- Aidan Monaghan/20th Century Fox
In the highly anticipated sci-fi drama “The Martian” – premiering in theaters nationwide Friday – Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut who is marooned on Mars.
Watney is a crew member on the Ares 3 mission that touches down and sets up camp on a region of Mars called Acidalia Planitia.
Though Acidalia Planitia is flat compared with its surroundings, the terrain is more geologically diverse than the film depicts.
In fact, it would be too hazardous, NASA says, for Watney to drive around on it as much as he does in “The Martian.”
The film is based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, who recently gave NASA the exact coordinate of his hero’s location and requested they take a picture of the real thing. NASA obliged.
Here’s the exact spot – at the very center of this photo – of the real Ares 3 landing site in Acidalia Planitia on Mars:
Acidalia Planitia is a relatively flat region on Mars, located in the northern hemisphere and just north of one of the largest canyons in the entire solar system, Valles Marineris:
- NASA’s Mars Trek
Changing sand ripples – like the ones shown below – indicate that Acidalia Planitia can be a windy place at certain times of the year:
These amazing photos were taken by the $40 million HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting Mars since 2006. The camera has taken numerous photos that reveal the presence of giant sand dunes, towering dust devils, and monster canyons on Mars that attest to this planet’s astounding geological diversity.
The sand dunes in Acidalia Planitia are often found at the bottoms of eroded craters, like the ones shown below:
But not all of the craters are eroded. Here’s a rather large, young crater in the region that HiRISE snapped in exquisite detail, shown below.
These photos from HiRISE have false coloring to highlight distinct Martian features, like the ejected materials in this crater. To our human eyes, this crater would look more grayish-red than blue:
Now that you know more about the home base of “The Martian,” check out the trailer below, or on YouTube: