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Q&A: The Martian author talks programming, getting to Mars

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 5, 2015
Andy Weir says he doubts NASA will meet deadline to get to Mars, and he's not going.

Why did you leave programming to become a writer? I went into computer programming as a career. I enjoyed it a lot. I never had a problem with it. When it came time for me to quit my job and begin writing, it wasn't like 'take this job and shove it.' I liked my job.

I was a pretty tech-heavy guy but I always wanted to be a writer. I considered that as a career path, but I like eating regular meals… My primary dream was to be an author, so now that I've weaseled my way into that, I'm staying.

With your book's focus on NASA and space exploration, did you ever want to work at NASA? I had been interested in working at NASA but I dropped out of college because I ran out of money. And most of the positions at NASA required a college degree, so I just couldn't get there. I talk with people at NASA now. When I wrote the book, I didn't know anyone at NASA. But now I do. When I have any questions, now I have someone to call.

Why focus your first book on Mars? I think there's a big public interest in Mars and I'm not immune to it. It's the next place to go. It's the next thing on the list. It's just sitting there, taunting us. There's something deep down in human nature. We have a desire to go to places that nature tells us we can't go to.

NASA plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. Do you think they'll make it? I think that's a bit optimistic. I think it'll be more like the 2050s… Realistically, I think the first manned mission to Mars will be a global effort. It will be a big, old global effort.

It's a very random guess but 2035, let's say, is just 20 years from now. How many advancements in space have we had in the last 20 years? We built the International Space Station and we canceled the shuttle program. I just don't see all the advances necessary for a manned Mars mission happening in the next 20 years.

What do you think about the discoveries the rovers have been making on Mars, finding evidence of water in the soil and other elements of life? Mars, we now know, has everything you need for life. It means if there was a human colony on Mars, they would be able to grow the colony without importing stuff from Earth. There's literally everything you need already there.

Do you personally want to go to Mars? Noooo. Hell no. I write about brave people. I'm not one of them.


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