Matt Damon may be the star of the Golden Globe-winning “comedy/musical” The Martian as abandoned astronaut Mark Watney, but much like NASA’s real-life space missions, there was an extensive team of professional men and women working day and night to bring him home. In order to celebrate the release of 20th Century Fox’s action-packed sci-fi film on Blu-ray, I had a chance to visit NASA’s facilities in Houston and chat with the scientists behind the scenes. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of highly educated and talented folks who work tirelessly to keep NASA running smoothly, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that so many of the high-ranking positions were occupied by women.
The Martian did a pretty good job at portraying this real-life professional balance of the sexes with their on-screen casting. In space, Jessica Chastain played Ares III Commander Melissa Lewis and Kate Mara played the mission’s system operator Beth Johanssen, while back on Earth, Kristen Wiig played NASA’s PR director Annie Montrose, Mackenzie Davis played NASA’s satellite monitor Mindy Park, and Shu Chen starred as Zhu Tao, Deputy Chief Scientist of the CNSA. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at the actual women behind the scenes of NASA who inspired their on-screen counterparts to play pivotal roles in The Martian.