The Martian is a film scheduled to premiere in the United States on October 2. Based on the book by Andy Weir, the film stars Matt Damon as an astronaut involved in a Mars mission who has to stay on the Red Planet much longer than expected. NASA has been a big booster of the project, moreso (to my recollection) than other recent space-oriented films.
This video about the mission in the film further blurs the distinction between fictional story and current space enthusiasm.
How many of you thought, if only for a few seconds, that this was a real episode of Star Talk or COSMOS? I did.
It’s a beautiful piece of work (much like the clips of the movies shown so far), and I can certainly see some people considering it an excellent advertisement for a future mission. Unfortunately, for all the wonder it may inspire, that’s not going to be enough to get people there. Even with a ‘decades-long space race’ like the one described in the video.
I think those that would expect The Martian to be the NASA equivalent of what Top Gun did for the Navy are going to be disappointed. Making movies is hard work, but it’s not the same kind of hard work that it will take to generate the political will to make the necessary investments.