The Martian: Classroom Edition

A Novel
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Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?


Brilliant…a celebration of human ingenuity [and] the purest example of real-science sci-fi for many years…Utterly compelling.”--Wall Street Journal

Terrific stuff, a crackling good read that devotees of space travel will devour like candy…succeeds on several levels and for a variety of reasons, not least of which is its surprising plausibility.”—USA Today  

An impressively geeky debut…the technical details keep the story relentlessly precise and the suspense ramped up. And really, how can anyone not root for a regular dude to prove the U-S-A still has the Right Stuff?”--Entertainment Weekly

Gripping…[features] a hero who can solve almost every problem while still being hilarious. It’s hard not to be swept up in [Weir’s] vision and root for every one of these characters. Grade: A.”— 

Andy Weir delivers with The Martian...a story for readers who enjoy thrillers, science fiction, non-fiction, or flat-out adventure [and] an authentic portrayal of the future of space travel.”--Associated Press

"A gripping tale of survival in space [that] harkens back to the early days of science fiction by masters such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke."--San Jose Mercury News

One of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. It feels so real it could almost be nonfiction, and yet it has the narrative drive and power of a rocket launch. This is Apollo 13 times ten.”
--Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Impact and Blasphemy
A book I just couldn’t put down! It has the very rare combination of a good, original story, interestingly real characters and fascinating technical accuracy…reads like “MacGyver” meets “Mysterious Island.”
--Astronaut Chris Hadfield, Commander of the International Space Station and author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
"The best book I've read in ages. Clear your schedule before you crack the seal. This story will take your breath away faster than a hull breech. Smart, funny, and white-knuckle intense, The Martian is everything you want from a novel."
--Hugh Howey, New York Times bestselling author of Wool
The Martian kicked my ass! Weir has crafted a relentlessly entertaining and inventive survival thriller, a MacGyver-trapped-on-Mars tale that feels just as real and harrowing as the true story of Apollo 13.”
—Ernest Cline, New York Times bestselling author of Ready Player One
“Gripping…shapes up like Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as written by someone brighter.
--Larry Niven, multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of the Ringworld series and Lucifer’s Hammer

“Humankind is only as strong as the challenges it faces, and The Martian pits human ingenuity (laced with more humor than you’d expect) against the greatest endeavor of our time — survival on Mars. A great read with an inspiring attention to technical detail and surprising emotional depth. Loved it!"
--Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse

“The tension simply never lets up, from the first page to the last, and at no point does the believability falter for even a second. You can't shake the feeling that this could all really happen.
—Patrick Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Breach and Ghost Country
"Strong, resilent, and gutsy. It's Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 21st century style.  Set aside a chunk of free time when you start this one.  You're going to need it because you won't want to put it down."
—Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The King’s Deception and The Columbus Affair   

An excellent first novel…Weir laces the technical details with enough keen wit to satisfy hard science fiction fan and general reader alike [and] keeps the story escalating to a riveting conclusion.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred)

"Riveting...a tightly constructed and completely believable story of a man's ingenuity and strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds."--Booklist

“Sharp, funny and thrilling, with just the right amount of geekery…
Weir displays a virtuosic ability to write about highly technical situations without leaving readers far behind. The result is a story that is as plausible as it is compelling.”—Kirkus

"Weir combines the heart-stopping with the humorous in this brilliant debut placing a nail-biting life-and-death situation on Mars and adding a snarky and wise-cracking nerdy hero, Weir has created the perfect mix of action and space adventure."--Library Journal (starred) 
“A perfect novel in almost every way, The Martian may already have my vote for best book of 2014.”Crimespree Magazine

“A page-turning thriller…this survival tale with a high-tech twist will pull you right in.”Suspense Magazine




