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In the face of overwhelming odds, I am left with no other options. I'm going to have to science the shit out of this.
~ Mark Watney

Mark Watney is an astronaut and the main protagonist of the 2011 Andy Weir science fiction novel The Martian and its 2015 film adaptation of the same name, where he was portrayed by Matt Damon, who also played Jason Bourne in the Bourne film series, Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting, Spirit in Spirit: Stallion of the CimarronMax Da Costa in Elysium and Cale Tucker in Titan A.E.

Watney is an astronaut and the botanist of the Ares III mission to Mars when a storm strikes and the crew thinks he is dead. They then flee Mars to escape the storm and when Watney wakes up, he realizes that he is alone on the desolate red planet 50 million miles away from home and without any way to contact Earth. Watney is forced to use his botany skills to farm crops on Mars until the Ares IV mission arrives in four years. However, Watney is a comical and optimistic man who never lets the situation get the best of him.

Biography

In 2035, the crew of the Ares III manned mission to Mars is exploring the Acidalia Planitia on Martian solar day (sol) 18 of their 31-sol expedition. A sandstorm forces them to return to their orbiting vessel Hermes. During the evacuation, astronaut Mark Watney is struck by debris and lost in the storm; the last telemetry from his suit indicates no life signs. With the remaining crew in peril, mission commander Melissa Lewis gives the order to launch without him.

Watney awakens after the storm and makes his way to the "Hab", the crew's Martian living quarters. He removes a piece of antenna from his stomach and suit's biomonitor, which caused the erroneous life-sign readings, and begins a video diary. He realizes that his only chance of rescue is the arrival of the Ares IV crew at the Schiaparelli crater, 3,200 kilometers away, in four years. Watney knows that if the Hab breaks open, he will implode, if the oxygenator breaks, he will suffocate, if the water reclaimer breaks, he will die of thirst, and since he has calculated that he has enough food to last only 300 sols (roughly 309 days), Watney, a botanist, decides that he will have to find a way to grow food on Mars, a planet where nothing grows.

Watney improvises a farm with Martian soil fertilized with vacuum-packed toilet waste, water produced by extracting hydrogen from leftover rocket fuel then oxidized by burning, and potatoes saved for a Thanksgiving meal. He begins to modify the only functional rover to make long journeys across Mars. Reviewing satellite photos of Mars, mission director Vincent Kapoor and satellite planner Mindy Park realize Watney has survived.

Despite the objections of Hermes flight director Mitch Henderson, NASA director Teddy Sanders decides not to inform the Ares III crew, believing it would distract them from their mission. Watney takes the rover to retrieve the Pathfinder probe, which fell silent in 1997. Using the lander's camera, he establishes rudimentary communication with the JPL team. NASA instructs Watney to modify the rover to link with Pathfinder so they can communicate via text. Watney is angry that the crew has not been told of his survival and Sanders authorizes Henderson to inform them. Henderson and JPL director Bruce Ng formulate a plan to send a space probe to Mars and resupply Watney with enough food to survive until Ares IV's arrival. When the Hab airlock explosively decompresses, destroying Watney's crop, Sanders orders the team to accelerate the supply mission by skipping safety inspections. The supply probe explodes after liftoff.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) offers NASA the Taiyang Shen, a classified booster that can carry a payload to Mars. Meanwhile, JPL astrodynamicist Rich Purnell determines a trajectory to send Hermes back to Mars more quickly, using the Chinese booster to instead resupply it for an additional eighteen months. Sanders rejects the plan, refusing to risk the crew, but Henderson surreptitiously sends the details to Hermes. Lewis and her crew vote unanimously to execute the plan, and NASA – powerless to stop them – proceeds with the resupply as Hermes flies by Earth, using its gravity to slingshot them back to Mars. After 461 sols, Watney begins the 90-sol journey to Schiaparelli crater, where the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) for the Ares IV mission previously landed.

