Michael Bergeron
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Martian press day at NASA

Martian press day at NASA
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Last week NASA and the Johnson Space Center held a press day for the upcoming 20th Century Fox movie The Martian. Cast members Mackenzie Davis and Sebastian Stan were joined by Dr. Ellen Ochoa, director of the JSC, along with Col. Michael “Hopper” Hopkins, NASA astronaut, and Pooja Jesrani, ISS flight controller for the initial press conference.

At times the conversation was humorous as when Stan asked if astronauts in space ever become attracted to each other. Stan’s character in The Martian, Chris Beck has a thing for one of the other characters aboard the spaceship Hermes. Stan recalled that director Ridley Scott would have up to eight cameras rolling at once. “There might be a GoPro embedding in the control panel. You never knew which camera was on you,” Stan said.

Stan would try all sorts of expressions and looks to demonstrate how his character felt towards the other astronaut. Eventually Scott advised Stan to take it down a notch. “What you’re doing would get you court martialed,” said Scott.100_7364

Col. Hopkins described the process of putting on a suit for a space walk. “You start in the morning and it takes from five to six hours to completely put on the suit,” said Hopkins. He also mentioned that when you are on a space walk that “you have to learn how to move, slow can be very fast” and “there is no up or down.” To illustrate the latter concept Hopper mentioned that he was repairing a device and he couldn’t get his elbow in the right position to turn his wrench. A flight controller advised him to turn upside down and the movement became natural.

A second press conference in the afternoon moved the discussion to sci-fi movies that have influenced the participants. Davis liked Prometheus, Scott’s helming effort from 2012. Stan liked The Right Stuff along with Apollo 13. By and large the NASA staffers were in agreement that Apollo 13 was their favorite movie. Although NASA astronaut Col. Rex Walheim maintained that watching Star Wars as a teenager six times when it first came out was instrumental in his career path. 100_7371

After Stan and Davis took a spin around the JSC parking lot in space vehicles they proceeded to Mission Control where they, along with Dr. Ochoa, made a phone call to the International Space Station, where they spoke to astronaut Scott Kelly, who is currently half way on a one-year mission in space on the ISS. Astronaut Kjell Lindgren joined Kelly. The duo answered questions both mundane and scientific. Their responses were illuminated as to how normal their routine was, such as the performance of everyday maintenance chores to everyone gathering around after dinner on a Friday night to watch a movie.

All of the above calls, B-roll, and press conferences can be seen on NASA TV.

The Martian opens in theaters on October 2.

— Michael Bergeron