Parts of "The Martian" I Thought Were (Or Weren't) Realistic - spoiler alerts (duh!)
As requested by @BWN_7. I worked on the Mars Rover (Curiosity) as a software developer. Most of my focus was on communication infrastructure and organizing the data collected. This list is entirely my opinion and not based on any hard facts (other than my memory). Also I'm going by the book, not the movie (haven't seen it).
- •Atmosphere references (agree)Mars has enough of an atmosphere to be a pain but not enough to be useful in any way. Anytime it gave him trouble that was spot on!
- •Pathfinder (mostly disagree)I don't believe finding the pathfinder rover would have been as easy as it seemed. I also doubt that any of it will be functional or repairable. Mars is harsh and it has been dormant for way too long!
- •Brining potatoes on Mars (debatable)Depending on how far along in colonization of Mars, they likely would not have been cleared to bring raw vegetables and risk contamination of the planet. Given that Mark was collecting sample rocks to bring home I'm doubtful they would have been that far along.
- •Time keeping (a little fast and loose, but mostly accurate)The exact amount of Earth time to Mars time is not that clean of a number. Most people will say between 24:35 and 24:40 Earth hours to a Martian sol. Interestingly, Mars has 24 Martian hours to their day - we've just decided that a Martian second is slightly longer than an Earth second. I've had debates with colleagues over this as they point out that a second is an SI unit that can't just be changed. But we did to make other math easier!
- •Communication back to Earth (mostly true)Like the time keeping this was pretty close. The actual communication time is a moving target but averages about 10 minutes each way.
- •Mark as a space pirate (agree)When he talks about Mars as international waters and "stealing" the escape ship because he wasn't formally given command - I agree there.
- •Surviving when the crew escapes (doubtful)The entire plot hinges on the fact that the crew escaped and he was left behind. One day the rovers skycrane rockets were set up for some inspection. I stupidly asked if they'd be fired. I was told that would destroy the building they were in, the building we were in (next door) and several others. Again Martian atmosphere is a pain but I'd imagine the blast take off from Mars would have killed him and destroyed the Hab.
- •Enjoyable read (completely agree)It as a really well written book and I got enough into it that I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride.