Tag Archives: NASA

Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Super-smart astronaut survival yarn will leave you cheering

The Martian

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Directed by Ridley Scott

PG-13

Super-smart, sharp-witted, funny, dramatic and moving, The Martian is a gripping, gorgeous, geeky, high-tech, big-screen adventure-survival yarn that will leave you cheering.

When a brutal, blinding surface dust storm causes a group of scientist-astronauts to abort their Martian expedition after only a few sols (days, or solar cycles), one of them gets left behind, lost and believed to certainly be dead. But after the Ares III blasts off and heads for home and the Red Planet dust clears, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) revives, wounded but very much alive.

NASA and his crewmates have no idea he survived. He has to find some way to let them know, some way to stay alive, and some way to keep his hopes from fading—knowing that it could take years for another mission to mobilize and reach him.

What to do, what to do?

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his           ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m gonna have to science the s— out of this,” Watney says into a camera, in the video log he begins filming as a high-tech diary.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Watney “sciences” how to grow his own food, rig up a communication device, make water and generate heat from radioactive material. One of the coolest things about The Martian is the way it makes knowledge hip and cool, how Watney’s process of discovery and learning and figuring things out are integral parts of its plotline.

Kristin Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Back on Earth, the world becomes transfixed with the man marooned on Mars. NASA officials (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean) race to figure out how to reach Watney before he runs out of time and resources. America’s competitors in the space race on the other side of the world, the Chinese, offer their top-secret technology to help. And once Watney’s crew mates (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan) find out they’ve accidentally left him behind, they’re willing to spring into action, even if it means staying in space for another year or longer.

Director Ridley Scott is no stranger to space or the future, from Blade Runner and Alien to Prometheus. But there are no bioengineered androids, ancient astro-gods or acid-drooling space creatures anywhere to be found in The Martian—just real people, working together, using their heads, solving problems, focused on one man 50 million miles away and united in a single goal: to “bring him home.”

And despite its big ensemble cast, gorgeous special-effect space shots and marvelous, desolate red-orange Martian landscapes, this is Damon’s show. He is The Martian, and he sells every minute of it in a bravura, mostly solo performance that radiates humanity and humor, and shows the amazing, odds-defying things that science—and brainwork, and dedication and teamwork—can do.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Cosmic Cowboy

An intimate portrait of America’s most famous astronaut

Neil Armstrong-A Life of Flight

Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight

By Jay Barbree

Hardcover, 364 pages

$27.99 / Kindle edition $12.74 (July 8, Thomas Dunne Books)

 

Barbree, an Emmy-winning broadcaster and space reporter, was also a longtime friend of America’s most famous astronaut, the first person to walk on the moon. His richly detailed profile of Armstrong, who died in 2012, is timed to coincide with the 45th anniversary of his subject’s historic 1969 mission and covers Armstrong’s life and career with intimacy, humor and heart, from his days as a U.S. Navy pilot through his training for the NASA space program, and ultimately into the commander’s seat of Apollo 11. Space hounds and history buffs will dig it, for sure, but even casual readers will be riveted by its comprehensive portrait of a real-life cosmic cowboy who broke the bonds of Earth and put the first American footprint where it had never been before.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Up, Up & Away

1983 tale of America’s first space cowboys shines on Blu-ray

TheRightStuff

The Right Stuff: 30th Anniversary Edition

Blu-ray $27.98 (Warner Home Video)

Director Philip Kaufman’s acclaimed 1983 drama about America’s space race and the original seven astronauts of Project Mercury—adapted from writer Tom Wolfe’s equally acclaimed 1979 bestseller—came to the screen in an era before computerized razzle-dazzle and the wizardry of digital special effects. But no matter: It remains a rocket ride of high-spirited, spunky adventure that perfectly captures the space-cowboy tone of the times, spurred along by a dream cast of Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepard, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey and Levon Helm. The commemorative Blu-ray comes with a generous load of bonus features, including several documentaries, a profile of real-life astronaut John Glenn, and commentary by the director, cast and crew.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Up, Up and Away

Mission_to_Mars2 Moon man is ready for the next milestone

Mission to Mars

By Buzz Aldrin

Hardcover, 258 pages ($26, National Geographic)

Aldrin, 83, walked on the moon with Neil Armstrong in 1969. Now he advocates continued exploration of our solar system, laying out a detailed plan for getting Americans to the next milestone, Mars. He also discusses the history of space flight and the space program with riveting first-person detail and insight, and candidly addresses the politics, commerce and private enterprise on which he contends future space exploration will depend. For a subject so far-out, this former space pioneer makes it all sound so downright do-able and down to earth.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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