Story is futuristic; it is assuming that it is about 20 to 30 years from now when we could send manned spaceflight to Mars. This is actually happening during the third such mission at Mars. Six astronauts in a crew in this mission, six days from when they landed at Mars due to a catastrophe by the nature they had to abort mission and leave Mars. The protagonist Mark Watney gets hit by an antenna and gets lost in the dust storm and the crew couldn’t locate him and had to leave him behind thinking he was dead. Surprise, surprise, Mark was not dead. Mark has no way to communicate to earth that he was alive. Crew had set up a hab for shelter, it has an oxygenator, water re claimer, if any of these did not fail, he will eventually run out of food and starve to death.
Technical and scientific information in the book is astounding. It is like taking a crash course in relativistic physics, Botany, Chemistry, Astronomy and Astro Dynamics. It is like reading a journal of a science nerd who is also very funny. The astronauts when they are chosen for a mission they go through a lot of psychological analysis at NASA. It is very important that people have compatible egos when they go on a long mission like this. Not just compatible egos, they have compliment each other, cover for each other as they may have their life depending on it. This book got that part right. How astronomers are super cool, they specialize in more than one field.
Mark is a botanist and also a mechanical engineer. The coolest part was the commander of the spaceship was a woman. The last chapter where she takes charge of the situation, it was whopping good! Here is the line – “Oh,” Lewis said, “Well if you won’t let us then— Wait…wait a minute.… I’m looking at my shoulder patch and it turns out I’m the commander. Sit tight. We’re coming to get you.”
I loved this quote ““Astronauts are inherently insane and really noble.” It is so true is so many levels. They are just plain brave.
Communication system is the key in this book that you have to read it to believe it. Mars is anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes away from us, if crew have a question it will take at least 24 minutes to get an answer back from NASA. When Mark loses radio connection with earth it was nerve wrecking.
Mark’s character is by the book how an astronaut have to function, he sees a problem, he does not get depressed, he just thinks of steps of solving that problem and he solves it and then he faces another problem again he thinks it through find another solution take it step by step and solves it again and of course he has to crack jokes. What fun would it be to read about a depressed astronaut? Mark Watney was the best candidate to be marooned on a planet with no form of life.
My favorite part in the book is how it shows that the NASA, JPL team, Crew on the space, Director of the Mars mission comes together and works day and night to get this one man back to earth. I am impressed to see how NASA works. How they are so diligent, how they solve the problems remotely, how they send instructions to build something out of duct tape and canvas tarps and whatever resources that was available to the astronaut at the given time and space. The book shows the scientists, astronauts and engineers as geniuses that they are.