To rendezvous with Hermes' fly-by, Watney makes drastic modifications to reduce its mass, removing equipment including the windows, nose cone, and exterior panels. With Watney on board the gutted MAV, the Hermes crew launches it remotely, but not at the planned speed and distance. Hermes uses its maneuvering thrusters to change course and explosive decompression of its own internal atmosphere to adjust its speed. Lewis uses a Manned Maneuvering Unit, propelled by nitrogen gas, to approach Watney's vessel, but cannot reach him. Watney pierces the glove of his pressure suit and uses the escaping air as a miniature thruster to reach Lewis. The crew is reunited as crowds around the world cheer. After returning to Earth, Watney begins a new life as a survival instructor for new astronaut candidates. Years later, on the occasion of the Ares V mission launch, those involved in Watney's rescue have returned to their lives or begun new lives.

Quotes

  • I don't want to come off as arrogant here, but I'm the greatest botanist on this planet.
  • I've been thinking about laws on Mars. There's an international treaty saying that no country can lay claim to anything that's not on Earth. By another treaty if you're not in any country's territory, maritime law aplies. So Mars is international waters. Now, NASA is an American non-military organization, it owns the Hab. But the second I walk outside I'm in international waters. So Here's the cool part. I'm about to leave for the Schiaparelli Crater where I'm going to commandeer the Ares IV lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can't until I'm on board the Ares IV. So I'm going to be taking a craft over in international waters without permission, which by definition... makes me a pirate. Mark Watney: Space Pirate.
  • Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don't care, but they're massively outnumbered by the people who do. ~ Mark Watney, The Martian
  • They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it. So, technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!
  • Alright, let me get a few things out of the way, right off the bat. Yes, I did in fact survive on a deserted planet by farming in my own shit. Yes, it's actually worse than it sound. So, let's not talk about that ever again. The other question I get most frequently is. When I was up there stranded by myself, did I think I was gonna die? Yes, absolutely. And that's one you need to know, going in, because it's gonna happen to you. This is space. It does not cooperate. At some point, everything's gonna go south on you... everything's going to go south and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem... and you solve the next one... and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.
  • I'm the first person to be alone on an entire planet.
  • I know what they're doing. I know exactly what they're doing. They just keep repeating "go faster than any man in the history of space travel", like that's a good thing. Like it'll distract me from how insane their plan is. Yeah, I get to go faster than any man in the history of space travel, because you're launching me in a convertible. Actually it's worse than that, because I won't even be able to control the thing. And by the way, physicists, when describing things like acceleration do not use the word "fast". So they're only doing that in the hopes that I won't raise any objections to this lunacy, because I like the way "fastest man in the history of space travel" sounds. I do like the way it sounds... I mean, I like it a lot. I'm not gonna tell them that.
  • Everything from NASA is flame-retardant because of that whole fire makes everybody die in space thing.
  • One thing I have in abundance here are bags. They're not much different than kitchen trash bags, though I'm sure they cost $50,000 because of NASA.
  • I'm so close to Schiaparelli I can taste it. I guess it would taste like sand, mostly, but that's not the point.
  • I admit it's fatally dangerous, but consider this: I'd get to fly around like Iron Man.
  • It's a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I'm the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn't moved in a million years! I'm the first guy to drive long-distance on Mars. The first guy to spend more than 31 sols on Mars. The first guy to grow crops on Mars. First, first, first!
  • Live Another Sol would be an awesome name for a James Bond movie.
  • Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated), if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won't stay inside anymore.
  • I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.
  • I should probably be worried about the fact that I'm warm only because there is a decaying radioactive isotope right behind me, but I've got other things to worry about right now.
  • I'm calling it the Watney Triangle because after what I've been through, shit on Mars should be named after me.
  • Everything went great right up to the explosion.
  • Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can’t improve on duct tape.
  • I guess you could call it a "failure", but I prefer the term "learning experience".
  • If I want water, I'll have to make it from scratch. Fortunately, I know the recipe: Take hydrogen. Add oxygen. Burn.
  • Mars will come to fear my botany powers.
  • I'm not gonna die here.
  • Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.
  • I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientist are known for.

Trivia

  • Mark Watney's name is a play on words of the word botany, which is his specialty.
  • Mark Watney was born on October 12, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois, where he studied botany at the University of Chicago.
  • Mark Watney is also proficient with mechanical engineering and media relations.
  • Mark Watney was selected to be an astronaut in the year 2032.

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