Andy Weir Imagined Neil deGrasse Tyson Looking Over His Shoulder While Writing "The Martian"

Thursday, 06 October 2016 - 5:24PM
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Thursday, 06 October 2016 - 5:24PM
Andy Weir Imagined Neil deGrasse Tyson Looking Over His Shoulder While Writing "The Martian"
The Martian is considered to be one of the most scientifically accurate science fiction books in recent memory, and it wasn't written by a scientist. Andy Weir has often credited Google with providing him the details of realistic spaceflight and the Mars environment, but as it turns out, there's one more inspiration we have to thank: Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Today, during the NatGeo StarTalk panel at New York Comic Con, Tyson took the stage alongside StarTalk co-host Chuck Nice and astronaut Mike Massimino. While previewing a future episode, Tyson said that Weir claimed the astrophysicist as an inspiration:

Opening quote
"He said he imagined I was looking over his shoulder," Tyson said. "He asked himself, 'what would Neil say about this?' He didn't want a Twitterstorm."
Closing quote

As has been well-documented, Weir didn't completely avoid scientific criticism. He has been open about the fact that he exaggerated the power of Mars dust storms in order to contrive a way for Mark Watney to get stranded on Mars. Tyson reiterated that the dust storms on Mars would never be severe enough to cause that kind of destruction:


Opening quote
"The atmospheric thickness on Mars is so thin even during the most heavy-duty dust storms would have been like-"

"Hm that's refreshing," Nice finished for him.
Closing quote


But that being said, the depiction of Mars was generally so accurate that Tyson called it a "cinematic first to even rise to that challenge."

Opening quote
"I'm a big fan of Mark Twain's edict: 'Get your facts straight first, then distort them at your leisure.' So he made the wind storm more powerful than it was, but there was a wind storm. And there were dust devils in the background, just like there are on Mars."
Closing quote

And Massimino, who has a book coming out this week called Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, said that Weir accurately portrayed the relationships between the astronauts and other NASA employees:

Opening quote
"He showed not only the science, but the camaraderie between the astronauts. Engineers do their work, people think of it as very solitary, but they're part of a community."
Closing quote
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