Surviving the Red Planet: ‘The Martian’ and the Reality of Living and Working on Mars

The Australian Institute of Physics, the State Library and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics present:

            “Surviving the Red Planet: ‘The Martian’ and the Reality of Living and Working on Mars”

                 by former NASA Astronaut Dr Jim ReillyJR-astronaut

                     Friday 27th October 2017
6:15pm for 6:30pm start

          Braggs Lecture Theatre, The University of Adelaide

Register for a free ticket –


The recent best-seller novel and the blockbuster movie “The Martian” presented an adventure tale of an astronaut marooned by his crew and forced to become the first colonist required to “live off the land” on Mars.  The story is well done and, for the most part, technically plausible but what would it take to live off the Martian land?  What can Mark Watney expect if he really did exist and had to grow his own to survive? Can we make this work in reality?  Can we test that environment here on Earth?  If so, can we make “living off the land” work to reduce the mass (and cost) of exploring the Red Planet?

Mars is a unique environment and the more we explore with our robotic colleagues, the more interesting and challenging the terrains become.  The soils are enriched in sulfates and phosphides which can be good fertilizers in some forms but toxic in others.  The surface is very dry; so dry there is nowhere on Earth as dry as Mars. Mars also has essentially no geomagnetic field protecting the surface from solar and galactic radiation, therefore some form of protected facility will be required for the crew and any other living organisms required to support the mission. It has a very low pressure atmosphere composed almost completely of carbon dioxide, and about half the incident solar energy seen at Earth.

Instead of OJT on Mars, as Watney had to do, we will need to consider these requirements in designing future Mars mission parameters and objectives. We can build some analog experiences here on Earth, though none can fully expose the future exploration teams to the true Martian environment.  One of the few places that can get close will be on the Moon.  For this, and other reasons, an extension of the lunar research program begun in the Apollo heroic phase of exploration needs to be an international space priority.

Special Pre-lecture tour of the State Library Exhibition

‘From Outback to Outer Space: Woomera 1955 – 1980’

5:15pm for 6:00pm, State Library of South Australia

Register for a free ticket (first 40 registrations only) using the same link as above

Woomera put Australia into the space age. The ‘From Outback to Outer Space: Woomera 1955 – 1980’ exhibition will not only tell the story of that journey into the stars, but also what life was like for the men, women and children who lived on the ground. Presented by the State Library and the National Archives of Australia.

Sponsor: The Sir Ross & Sir Keith Smith Fund