The Cosmic Shed

The Martian (book)

May 6, 2015

In this long-awaited (by us) episode, Andrew, Laura and Ben rove around the story and science of The Martian. We talk to Andy Weir, the book's author, and Michaela Musilova, an astrobiologist who was a crew scientist on a simulated Mars mission.

Giving as few spoilers as possible, we explore the book's detailed use of science and technology, look into its storytelling techniques, and look forward (with some trepidation) to the forthcoming film version.  

Andy tells us about his long road to success, his inspiration for the novel and love for tinkering with difficult maths. Michaela applauds the authenticity of the book's characters, talks about working with NASA and JPL, and shares her hopes for future Mars missions. Andy and Michaela also explain some of their problems with the science and story choices of Gravity.

Warning: this episode contains mild plot spoilers after the 20-minute mark, plus a short discussion of an utterly terrible film, and snippets of supremely cheesy and/or misogynistic early-80's music.


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The Cosmic Shed is supported by The Lab, who provide us with delicious free coffee for our recording sessions courtesy of their Slow Brew Club subscription service.

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Show notes

Andy Weir's calculations for how often you might be caught between the Moon and New York City can be seen on his Facebook Timeline.

For visual evidence of Andrew and Andy's chat, see The Cosmic Shed's Facebook page.

If you'd like to listen to Burroughs 101, the radio documentary Ben mentions, you can find it on the This American Life website.

Have a look at this New Scientist article for more on how astronauts could farm water on Mars.

To read Dennis Wingo's review of The Martian, have a look at his blog.

Scott Kelly's photo of the ISS screening of Gravity can be seen on Twitter

The new Digital 3D Planetarium is now open at Bristol's brilliant science centre, @Bristol.

Remember, don't watch Mission to Mars five times, read or listen to The Martian instead.

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