10 Google searches I made after watching ‘The Martian’

Published 10:56 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

by Lauren Bradshaw

It’s good news when Ridley Scott (“Alien”) is back at the helm of a movie set in outer space. Based off of the best-selling book by Andy Weir, “The Martian” tells the harrowing story of an astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who is left by himself on Mars after his team thinks he died during a dust storm. Not only does Watney have to figure out how to call back to NASA to inform them he is still alive, he also has to figure out a way to stay alive on the desolate planet until a resupply or rescue mission can get to him in time.

As someone who also read and enjoyed the book, I can report that “The Martian” is a great adaptation. Book fans will be very pleased, and those with no previous knowledge of the story will be shocked and entertained by just how much research went into making this story as scientifically accurate as possible (but let’s not forget this is a movie, after all). I didn’t know how screenwriter Drew Goddard would be able to turn such a smart, scientifically oriented book, which centered around journal entries, into a mainstream blockbuster. However, he was able to perfectly capture Watney’s sense of humor, as well as his MacGyver-esque intelligence. And not only that, he expanded the role of Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) to more than it is on the page. It’s no secret that Chastain is one of my favorite actresses, and her more action-packed, heroic character in the film was a welcomed change. Yes, I could have done without the added epilogue, which should have been substituted for more time showing Watney’s treacherous trip to the MAV, but that is a small nit-pick to an overall fun film.

In celebration of the serious research that went behind Weir’s book, as well as the movie, here are the ten Google searches I made when I got home from seeing “The Martian” last week.

1. Best potato recipes. If I could have this bad boy every day, I wouldn’t complain about eating nothing but potatoes. Not. one. bit.

2. ABBA’s greatest hits. Picking my favorite was a bit harder than I anticipated. Thanks to the “Mama Mia” soundtrack I knew (and liked) quite a few. Today’s favorites consist of a three-way tie between “Super Trouper,” “Money, Money, Money” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).” Let’s not read into what this says about me. Also, is there any hope these songs will ever get out of my head?

3. What was Watney doing with the numbers and question marks to communicate? Apparently this was a part of the book that I didn’t really pay attention to, but cared about more when seeing it on-screen. So what was that all about? Let’s hear it right from the Watney’s mouth in his explanation from the pages of the book…

“So I’ll have to use ASCII. That’s how computers manage characters. Each character has a numerical code between 0 and 255. Values between 0 and 255 can be expressed as 2 hexadecimal digits. By giving me pairs of hex digits, they can send any character they like, including numbers, punctuation, etc.

“How do I know which values go with which characters? Because Johanssen’s laptop is a wealth of information. I knew she’d have an ASCII table in there somewhere. All computer geeks do.

“So I’ll make cards for 0 through 9, and A through F. That makes 16 cards to place around the camera, plus the Question Card. 17 cards means over 21 degrees each. Much easier to deal with.”

4. How far away are humans from traveling to Mars? NASA, as well as private companies have had a manned mission to Mars on their radar for decades. However, due to lack of funding and support, the milestone is moving further and further away. To get to the moon, it took the rivalry between the United States and USSR, along with 5 percent of the total U.S. budget. Pretty sure taxpayers and Congress would not be happy with that setup anymore. However, with the new public interest in Mars, thanks to movies and discoveries (like the recent water discovery), perhaps more funding and support will be raised to ensure we get to Mars within the next couple of decades.

As it stands now NASA is developing a heavy-lift rocket that could put humans deeper in space than they have ever gone before. That technology, along with the Orion, a new crew capsule, will then be leveraged to place humans first on an asteroid, then to Mars. NASA’s plans involve getting a human to Mars sometime in the 2030s. While skeptics think that may be a bit ambitious, here’s to hoping!

5. How can I science the — out of my apartment? Lifehacks count as science, right?

6. Was Matt Damon, the space pirate, the one that found water on Mars? This week, NASA announced that “briny water” had been found on Mars. Yes, Mars has seasonal rivers of flowing water. Since water is a building block for life, this means there could be life on Mars. But no, turns out Matt Damon was not the guy that made this discovery. In fact, it was found by a team led by planetary scientist Lujendra Ojha at the Georgia Institute of Technology. They made the discovery by using images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Unfortunately, due to range issues and fears of contamination, the rover is not able to make it over to the water to do research, but plans are in place to send a sterilized rover to Mars to gather more information.

7. How many G’s can the human body withstand before passing out? I faced 2.5 sustained Gs on the Epcot ride “Mission: Space” and I felt a bit loopy and uncomfortable, so how many Gs would it take to make someone actually pass out? According to an article on Gizmodo, the average person can handle between 4-5 Gs before passing out. As you will see from these videos of a reporter with the Blue Angels, he blacked out at around 6.5 Gs. Fighter pilots are trained to withstand up to 9 Gs, with the aid of breathing and circulation tricks (as well as flight suits). In the 1970s, Major John Beeding broke the record and endured 83 Gs. Although he only did this for .4 seconds, it showed the human body can withstand an enormous amount of G force for a short period of time and come out virtually unscathed.

Astronauts usually face about 3 Gs during launch on Earth. But being as how Watney reduced the weight of the MAV to increase his escape velocity, it is no surprise that he passed out during his mission to rendezvous with his team. He must have pulled some enormous G’s.

8. How long could you survive on Mars without a spacesuit? Presuming it was during a period of time when the temperature was comparable to that of a nice day on Earth, you would still not last very long. According to a Business Insider article, “The most serious immediate impact would be from the low atmospheric pressure that is nearly a vacuum compared to Earth,” Chris Webster from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Curiosity rover roaming Mars, said in an email. “Within minutes the skin and organs would rupture, outgas, and produce a quick, painful death.”

If not killed by the low-pressure atmosphere, there are many other environmental factors that make Mars inhospitable to humans without protection.

“Any humans on Mars would have to contend with the lack of oxygen — only about 0.1 percent compared to Earth’s 20 percent — the very cold surface temperatures, the ubiquitous and irritating dust, the intense UV radiation, surface chemicals and oxidants,” Webster said. “And all this before they started looking for food and water!”

9. Are there seriously TORNADOES on Mars? Yes! The Mars SPIRIT Rover caught images of a dirt devil moving across an open plain. While so far there isn’t evidence that these mini-tornadoes are as severe as the one depicted in the film, they do exist!

10. What happened to the Pathfinder? Would it be possible to find it? According to an interview with IFLScience, this could absolutely happen. “Theoretically, it would absolutely be possible,” said Dave Lavery [Program Executive for Solar System Exploration at NASA headquarters and a consultant for the film], and he should know, as he worked on the Pathfinder mission. “The spacecraft has been sitting up there since 1997, and it stopped operating because the batteries finally drained and gave out. But if you replaced them and repowered it, everything else should still be functioning.”

My Review: B+

Lauren Bradshaw is a lover of all movies, even the bad ones. Follow her at www.clotureclub.com or on twitter @flickchickdc, and her blog is fangirlfreakout.com.