The Martian is a spectacular movie, so you should definitely see it. The film paints a believable picture of the first human missions to Mars. The technology that fictional astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) uses to try to survive on the planet is inspired by existing technology, as NASA itself has revealed.
But there’s plenty of laughably outdated tech in The Martian, the kind that tech fans will immediately notice. And no, it’s not the advanced NASA geeky tech Watney uses, but the everyday tech shown in scenes back on Earth. Caution, some spoilers follow, so in case you plan to see/read The Martian, you’d better stop reading this right now.
The bad tech isn’t apparent if you’re reading Weir’s book, as the author doesn’t make any references to devices or brands characters use. But if you watch the movie, you might notice several things that seem out of place in the year 2035. Yes, the same team that put out this amazing mockup presentation of the Ares 3 mission, a 17-page mission guide that details not only the backgrounds of the main characters, but also the tech used to deploy Ares missions to Mars, failed to imagine the future of tech back on Earth.
The year is 2035, so about 20 years in the future. Despite this, Mindy Park (played by Mackenzie Davis), who first notices that Watney is alive and well on the red planet, uses an iPhone 6 to explain her finding. For his part, Watney uses GoPro cameras to keep logs of his activity, and the GoPros have the same design as today.
In 2035, neither Park nor fellow NASA employee Vincent Kapoor (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) have handheld devices (call them iPad Pros or Surfaces of the future if you will), that would let you visualize Mars’ surface in great detail and, you know, even draw on digital maps. So instead, two NASA scientists draw maps of the planet on a poster. If that’s not enough, Kapoor is using a Samsung phone that’s running what seems to be Material Design Android Lollipop-like software.
There might be other similar inconsistencies in the movie when it comes to Earth tech, but the mobile-related ones are the most obvious.
If in 20 years from now Google has not moved past Material Design, if we’re still going to need Home buttons on Samsung phones (or iPhones for that matter), if GoPro cameras won’t become even better-looking and somehow smaller, if there aren’t advanced portable computers at NASA… well then we might actually forget a Watney on Mars.
Watney would probably tell us that 2015 iPhones and Galaxies will probably not even work on 2035 Earth. After all, he’s had his fair share of equipment failing after being used past its expiration date.
Mobile computers and miniaturization, communication and camera tech will all play significant roles in a future manned mission to space. And we’d assume NASA would always be a few steps ahead of commercial companies when it comes to such tech.
The tech designed to take us to Mars in The Martian looks amazing but some of the tech-for-2035-Earth is disappointing.