Despite all the jokes about Matt Damon constantly needing to be rescued, The Martian was one of the highest-grossing films of 2015. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Based on the debut science-fiction novel of author Andy Weir (who self-published it in 2011 before getting picked up by Crown Publishing in 2014), both the novel and the adaptation managed the trick of mixing hard science and humor to humanize a genre that can tend towards the dry and technical. The result made science seem both accessible and fun, despite the dire circumstances the protagonist finds himself in. That’s probably at least part of the reason Andy Weir has been picked up by CBS as both writer and executive producer for a TV pilot based on NASA.
As reported by Variety, the hour-long drama will be titled Mission Control. The description is vague, but says the show will “follow the next generation of NASA scientists as they juggle both their person and professional lives during a critical mission with no margin for error.” There is no word on if the show will be set in modern day or in the near-future, but as The Martian took place in 2035 and the show will be dealing with a critical mission, I’m confident in placing a bet on a near-future storyline based in the hard science of today.
In a time when NASA struggles under a constrained budget, leaving the bulk of space exploration to private businesses such as SpaceX, raising the profile of how crucial NASA is to humanity isn’t a bad idea. The Martian performed well, and as of this writing Hidden Figures is the #1 movie in America. If Andy Weir and CBS and build momentum on current public interest in our journey towards getting off this planet, Mission Control could end up shooting for the stars.