Inaccuracies in Andy Weir’s Well-Researched Novel The Martian
Formerly a chemical engineering student at UC Davis, Niraj Vora completed materials science research on conductive efficiency properties. He was also part of a Chem-E car team at UC Davis that created a successful mini-vehicle able to carry specified weights a set distance. An avid reader of science fiction, Niraj Vora particularly enjoys books that lay out future scenarios such as Andy Weir’s The Martian.
A worldwide bestseller, The Martian stands out as a fictional account of how a stranded astronaut might survive in the hostile-to-life environment of the Red Planet. Despite being meticulously researched, there are some key issues that run counter to fact, including how Weir’s astronaut is initially blown away from his ship by a windstorm. Mars does experience winds, but with an atmosphere only 1 percent of Earth’s density, winds would be negligible at worst.
Another issue has to do with the radiation exposure on and off Mars, with the 180-day trip alone exposing astronauts to a major radiation dosage. That plus the cumulative effect of more than a year spent on Mars would make radiation from solar particles and cosmic rays a serious issue. Some sort of radiation-shielding equipment could hypothetically be developed, but that technology is not discussed by Weir in the book.