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Went to see The Martian last night.  It was as good as various people have said, so thanks for the recommendations! Full of competent people competenting which I like.

But I still don't know why a botanist on Mars with no seeds.  Anyone know?

For a bonus point, why potato growing in the gravel at a NASA training academy place?  Although, to be fair, that seems very much in character for a potato.  Opportunist vegetables. 


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
26th Nov, 2015 12:25 (UTC)
I've not seen the film, so I don't think how many things they've changed things, but according to the book, "Why bring a botanist to Mars? After all, it's famous for not having anything growing there. Well, the idea was to figure out how well things grow in Martian gravity, and see what, if anything, we can do with Martian soil. [....] One of my tasks for the mission was to see how plants grow here, in various combinations of Earth and Mars soil and atmosphere." Therefore he went to Mars armed with some Earth soil and some grass and fern seeds - "the most rugged and easily grown plants on Earth, so NASA picked them as test subjects."

It also says that his principal role in the mission was as mechanical engineer, with botany as the secondary skill. He was "the fix-it man who played with plants."
26th Nov, 2015 15:00 (UTC)
Aha! OK, if his seeds were ferns and grasses, I suppose that would explain why he grew the Thanksgiving potatoes. I assume that the movie makers took out the bit about the soil to simplify things a bit and put the emphasis on the poo. :-D

Is the Council of Elrond joke in the book?
26th Nov, 2015 18:34 (UTC)
He does say that he only has enough soil for a window box, so there's plenty of poo in the book, too. Thus proving what we have learnt through experience: that the most important thing in space travel is the toilet arrangements.

I'd forgotten the Elrond reference, but just checked, and yes, it's there in the book. I guess it's more memorable in the movie, given the presence of Sean Bean. :-)

Curses. I enjoyed the book, and meant to see the film, but forgot, and it's now gone from the island.
26th Nov, 2015 18:50 (UTC)
It was very American, in the sense that it had a wonderfully optimistic view of humanity. Very likeable.
1st Dec, 2015 07:05 (UTC)
It was a very pro-technocrat book/film. If you notice, the Chinese space agency head made a point of saying that they were going to make an agency-to-agency offer of their rocket, without involving politicians. I loved it. There are so few films about non-dysfunctional people doing their jobs properly and non-dysfunctionally.

I didn't notice the potatoes at the training academy, but if this was at the end, perhaps they had been planted there in his honour.

Edited at 2015-12-01 07:07 (UTC)
1st Dec, 2015 09:18 (UTC)
It looked like an accidental potato, it was the shoot coming up through the gravel that Watney noticed as he sat on the bench watching the runners.
2nd Dec, 2015 01:49 (UTC)
Presumably some sort of symbolic thing,then. A little gesture towards metaphysics, after two hours of focus on practical problem-solving.
26th Nov, 2015 18:29 (UTC)
There's a Harry Harrison short about a stranded astronaut growing food on a ?uninhabited planet.
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