As his fans know well, Adam Savage loves space. He has his own spacesuits and helmets, and he wears his NASA jacket at every opportunity. So it's no surprise that Adam is friends with people who also love space — like Andy Weir, author of The Martian, now a major motion picture, and Col. Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut.
In October 2015 the three friends came together to watch The Martian and hold a Q&A afterward. Here's the top 9 things we learned in the course of that session.
1. If a directive is coming to an astronaut from Earth, it is really only a suggestion.
In complimenting The Martian's depiction of astronauts vis-a-vis NASA, Chris Hadfield revealed the difference in mentality between astronauts in space and their governing bodies on Earth. "On my second flight, when I was onboard the space station, I was talking to one of the crew members, Sue Helms. In passing, she said,'Hey, Earth says we need to do this.' It was the first time I'd really seen the fundamental schism of personality between the crew and the 7 billion people on Earth."
While you have huge respect for the expertise on the ground and you try to do everything they ask, "you have to recognize that you are a separate entity from Earth, and nobody else is actually risking their life or has actual final authority for what's happening."
2. Adam Savage has collected 600 photos of The Martian spacesuit (so far).
Adam thinks the spacesuit, designed by Ridley Scott regular Janty Yates for the film, is beautiful, and not surprisingly, he's gathering the assets to create a replica. "I've already gotten some of the suit parts gathered and in a box labeled 'Martian spacesuit.'" And happily for Adam, the studio put one of the spacesuits from the film on display at the Arclight Cinema in Los Angeles. Between the Replica Prop Forum and Adam's friends, "I have about 600 photos saved already."
3. Mark Watney's (and Iron Man's) glove-propelled space flight isn't so far fetched (albeit undesirable in reality).
Because a hole in a spacesuit is a very bad thing, astronauts wear multiple layers. The exception is the glove, which needs to be thin so that astronauts can use their hands. As a result, they're always checking their gloves for holes, especially since the space station is constantly getting hit by little meteorites, leaving jagged edges in the hand rail. "We're very concerned going outside, every single time, that you don't just snag your hand, because that will rip a hole and then you're Mark Watneying all over the place."
4. Moving your arm in a spacesuit is like pushing against a volleyball.
Did you think moving while stuffed into a snowsuit was tough? A space suit is the same pressure as an indoor volleyball. "If you push on an indoor volleyball, that resistance you get, that's what those white space walking suits are pressurized to. If you can, consider every time you move your wrist or your hand or anything that you're pushing against that level of fabric resistance. The suit is really physically tiring."
5. The event that kicked off the crisis in The Martian couldn't happen in reality, because there are no strong wind on Mars.
When Andy Weir wrote The Martian, some facts were known about Mars, but others were only discovered recently. "If you're looking for things that are wrong in the book, the biggest one, of course, is the sandstorm. Mars atmospheric pressure is 1/200th of Earth's at sea level. A 150-kph sandstorm would feel like a gentle breeze. It would have a tough time knocking over a piece of paper."
Also, Acidalia Planitia — the landing site of Ares 3 — in real life looks nothing like what Andy described in the book, which was written before there were hi-res images of the area available. "But it was awesome to say, oh, well, there's the real Mars."
6. It actually takes an astronaut HOURS to get suited for an EVA (Extravehicular Activity).
According to Chris Hadfield, unlike in the film, it takes about four hours to get suited for an EVA. "I thought it was interesting that they slip up into the suit. How did you get your arm to go in? How did that happen? Because you almost have to dislocate your shoulders to get your arms into the hard upper torso of a space walking suit."
7. If given the opportunity, Andy would not to go to Mars.
He may love space, but Andy is an uncomfortable domestic flier, so needless to say, Mars is out of the question. "I write about brave people. I am not one of them. Not only would I not go to Mars, I don't want to leave Earth."
8. Adam would not go to Mars either.
"I have spent enough time around Chris Hadfield to know that I do not have what it takes. I would be a terrible astronaut. I'm way too hot-headed. I would really love and relish the opportunity to go to near-space, however. If someone offers me that opportunity, I'm totally going to take that, but no to Mars."
9. … But Chris Hadfield would, although perhaps not for the reason you might expect.
"My question would be, going to Mars in what? It's not a specious question, because that's the real point of what astronauts and the teams on the ground do. To me, that process of challenging ourselves to do something that pushes back the edge of what we are technologically capable of, have it go wrong, come up with this super clever solution, drawing every bit of expertise in the whole team and then learning from it and having a better vehicle. To me, the real thrill is making travel to Mars possible."
"So my answer is yes, just because of the huge delightful life challenge that would go along with it."
For other amazing facts and conversation — including Chris Hadfield's first major emergency in space — watch the full video below.