The Martian

FilmScene Iowa City, IA


Valerie Payré

Planetary Geologist & Assistant Professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Iowa

The Martian— Life on Mars?

Dr. Matthew Dannenberg, expert in plants and climate, and Dr. Valerie Payré, expert in Mars' geology—both Assistant Professors at the University of Iowa—dive deep into what the film gets right and (of course) wrong, from how realistic the Martian environment depicted in the movie is, to the possibilities of developing an agriculture on the Red Planet.

This event is part of our 2024 National Evening of Science on Screen.

FilmScene Iowa City, IA

Film Synopsis

When astronauts mistakenly leave Mark Watney behind on Mars, the stranded visitor must use his wits, spirit, and scientific know-how to find a way to survive on the hostile planet.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit, and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return. Based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, The Martian was nominated for three Golden Globes.

About the Speaker

Dr. Valerie Payré is a planetary geologist in the University of Iowa Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and her primary research interest is understanding the evolution of planetary bodies, with an emphasis on Mars, to better constrain the geological history of our own planet. Her work crosses several disciplines including igneous petrology, geochemistry, mineralogy, and sedimentology to assess planetary surface and interior evolution and constrain magmatic processes on Mars and other planets.