Awards, Martian Essay

The Martian’s Scientific Culture

On Earth, where it seems that things are measured by its own planetary standards, some people can find it...

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On Earth, where it seems that things are measured by its own planetary standards, some people can find it difficult to see how much of what is in outer space that actually affects everyone’s ordinary environment. From robotics to everyday consumer electronics, items were created from a person’s mind that began with a basic curiosity to a product’s functionality. One idea sparks an explosion of deep research and countless possibilities to further studies in a very different specific area. It takes a fictional story of an astronaut’s mission to live that connects him to an audience and shows his amusing personality in order to capture a person’s interest in overall space exploration. In The Martian, by Andy Weir, it triggers an awareness of science literacy by way of entertainment and activates a greater number of learners to general universe study; science literacy generates many creative outlets by which a highly sophisticated tool may one day help with a later common technological design.

According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, science literacy is “how you think” (par.15). When an idea or something is being presented to anyone for the first time, it is the person’s curiosity that sparks interest to find out more about that item. The Who, What, Where questions are immediately thought of to find out complete details. Science Literacy is not a simple fact of knowing how much full sunlight is needed to nourish an avocado tree to grow. It is more along the lines of knowing that it needs the sunlight in order to get its needed nutrients for a healthy growth. What often times gets misunderstood is that learning information about anything related to science is having a knowledgeable brain. When in reality, the process of learning how to apply facts and data into actual life skills is science. There is no comparison between measuring someone who knows the exact temperature of water’s boiling point to someone knowing exactly the danger of touching boiled water. Instead, it is more so helpful to recognize the use of boiling water. Experience aids in developing science understanding.

In The Martian, by Andy Weir, the astronaut, Mark Watney, is confronted with multiple challenges that require him to not only use his scientific knowledge for the Mars exploration, but more importantly, that serve to save his life in using critical thinking from his science practices. Because of the character’s quick-thinking skills, he was able to survive every threat in Mars. Each different case kept the story entertaining and made for edge-of-your-seat feeling. In one example, on Sol 119 after the airlock detaches from the Hab, he hears a hiss sound and realized there was a leak in the airlock but didn’t know where the damage was. After some fast thinking, he figured he needed to make smoke in order to trace the path of the leak. However, with nothing flammable, he realized his hair would work. Next, of course, a spark was needed in order to create the fire that would fill the airlock with smoke to trace the leak. By building up static and touching something metal, he got fire and burned a bit of his hair. Then he was finally able to see that the “smoke drifted toward the floor of the airlock, disappearing through a hairline fracture” (161). It was his knowing that smoke flows out of air-releasing openings which helped him to take the necessary actions to find the leak.

With his strong problem solving skills, he had been able to figure out methods to stay alive. Watney was an engineer and a botanist. Although there were some things he learned while studying to ultimately be an astronaut, his interest and curiosity in how things work led to his life-saving decisions while in Mars. Not only being on the red planet was hard enough to live but it was also extremely tough to apply lessons from mission practices on Earth. His psychological senses were also tested when on Mars. He kept a good-humor attitude overall in the book. Even when logging Sol days in the red planet, he always had some funny sarcastic remark to add into his notes. So much was going on that affected his time alive yet he used a classic TV sitcom to alleviate some actual stress he was facing. At the end of log entry Sol 30, he switches from what he has to come up with next to other so-called important news. He explains how he cannot take the idea of “the replacement of Chrissy with Cindy” (27). He says that “Three’s Company may never be the same after this fiasco. Time will tell” (27). No matter what he has already been through so far while in Mars, this show is keeping his mind off from the little time he has to survive the actual disasters. Watney’s entertaining personality serves to connect him to his audience and relate to his stress relief option.

Because of the book’s successful written design, film makers decided to create a movie based on it. Many space related movies have been made, but The Martian received great reviews for its good much-closer-to real-science depiction. Rocket scientist, Olympia LePoint wrote a review of the film in the HuffPost Science section. After watching the movie, she said she had left “wanting to return to [her] role supporting Mission Control” (par. 1). For someone who has worked for NASA and involved with rockets, she took notice of its detailed science to get the public’s interest. For example, when Watney figures out how to make water out of Hydrogen and Oxygen, the experiment is shown very realistic even though it actually would be deadly to do by anyone (par. 7). Some decisions that NASA representatives had to make in the movie also reflected circumstances similar to other missions that would be faced by the agency. Just figuring out how to lighten the MAV so Watney can launch from Ares 4 site, took lots of team members countless hours to calculate and measure the amount to get it going correctly. Even though there have been huge advancements with space exploration because of the Moon missions, the Mars Mission in this movie sets a high level of awareness to perhaps those who may not otherwise have any idea of NASA’s capability to do in the near future. Previous space adventures helped start creative ideas that turned into further inventions for other uses on Earth.

Tyson mentioned in one of his articles “NASA’s Dwindling Budget” that “most innovative products are spin-offs from something else” (par. 5). He explains the importance of having NASA active to inspire the type of people needed to develop technological advancement. Inventors who are currently working on equipment that will one day be placed in space are creating opportunities for upcoming concepts. The Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor Active Pixel Sensor (CMOS) was one spinoff invention from JPL for space imaging that later started the way for future digital cameras on Earth (Camera par.2). The camera-on-a-chip idea was used for capturing photographs of the universe. According to NASA’s Spinoff article “Image Sensors Enhance Camera Technologies,” JPL researched lots of sensor techniques to improve them “in order to significantly miniaturize cameras on interplanetary spacecraft yet maintain scientific image quality” (par. 3). That chip design is now being integrated in consumer goods for private companies. The proprietary camera system in Lifetouch, Inc. includes a Kodak image sensor to photograph subjects from a live video feed. With the chip’s microprocessors and devices, it makes for efficient stable images with less power in small camera spaces. Based on Tyson’s idea of having a field’s inventions to benefit many others, it made a great difference having the public’s support on NASA’s missions. The Hab Watney used in The Martian was carefully designed and built to keep astronauts alive and complete mission assignments. Space engineers and scientists would have collaborated in developing and testing many models years before an actual habitat was used on Mars. It is not just about planning and producing things for the “short” future but for the long futures ahead as well.

Having a scientific mentality is not necessary to enjoy the adventures Andy Weir’s character had to endure throughout the book. Relating the methods to what happened on Mars to a usual task on Earth, makes it possible for at least one person to identify with learning more about the universe. The next adult who develops a machine which changes the lives of many people on Earth would have been possible because he or she had the outlet to allow all ideas and questions to flourish into something from just one quick orbit interest. It is using science literacy that engages one person to move forward to work with others in a similar mindset and grow that one planted seed in each of their cultivated mind.


Works Cited

Benefits—Spinoff, Commercial. Camera-on-a-Chip (1999): 55. NASA Spinoff. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.

Holmes, Linda. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson On Literacy, Curiosity, Education, And Being ‘In Your Face'” NPR. NPR, 25 Feb. 2010. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

LePoint, Olympia. “‘The Martian’ Movie Review by a Rocket Scientist.” The Huffington Post., 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.

NASA. “Image Sensors Enhance Camera Technologies.” Image Sensors Enhance Camera Technologies. NASA SPINOFF, 2010. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Tyson, Neil DeGrasse. “NASA’s Dwindling Budget: Why Has America Stopped Reaching for the Stars?” Excerpted from Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. Print.

Weir, Andy. The Martian. New York: Broadway Books, 2014. Print.

Written by Hadie Tobar
Communications major at Ventura College and a coffeeholic. Profile

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