I’m pretty much screwed.
That’s my considered opinion.
Six days into what should be the greatest month of my life, andit’s turned into a nightmare.
I don’t even know who’ll read this. I guess someone will find iteventually. Maybe a hundred years from now.
For the record . . . I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of thecrew thought I did, and I can’t blame them. Maybe there’ll be aday of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say,“Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.”
And it’ll be right, probably. ’Cause I’ll surely die here. Just noton Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did.
Let’s see . . . where do I begin?
The Ares Program. Mankind reaching out to Mars to send peopleto another planet for the very first time and expand the horizonsof humanity blah, blah, blah. The Ares 1 crew did their thingand came back heroes. They got the parades and fame and love ofthe world.
Ares 2 did the same thing, in a different location on Mars. Theygot a firm handshake and a hot cup of coffee when they got home.
Ares 3. Well, that was my mission. Okay, not mine per se. CommanderLewis was in charge. I was just one of her crew. Actually,I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be“in command” of the mission if I were the only remaining person.
What do you know? I’m in command.
I wonder if this log will be recovered before the rest of the crewdie of old age. I presume they got back to Earth all right. Guys,if you’re reading this: It wasn’t your fault. You did what you hadto do. In your position I would have done the same thing. I don’tblame you, and I’m glad you survived.

I guess I should explain how Mars missions work, for any laymanwho may be reading this. We got to Earth orbit the normal way,through an ordinary ship to Hermes. All the Ares missions useHermes to get to and from Mars. It’s really big and cost a lot soNASA built only one.
Once we got to Hermes, four additional unmanned missionsbrought us fuel and supplies while we prepared for our trip. Onceeverything was a go, we set out for Mars. But not very fast. Goneare the days of heavy chemical fuel burns and trans- Mars injectionorbits.
Hermes is powered by ion engines. They throw argon out theback of the ship really fast to get a tiny amount of acceleration. Thething is, it doesn’t take much reactant mass, so a little argon (anda nuclear reactor to power things) let us accelerate constantly thewhole way there. You’d be amazed at how fast you can get goingwith a tiny acceleration over a long time.
I could regale you with tales of how we had great fun on the trip,but I won’t. I don’t feel like reliving it right now. Suffice it to say wegot to Mars 124 days later without strangling each other.
From there, we took the MDV (Mars descent vehicle) to the surface. The MDV is basically a big can with some light thrustersand parachutes attached. Its sole purpose is to get six humans fromMars orbit to the surface without killing any of them.
And now we come to the real trick of Mars exploration: havingall of our crap there in advance.
A total of fourteen unmanned missions deposited everything wewould need for surface operations. They tried their best to land allthe supply vessels in the same general area, and did a reasonablygood job. Supplies aren’t nearly so fragile as humans and can hit theground really hard. But they tend to bounce around a lot.
Naturally, they didn’t send us to Mars until they’d confirmedthat all the supplies had made it to the surface and their containersweren’t breached. Start to finish, including supply missions, a Marsmission takes about three years. In fact, there were Ares 3 suppliesen route to Mars while the Ares 2 crew were on their way home.
The most important piece of the advance supplies, of course, wasthe MAV. The Mars ascent vehicle. That was how we would getback to Hermes after surface operations were complete. The MAVwas soft- landed (as opposed to the balloon bounce- fest the othersupplies had). Of course, it was in constant communication withHouston, and if there had been any problems with it, we wouldhave passed by Mars and gone home without ever landing.
The MAV is pretty cool. Turns out, through a neat set of chemicalreactions with the Martian atmosphere, for every kilogram ofhydrogen you bring to Mars, you can make thirteen kilograms offuel. It’s a slow process, though. It takes twenty- four months to fillthe tank. That’s why they sent it long before we got here.
You can imagine how disappointed I was when I discovered theMAV was gone.

