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‘The Martian’ and the need for space travel propaganda

‘The Martian’ and the need for space travel propaganda

‘The Martian’ and the need for space travel propaganda
September 24
13:34 2015

The Editorial Board

“The Martian,” a new science fiction romp from director Ridley Scott (“Prometheus,” “Alien”) based on a book by author Andy Weir, is a fiction tale for the new age. The story follows Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut with a specialty in botany. Watney is among the first to visit Mars in the not too distant future.

Apart from the fact the movie will almost certainly be engaging and entertaining, a new thread of consideration has been brought up in the wake of the story’s transition from novel to silver screen: is the film a prop to propel a new space age?

“The Martian” excels in that it follows the example set by the other space thrillers of the last few years, namely Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity”, maintaining a suspenseful pace all the while keeping a realistic, highly-scientific element prevalent within.

Following the inevitably doomed third manned mission to Mars, viewers follow alongside Watney as he experiences the trials of an astronaut left to his own ingenuity on a strange planet countless miles from home. Arguably an allegory to the American dream in a time which views such a concept as lost and hollow, watching Watney engage the elements is a testament to both problem-solving and perseverance. The question the audience is left to mull over as the credits roll is namely: How close are we to achieving this?

Having grown up witnessing NASA end its perennial shuttle program and a subsequent gutting of the organization, millennials have found films like “The Martian” to be the last bastion of organic thought in answering that question.

In a time where NASA has taken a backseat to private sector behemoths like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic in terms of innovation we have found the theme of each film in this new, mutated version of the sci-fi genre to be a not-so-subtle campaign geared toward the advancement of the human race through space travel.

A review written by critic Devin Faraci for Birth.Movies.Death. cited Ridley Scott’s new film as “an absolute masterpiece of cinema and science,” also proclaiming that the film could, in theory, “save the world.”

Strong words, but does Faraci have a point? The world seems to look less and less to life beyond Earth, instead facing the challenges of climate change, overpopulation and clashing cultures.

Perhaps a young child is sitting at home waiting for a tale like Watney’s to come along and inspire them to aid in the development of Earth’s future beyond itself.

Notice the use of Earth, rather than simply the United States, in naming the target audience of this film. One of the most stirring aspects of “The Martian” is the collaboration of both the American and Chinese space programs, a seemingly peculiar circumstance that should be thought of more as a goal rather than an anomaly of the film.

Life beyond our home planet is certainly possible, but political tensions brought forth by selfish interests and the promotion of less pertinent topics of discussion will only hasten our effort to get there.

Collaboration is not just optimal, but wholly necessary. Let us just hope the public realizes the need of people like Elon Musk, the titan of an industry responsible for spearheading modern innovation in space travel, for they are the one’s who will be able to find a piece of themselves in astronaut Mark Watney.

The question for continued space travel and exploration is not an “if,” but a “when.”

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