Watney - The Martian

How does Watney not die of suffocation during his Iron Man maneuver? He seemed to be out there flailing about for a number of minutes before he catches onto the commander’s tether, and then a few more minutes before they’re both safely in the ship. Why doesn’t he run out of breathable air?

I feel like the main problem with that plan is the vacuum would instantly suck his palm against the hole and seal it, preventing any more than a little bit of air from escaping at all.

It’s movie time – the same reason the one-minute countdown on a bomb takes five minutes of screen time to defuse.

That’s one problem. The other is that he has created a hole in his glove that’s maybe 1/4" across, having an area of about 0.05 square inches. His suit is surely not pressurized to more than 14.7 psi, so we shouldn’t expect a thrust of more than about 3/4 of a pound (note that space shuttle EVA suits were pressurized to just 4.3 psi with pure O[sub]2[/sub], and so would only give a thrust of 0.2 pounds). Together with his spacesuit he surely weighs at least 275 pounds. You know how slowly your car accelerates when you’re pushing on it with your bare hands? Watney’s acceleration would be even more sluggish; after a minute, he’d hit about 3.6 MPH, the pace of a brisk walk. And yet we see him getting tossed around like he’s got a wild hyena on a leash.

They reportedly got a lot of the science right in this movie. We can always find stuff like this to shitpick, but at some point we have to be willing to allow some artistic license in order to have an entertaining story.

I’d presume that the on-demand regulator is replacing air in the suit as quickly as it’s escaping from the hole, which is why he doesn’t suffocate immediately, and why the suit doesn’t collapse around him. It could also explain the higher thrust - if air is escaping but being replaced at the maximum rate, you’re not in a static 14.7 (or 4.3) psi situation - you’re basically draining his air tank as quickly as possible, just through a very long hose which includes his suit.

In the book, Watney proposed the Iron Man maneuver, everyone pointed out that it was a dumb idea, and that was the end of it. The movie decided against realism and actually went with the idea, plausibility be damned.

The only problem is that vacuum doesn’t suck. Air blows.

This is what I was going to point out. The book was much more thorough and consistent, and all of the scientists and astronauts in the book shot down the Iron Man idea. I rolled my eyes when I saw it used in the movie.