to grow! Many people are interested in our research, and young people in particular want to know what it is really like up there, and how realistic the idea that one day people will leave their footprints on the surface of Mars truly is. The data acquired by HRSC shows Mars with a clarity and detail unmatched by any other experiment. Only images acquired directly on the surface, for instance by rovers like Curiosity, are even closer to reality, but they can only show a small part of the planet. Thanks to this animation, we have even noticed a few new details that we had not seen in a larger spatial context. That is why we made the film – it helps everyone see what it would be like for Watney to travel through these areas… the clouds were the only creative touches we added, because, fortunately, they do not appear in the HRSC data,” according to a DLR statement.
Here’s the second official trailer for The Martian:
As a scientist and just plain Earthling, my most fervent hope is that ‘The Martian’ will inspire our young people to get interested in all fields of science, math and engineering and get motivated to become the next generation of explorers – here on Earth and beyond to the High Frontier to benefit all Mankind.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Route map in original German (Deutsch):
Alert: mild spoilers lie ahead, as we’ll be discussing minor plot points of the book The Martian. What, you haven’t read it yet? Have you been stranded on Mars? Don’t make us pull your geek card…
Never mind The Avengers or the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise… some early stills from the big screen adaptation of Andy Weir’s The Martian have been circulating around ye ole web as of late, and we like what we see.
Self-published in 2012 and lauded for its scientific accuracy, The Martian follows the exploits of astronaut Marc Watney (played by Matt Damon in the upcoming film) as he struggles to stay alive on Mars. Watney must rally every bit of scientific expertise at his command to accomplish everything from growing food to establishing communications to surviving the disco music and bad 70s TV left behind by fellow crew members.
The 20 Century Fox film adaptation is directed by Ridley Scott (of Alien and Blackhawk Down fame) and promises to have a ‘successful failure’ vibe in the tradition of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. Heck, reading The Martian, we simply love how it breaks the convention advocated at innumerable writing workshops that exposition is somehow always bad. Engineering and science geeks want to peek under the hood, and see what makes that warp drive tick. The Martian breaks very few rules when it comes to getting the science right, and there’s high hopes that this will translate well on the big screen.
From the design of Watney’s Mars excursion suit to the expedition rover he uses to cross the Martian terrain, we’re seeing lots of actual NASA designs being incorporated into the production.
“NASA was very involved in consulting for the film,” author Andy Weir told Universe Today. “The production got numerous people in both NASA and JPL involved and listened very closely to what they had to say.”
One of our favorite bits from the book is where Watney must use the rising and setting of the twin Martian moons Phobos and Deimos for a rough dead reckoning while travelling over the open Martian terrain. It’s a terrific scene with some possibilities for some great panoramic vistas, and we hope it survives into the film adaptation.
We also hope that the first NASA rover to roll across the soils of Mars (hint: it wasn’t Curiosity, Spirit or Opportunity) makes an appearance in the movie, as it did in the book.
The current release date set by 20th Century Fox is November 27, 2015 and Mr. Weir noted that we may be seeing the very first trailers for The Martian very soon, possibly in the June time frame.
And did you know? The cover for the script for The Martian—complete with early conceptual sketches by director Ridley Scott—actually flew aboard last year’s EFT-1 mission to test the Orion capsule in space.
Unlike trendy dystopian futures that are all the rage these days, The Martian depicts an optimistic future, a time where budgetary woes have been overcome and humans are living and working on Mars. This may well have been the true reason that the novel resonated so well throughout the science and space community: it conveys a message of a future that we all hope will be a reality in our lifetimes.
We even see a direct sci-fi lineage between The Martian and the classic 1954 science fiction tale The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin. The universe is indeed out to kill us, and only science can save the day.
It’ll be interesting to see if The Martian becomes the breakout hit of 2015. Also starring Michael Pena, Mackenzie David, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Jessica Chastain, The Martian features an all-star cast. We’re also curious to know if the film will have a disco soundtrack, but the author isn’t telling.
Much of the Mars-scapes for The Martian are being filmed in the deserts of Wadi Rum in southern Jordan. We traversed this region during our global backpacking trek in early 2007 and can attest that it is suitably Martian in appearance, though of course, we’ve yet to journey to the Red Planet… Weir’s book and the upcoming film will have to suffice for now.
Wadi Rum also simulated Mars in the films Red Planet and The Last Days on Mars.
We’ll definitely be waiting in line come opening day!
Check out this exclusive interview with The Martian author Andy Weir in the recent Weekly Spacehangout: