'The Martian': What happens when Ridley Scott calls NASA

When legendary director Ridley Scott needed advice for his latest movie, about a manned mission to Mars gone awry, he called on the real-life team working to putting astronauts on the Red Planet.

Ashley Esqueda Senior Video Producer
Ashley Esqueda is an award-winning video producer and on-air talent based in Los Angeles. She has been playing video games since she was 3 years old, and loves the history of television. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband Jimi, son Wolfgang, and two very squirrely Italian Greyhounds.
Mariel Myers Senior producer
Ashley Esqueda
2 min read

Andy Weir, author of "The Martian," at NASA's JPL. Mariel Myers, CNET

Two men share a desire to send people to Mars, one in the movies and one in real life.

The first is acclaimed director Ridley Scott, whose latest film, "The Martian," centers around an astronaut, played by Matt Damon, who's stranded on Mars and must find a way to survive while awaiting rescue. The other is the director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, Jim Green, who hopes to put astronauts on Mars by the 2030s.

So, as Damon joked during a media screening, when the director of films like "Alien" and "Blade Runner" calls NASA with questions for his latest sci-fi film, "everybody takes Ridley's call." And Green did just that.

We were treated to an extended preview of the movie and a postscreening Q&A featuring Scott, Green, Damon, NASA astronaut Drew J. Feustel, and Andy Weir, author of the novel on which the film is based. We also got a tour of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where teams are already planning for the next Mars rover mission in 2020.

"The Martian" postpreview Q&A featuring (from left): NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, actor Matt Damon, director Ridley Scott, author Andy Weir, and Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division. Image courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls

"The Martian" doesn't waste time getting right to the action. We were able to see about the first 45 minutes of the movie. Scott admitted that there were still a few finishing touches he needed to put on the film before its October 2 US release (it opens on September 30 in the UK and Australia).

Check out some highlights from the Q&A below, and our interview with Damon here:

Watch this: Ridley Scott and Matt Damon on making of 'The Martian'

The footage we saw featured good pacing, depictions of scientific processes and beautifully presented Martian landscapes, not to mention a broad dash of humor. The book version of "The Martian" is known for its scientific accuracy and meticulous descriptions. While the pages of scientific explanation are condensed down to their core in the movie, book author Weir wasn't concerned that movie goers would be missing out.

He explained, "Even though it's not being explained to you in detail, the science in the film is sound, and anyone can work backwards to prove it. Everything in 'The Martian' is either 100 percent accurate, or a slight improvement on what already exists today."

Here's the newly released trailer:

The movie's release this year comes three years after NASA's Curiosity Rover successfully touched down on Mars, helping to inspire what Green calls the "Mars generation." The next steps in NASA's Mars plans involve launching a Mars lander in 2016, sending another Mars rover in 2020 and human exploration of Mars in the 2030s. In fact, while we visited JPL, they were testing out new wheels for the next rover.

It takes years to design, build, launch and land new spacecraft for any NASA mission, so Hollywood can sometimes fill the gap between big missions and milestones to keep the public interested in space exploration. "Gravity" and "Interstellar" come to mind, and now "The Martian" could do the same.

"The Martian" hits theaters in the US on October 2 and in the UK and Australia on September 30.

NASA's timeline for a manned mission to Mars explains what needs to be done to set foot on the Red Planet. Image courtesy of NASA