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NASA lists 'The Martian' tech that already exists

Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
August 20, 2015
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A lot of sci-fi films feature technologies we still only dream of, such as time traveling or warp drives -- Ridley Scott's and Andy Weir's The Martian, however, makes use of more realistic ones. In fact, NASA's already developing a number of technologies used in the film, including a Martian habitat and a spacesuit suited for the planet's environment. The agency has listed nine technologies shown in the film that already exists in some form -- not really surprising, seeing as NASA served as its consultant. Some of them are actually in use aboard the ISS right now, and who knows: the others might be ready in 20 years, when the events in the movie take place.

The agency enumerated these nine on its The Martian portal:

  • Habitat: The movie's protagonist, Mark Watney, stayed in the crew's habitat when he was left and presumed dead on Mars. NASA's astronauts train for deep-space missions by staying in a habitat called Human Exploration Research Analog or HERA at the Johnson Space Center.
  • Plant farm: The movie shows Watney growing plants so he can have something to eat while waiting to be rescued. In real life, astronauts aboard the ISS ate the veggies they grew in space for the first time earlier this August.
  • Water Recovery: Just like Watney, the ISS crew recycles every drop of urine, sweat and water used for washing.
  • Oxygen Generation: The ISS astronauts have an Oxygen Generation System that continuously provides air they can breathe.
  • Mars Spacesuit: NASA has begun working on the Z-2 spacesuit, which might look rather odd, but will allow humans to explore the red planet.
  • Rover: Several rovers had already roamed Mars in the past, but NASA is developing its next-gen deep-space ground vehicle for the planet and for near-earth asteroids.
  • Ion Propulsion: The crew in the movie used ion propulsion to reach the planet faster, while in reality, the Dawn spacecraft used ion thrusters to minimize fuel consumption when it made its way to the dwarf planet Ceres. The agency is also working on its next-gen "Hall effect thrusters."
  • Solar Panels: Many of NASA's spacecraft already have solar panels to absorb sunlight and generate power they can use.
  • Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs): These generators convert heat from the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into energy. The Curiosity rover has one, which can produce 110 Watts of power, enough to light up one bulb.

Some of these technologies were shown in The Martian's latest trailer, which we've embedded below:

In this article: movie, nasa, themartian
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