It was a ridiculous sequence of events that led to me almost dying,and an even more ridiculous sequence that led to me surviving.The mission is designed to handle sandstorm gusts up to 150 kph. So Houston got understandably nervous when we got whackedwith 175 kph winds. We all got in our flight space suits and huddledin the middle of the Hab, just in case it lost pressure. But the Habwasn’t the problem.
The MAV is a spaceship. It has a lot of delicate parts. It can putup with storms to a certain extent, but it can’t just get sandblastedforever. After an hour and a half of sustained wind, NASA gave theorder to abort. Nobody wanted to stop a monthlong mission afteronly six days, but if the MAV took any more punishment, we’d allhave gotten stranded down there.
We had to go out in the storm to get from the Hab to the MAV.That was going to be risky, but what choice did we have?
Everyone made it but me.
Our main communications dish, which relayed signals from theHab to Hermes, acted like a parachute, getting torn from its foundationand carried with the torrent. Along the way, it crashed throughthe reception antenna array. Then one of those long thin antennaeslammed into me end- first. It tore through my suit like a bulletthrough butter, and I felt the worst pain of my life as it rippedopen my side. I vaguely remember having the wind knocked out ofme (pulled out of me, really) and my ears popping painfully as thepressure of my suit escaped.
The last thing I remember was seeing Johanssen hopelesslyreaching out toward me.

I awoke to the oxygen alarm in my suit. A steady, obnoxious beepingthat eventually roused me from a deep and profound desire tojust die.
The storm had abated; I was facedown, almost totally buried insand. As I groggily came to, I wondered why I wasn’t more dead.
The antenna had enough force to punch through the suit and myside, but it had been stopped by my pelvis. So there was only onehole in the suit (and a hole in me, of course).
I had been knocked back quite a ways and rolled down a steephill. Somehow I landed facedown, which forced the antenna to astrongly oblique angle that put a lot of torque on the hole in the suit.It made a weak seal.
Then, the copious blood from my wound trickled down towardthe hole. As the blood reached the site of the breach, the water init quickly evaporated from the airflow and low pressure, leaving agunky residue behind. More blood came in behind it and was alsoreduced to gunk. Eventually, it sealed the gaps around the hole andreduced the leak to something the suit could counteract.
The suit did its job admirably. Sensing the drop in pressure, itconstantly flooded itself with air from my nitrogen tank to equalize.Once the leak became manageable, it only had to trickle new airin slowly to relieve the air lost.
After a while, the CO2 (carbon dioxide) absorbers in the suitwere expended. That’s really the limiting factor to life support. Notthe amount of oxygen you bring with you, but the amount of CO2you can remove. In the Hab, I have the oxygenator, a large pieceof equipment that breaks apart CO2 to give the oxygen back. Butthe space suits have to be portable, so they use a simple chemicalabsorption
process with expendable filters. I’d been asleep longenough that my filters were useless.
The suit saw this problem and moved into an emergency modethe engineers call “bloodletting.” Having no way to separate out theCO2, the suit deliberately vented air to the Martian atmosphere, thenbackfilled with nitrogen. Between the breach and the bloodletting,it quickly ran out of nitrogen. All it had left was my oxygen tank.
So it did the only thing it could to keep me alive. It started backfillingwith pure oxygen. I now risked dying from oxygen toxicity,as the excessively high amount of oxygen threatened to burn up mynervous system, lungs, and eyes. An ironic death for someone witha leaky space suit: too much oxygen.
Every step of the way would have had beeping alarms, alerts,and warnings. But it was the high- oxygen warning that woke me.
The sheer volume of training for a space mission is astounding.I’d spent a week back on Earth practicing emergency space suitdrills. I knew what to do.
Carefully reaching to the side of my helmet, I got the breach kit.It’s nothing more than a funnel with a valve at the small end and anunbelievably sticky resin on the wide end. The idea is you have thevalve open and stick the wide end over a hole. The air can escapethrough the valve, so it doesn’t interfere with the resin making agood seal. Then you close the valve, and you’ve sealed the breach.
The tricky part was getting the antenna out of the way. I pulledit out as fast as I could, wincing as the sudden pressure drop dizziedme and made the wound in my side scream in agony.
I got the breach kit over the hole and sealed it. It held. The suitbackfilled the missing air with yet more oxygen. Checking my armreadouts, I saw the suit was now at 85 percent oxygen. For reference,Earth’s atmosphere is about 21 percent. I’d be okay, so long asI didn’t spend too much time like that.
I stumbled up the hill back toward the Hab. As I crested therise, I saw something that made me very happy and something thatmade me very sad: The Hab was intact (yay!) and the MAV wasgone (boo!).
Right that moment I knew I was screwed. But I didn’t want tojust die out on the surface. I limped back to the Hab and fumbledmy way into an airlock. As soon as it equalized, I threw off myhelmet.
Once inside the Hab, I doffed the suit and got my first goodlook at the injury. It would need stitches. Fortunately, all of us hadbeen trained in basic medical procedures, and the Hab had excellentmedical supplies. A quick shot of local anesthetic, irrigate thewound, nine stitches, and I was done. I’d be taking antibiotics for acouple of weeks, but other than that I’d be fine.
I knew it was hopeless, but I tried firing up the communicationsarray. No signal, of course. The primary satellite dish had brokenoff, remember? And it took the reception antennae with it. The Hab had secondary and tertiary communications systems, but they wereboth just for talking to the MAV, which would use its much morepowerful systems to relay to Hermes. Thing is, that only works ifthe MAV is still around.
I had no way to talk to Hermes. In time, I could locate the dishout on the surface, but it would take weeks for me to rig up any repairs,and that would be too late. In an abort, Hermes would leaveorbit within twenty- four hours. The orbital dynamics made the tripsafer and shorter the earlier you left, so why wait?
Checking out my suit, I saw the antenna had plowed throughmy bio- monitor computer. When on an EVA, all the crew’s suits arenetworked so we can see each other’s status. The rest of the crewwould have seen the pressure in my suit drop to nearly zero, followedimmediately by my bio- signs going flat. Add to that watchingme tumble down a hill with a spear through me in the middle of asandstorm . . . yeah. They thought I was dead. How could they not?
They may have even had a brief discussion about recovering mybody, but regulations are clear. In the event a crewman dies onMars, he stays on Mars. Leaving his body behind reduces weightfor the MAV on the trip back. That means more disposable fuel anda larger margin of error for the return thrust. No point in givingthat up for sentimentality.

