How realistic is Hollywood's "The Martian"?

NEW YORK -- While we could use many adjectives to describe Hollywood's Mars, including downright bizarre, accurate hasn't been at the top of the list.

But that's about to change with next month's release of "The Martian."

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NASA Director of Planetary Sciences Jim Green
CBS News

"I think 'The Martian' is as close to science fact, as any science fiction I have seen in going to Mars," said Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary sciences.

Green is a consultant on the movie about an American astronaut stranded on Mars.

"NASA doesn't do 'Star Trek,'" said Green. "It's not 'go where no man has gone before.' We really have to look at where we are going and understand it completely and that prepares us for the future."

Matt Damon stars in the movie set some 20 years in the future, but his living space, his spacesuit and the way he grows his own food in space, are all based on the way NASA is doing things right now.

"Hopefully the message in a movie like this is one that galvanizes participation in stuff like this, and makes people excited about science," said Damon.

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Matt Damon's character in "The Martian" growing plants on Mars
20TH CENTURY FOX

That would be NASA's hope, needing billions more to finance Mars exploration.

"There's a new, younger group in town and they're the Mars generation," said Green. "Indeed, that's now a planet in their mind."

While the film does take some license -- a plot-shaping windstorm could never actually happen -- "The Martian" will be a different kind of movie about Mars, not letting facts get in the way of a good story but using them to construct one instead.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.