Which Space Movie Has the Most Accurate Physics?

We have likely all seen our fair share of space movies, but how many of them are really accurate?

Understandably, there are many things that are included in space movies that are only really there for cinematic effect, rather than real-world accuracy. 

It can be expected that there aren’t many movies about space that are completely accurate, as there are often parts that are included to keep things exciting and moving along. 

However, there are some movie projects that seem to have made a bit more effort than others in keeping things realistic.

It turns out that one of the most accurate space movies in terms of physics that has been made to-date is The Martian. 

What is the Martian About?

If you didn’t already know, the Martian is a film about a man that gets left behind on a mission to Mars and is forced to find a way to survive.

During the mission, a team of astronauts is hit by an unexpected storm that forces them to abort their mission and head back to Earth. During this storm, crew member Mark Watney is hit by a projectile and is thrown away. 

The crew assumes him dead and they leave him behind. However, Mark survived the incident and is forced to find ways to stay alive until the next scheduled visit to Mars that is planned for four years in the future.

As a botanist, he somehow manages to cultivate food and is able to survive by scavenging from what had been left behind on previous missions.

Eventually, NASA learns about his survival and attempts a dangerous mission to bring him home again.

How Accurate is The Martian?

Overall, The Martian is one of the most accurate representations of Mars that we have seen in cinema history, and it is quite realistic in its exploration of humans struggling with problems that arise on Mars.

While there are a number of technical mistakes throughout the movie, the majority of it is fairly accurate.

The Spaceship and Space Travel

The spacecraft that is featured in the movie has a fairly accurate diameter of the torus and the rate of rotation and it is an accurate representation of what you would need to create an artificial gravity level between Earth and Mars. 

On a similar subject, the film accurately represents the long travel times that it would take to travel between Earth and Mars. In a lot of movies, the characters simply travel from planet A to planet B in hardly any time at all.

However, The Martian gives a great insight into the reality of traveling from Earth to Mars.

Realistically, with current technology, it would take around 8 months to make the trip to or from Mars. There was a project manager from the Mars Express that was a consultant on the film, and the representations of space travel are spot on to make it more realistic.

Habitat and Environment

The way in which the habitat and environment are portrayed is really accurate.

The idea of an inflatable habitat is actually something that is being seriously considered, and an inflatable Bigelow Aerospace module will soon be attached to the ISS, which could be used on Mars.  

It is unknown whether or not an inflatable habitat would be able to cope with having a flat floor on Mars, as things that are inflatable will usually try to form a ball.

In the thin atmosphere on Mars, the pressure on such a habitat with an Earth-like environment inside might not work. Though, it is definitely possible.

We also see that in the movie, Mark uses a combination of his own excrement, water, and Martian soil in order to grow potatoes. This is quite accurate, as it would be possible to use this method to grow plants on Mars due to the present mineral and chemical content in the soil.

There are similar experiments taking place on Earth using simulated Martian soil, and the results show that this idea is very realistic.

Tornadoes on Mars

Another thing that we are able to see in the movie is the tornadoes that appear, and this is also something that could really happen.

Mars has its own form of tornado that is called a dust devil, and this is a whirlwind that picks up debris on the surface.

These tornadoes can be up to half a mile tall and are certainly an impressive sight. Interestingly, the Spirit rover managed to capture one of these tornadoes on the surface of Mars in 2005.

Is There Any Part of The Martian That is Completely Inaccurate?

There are certain parts of the movie that are thrown in for dramatic cinematic effect that are not entirely accurate, and we will mention them below for you to read about.

The Storm

One of the biggest things that many scientists have a problem with within the events that unfold in this movie is the storm that starts it all off. It is thought that such a storm would be completely impossible or at least very unlikely.

This is due to the fact that the atmosphere on Mars is only 1% as thick as that on Earth, so the 100mph winds on Mars would only have the same dynamic force as 10mph winds on Earth. 

So, you would be able to go on as normal without being knocked down and flown all over the place. Such winds would also be quite unlikely on the surface of Mars, though not impossible.

Gravity

If you didn’t already know, Mars has around one-third of the gravity that we have on Earth, which is great for explorers as the heavy spacesuits that they have to wear won’t weigh them down.

The character in the film moves very similarly to if he were on Earth, but this is not entirely accurate.

The most efficient way to walk on Mars would be something between a shuffle and a hop, which is probably why this wasn’t portrayed in the movie.

Gordon Watts
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