So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicatewith Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in aHab designed to last thirty- one days.
If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimerbreaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll justkind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually runout of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m screwed.

Q & A

A Conversation With Space-Geek and Science Fanatic Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN
(Crown, February 11, 2014)

Q) So it seems you’re a bit of a science geek.  You list space travel, orbital dynamics, relativistic physics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight among your interests. How did you incorporate these passions into your debut novel THE MARTIAN?
Those interests made me come up with the story in the first place. I love reading up on current space research. At some point I came up with the idea of an astronaut stranded on Mars. The more I worked on it, the more I realized I had accidentally spent my life researching for this story. Early on, I decided that I would be as scientifically accurate as possible. To a nerd like me, working out all the math and physics for Mark’s problems and solutions was fun.

Q) In one sentence, tell us what your novel is all about.
It’s the story of an astronaut trying to survive after being accidentally left behind on Mars.

Q) Explain how the science in THE MARTIAN is true to life.
The basic structure of the Mars program in the book is very similar to a plan called “Mars Direct” (though I made changes here and there). It’s the most likely way that we will have our first Mars mission in real life. All the facts about Mars are accurate, as well as the physics of space travel the story presents. I even calculated the various orbital paths involved in the story, which required me to write my own software to track constant-thrust trajectories.

Q) What inspired you to write THE MARTIAN?
I was thinking up how best to do a manned Mars mission (because that’s the sort of dork I am). As the plan got more detailed, I started imagining what it would be like for the astronauts. Naturally, when designing a mission, you think up disaster scenarios and how likely the crew would be to survive. That’s when I started to realize this had real story potential.

Q) Are you an advocate for a manned mission to Mars? Are you hopeful we’ll actually make it out there sometime soon?
Of course I’m a huge fan of space travel, manned and unmanned. I would love to see people land on Mars in my lifetime. However, do I think it will actually happen? I’m not sure. Unlike the 1960’s, we’re not in a race with anyone to get there, so it’s not a priority. Also, computer and robotics technologies are leaps and bounds better than they were during the days of Apollo. So logically, you have to ask why we would risk human lives rather than just make better robots. Still, it would be awesome, and maybe that’s reason enough.

Q) Do you have anything in common with your wise-cracking hero Mark Watney? 
I’m the same level of smart-ass as he is. It was a really easy book to write; I just had him say what I would say. However, he’s smarter than I am and considerably more brave. I guess he’s what I wish I was.

Q) In THE MARTIAN, Watney has access to his crewmates digital entertainment on Mars, including TV episodes of Three’s Company, a variety of Beatles songs, and digital books including The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Any reason you chose to work those specific examples into the novel?
It’s a selection of things I loved when I was growing up.

Q) You’re stranded on Mars and you can only take one book with you.  What is it?
It’s always hard to pick one “favorite book”. Growing up, I loved early Heinlein books most of all. So if I had to pick one, I’d go with “Tunnel in the Sky”. I do love a good survival story.

Q) How long do you think you’d last if you were left in Mark Watney’s position?
Not long at all. I don’t know how to grow crops, nor how to jury-rig the solutions he came up with. It’s a lot easier to write about an ordeal than it is to experience it.

Q) You have the chance to meet any astronaut living or dead- who is it and why?
John Young. He is the quintessential astronaut. Competent, fearless, highly intelligent, and seemingly immune to stress. When Apollo 16 launched, his heart rate never got higher than 70. Most astronauts spike to at least 120 during launches.

Q) Watney seems to be able to maneuver his way around some pretty major problems with a little duct tape and ingenuity! So he’s a bit like MacGyver in that way. Did you watch the show as a kid? Any favorite episodes?
Indeed I did! I loved that show. My favorite episode was the one where engineering students had a barricade contest.

Q) Star Wars or Star Trek?
Doctor Who

Q) Your idea of the perfect day...
Sleep in. Meet Buzz Aldrin for brunch. Head over to JPL and watch them control the Curiosity Mars rover. Dinner with the writing staff of Doctor Who.

Q) How did you feel when your original, self-published version of THE MARTIAN became a phenomenon online? Were you expecting the overwhelmingly positive reception the book received?
I had no idea it was going to do so well. The story had been available for free on my website for months and I assumed anyone who wanted to read it had already read it. A few readers had requested I post a Kindle version because it’s easier to download that way. So I went ahead and did it, setting the price to the minimum Amazon would allow. As it sold more and more copies I just watched in awe.

Q) Film rights to THE MARTIAN were sold to writer-producer Simon Kinberg (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: First Class). What was your first reaction? Who should play the part of Mark Watney?
Of course I’m thrilled to have a movie in the works. The movie deal and print publishing deal came within a week of each other, so I was a little shell-shocked. In fact, it was such a sudden launch in to the big leagues that I literally had a difficult time believing it. I actually worried it could all be an elaborate scam. So I guess that was my first reaction: “Is this really happening!?”
As for who could play Watney, I think some good candidates would be Aaron Paul and Chris Evans.

Q) What’s next for you?
I have a few irons in the fire. There’s a long running sci-fi story I’ve been poking at here and there for a while. Though based on the response from The Martian, I might go with a different story idea I have in mind: a “science-crime” novel. Lots of problem-solving as technically savvy criminals match wits with an equally savvy FBI agent trying to track them down.


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