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Crew of the ARES III

    Mark Watney 

Portrayed By: Matt Damon

Mission Specialist 3 for the ARES III (specializing in botany) and the titular Martian. He is stranded on Mars when the team is forced to abort the mission due to a storm, and presumed dead.


  • The Ace: Brilliant, good looking, built like an athlete, resourceful, calm under pressure, has a terrific attitude in the face of insurmountable odds, and is an astronaut. Subverted in that he's in fact the lowest-ranked member of the crew and is, more or less, the handyman and superfluous gardener. Then double-subverted as those are precisely the skills needed for a lone individual to stay alive when stranded on Mars.
  • Adorkable: Wonders about Aquaman being able to control whales (whales are mammals, not fish), played Dungeons & Dragons while in school, and when asked to pose for a photograph, decides to do so as The Fonz.
  • Almighty Janitor: In the novel, he notes that, despite being in a low-resource, life-or-death situation, his jobs boil down to being a farmer, a construction worker, and a truck driver.
  • Anti-Nihilist: Mark through and through. He admits that the odds of him surviving are extremely low and that the universe will constantly find ways to screw with him, yet despite setbacks or bad luck, he never throws up his hands and gives in, and states that should he die, it will be in service to a great cause, leaving him with no regrets.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Copes through his situation with considerable amounts of sarcasm.
  • Determinator: Despite all the challenges and setbacks he is faced with, Watney never gives into despair for any length of time. When he returns and takes up teaching for NASA, he explains to his students that this is a necessary skill for any astronaut to survive in the deadly, unforgiving depths of space. Things that Mark Watney refuses to be killed by on Mars include:
    • A ruptured space suit
    • A spike in his stomach
    • Starvation
    • Freezing Martian temperatures
    • Inability to communicate with Earth
    • An exploding hab
    • A thousand-mile dust storm
    • An overturned rover
    • Going faster than any man in history
    • Commander Lewis' terrible disco music
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: You wouldn't think that botany is a cool skill for an astronaut, but it is this skillset that allows Mark to extend his food supply and survive longer on Mars.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: In the movie, while Mark keeps his helmet constantly on while outside of the hab, he never lowers his visor, even when spacewalking, either of which should have blinded the crap out of him (Mars' atmosphere doesn't filter enough sunlight to remain tolerable to human eyes the way Earth's does). Averted in the book.
  • Heroic BSoD: Has two, when his makeshift farm is destroyed due to decompression and when he learns that the supply probe sent by NASA to keep him alive exploded during lift-off.
  • Hidden Depths: Beneath the brilliant mind, the muscles, and the bad jokes is a man who developed sustainable agriculture in developing nations long before he became an astronaut.
  • Living Legend: This becomes Mark's status once he returned from Mars, with students acknowledging him as such, saying that it is an honor to meet him, and are all enthusiastic to ask him questions during the lectures he gives.
  • Nerves of Steel: He handles the pressure and seeming hopelessness of his situation far, far better than even a highly trained astronaut can be expected to.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Zig-Zagged throughout the course of the movie. Mark's education as a botanist and a mechanical engineer enables him to grow food and jury-rig the equipment left behind from the previous unmanned Mars missions but he needs to "science some shit" (paraphrased) in order to get water to grow said food and establish communication with NASA. On the other hand, he had months of time during the trip to Mars and the duration of the mission to cross-train with the other crew members. Later on he has a team of experts from NASA telling him how to do stuff, interspersed with scenes of said experts back on Earth testing out the same things to figure out the best way to achieve objectives.
  • Sad Clown: Jokes to himself and the cameras to deal with the pressures of his situation.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Most other characters barely curse, but Watney delivers several F-bombs, even in the promotional videos.
  • Science Hero: Watney survives by applying his chemistry, engineering, and botany knowledge to surviving on Mars long enough for a rescue mission, gaining the admiration of the entire world in the process.
  • Space Pirate: He has a reasonable claim to being humanity's first, as Mars is technically classified as international waters under maritime rules and he's hijacking the Ares IV MAV. He requests to be called Captain Blondbeard.
  • Veteran Instructor: Mark's new job upon returning to Earth is in teaching survival techniques for astronauts-in-training, since he is now undoubtedly the leading expert in that field.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With the rest of the crew, but Martinez in particular. They obviously love throwing quips at each other and Martinez is the first to cast his vote to go back and rescue Mark.

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    Cdr. Melissa Lewis 

Portrayed By: Jessica Chastain

The ARES III's mission commander.


  • The Atoner: After learning of Watney's survival, she feels solely responsible for leaving him behind. She supports the decisions leading to the mutiny enabling the Hermes to return to Mars to rescue Watney directly. In the book she keeps everyone on track through several risky maneuvers as commander during the final rescue effort, while in the movie she actually conducts the final EVA herself, grabbing hold of Watney and bringing him back to the Hermes.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Takes the news that they left Watney behind particularly hard, as it was her call. She also refuses to let her crew alleviate her guilt. They were following orders. She left Watney to die on Mars.
  • Commanding Coolness: Her NASA title. Given she's a Navy veteran, there's a chance this is her rank as well.
  • The Comically Serious: When paired off as a foil against Watney and Martinez's antics. Mainly because she can shut them both up by remotely muting their radios. She also gets in a deadpan zinger in the book when revealing her knowledge of Beck and Johanssen's secret relationship.
  • Disco Dan: Is a massive fan of 70's disco soundtracks, which to Watney's chagrin are the only available music he has to play whilst stranded. He lets her have it with "You. Have. Terrible taste. In. Music!" when she rescues him at the end of the film.
  • Happily Married: Her husband even shares her passion for disco. Or at least enables it.
  • Hidden Depths: The very stern and serious military officer with a possibly unhealthy obsession with 70's pop culture.
  • A Mother to Her Men: Cares deeply for the crew, and is distraught over having to make the difficult call of leaving Mark behind.
  • Nerves of Steel: When the rest of the crew starts fretting over the problems of getting the Hermes low and slow enough to catch Mark, she keeps on prodding them to "work the problem".
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When she receives the surreptitious Purnell Maneuver data, she refuses to make the call alone, as doing so would risk her crewmates' lives (not to mention their ability to ever go into space again, to say nothing of probably getting herself and Martinez, who are members of the Navy and Air Force respectively, court-martialed). In the film, even when Martinez jumps at the opportunity, she calmly and politely reins him in so that they can discuss the pros and cons of going along with the plan. In the book, she gives the whole crew 24 hours to consider and optionally retract their support in private, to prevent the influence of peer pressure, promising to keep any dissenter completely anonymous.

    Major Rick Martinez 

Portrayed By: Michael Peña

The ARES III's pilot.


  • Ace Pilot: He's a USAF veteran and graduated at the head of his class.
  • Class Clown: A constant source of jokes and levity, which is probably why he and Mark get along so well.
  • Happily Married: Has a wife and son back home.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: When Lewis puts the rescue plan to a vote, Martinez immediately votes yes, without regard to potential consequences. Even being reminded that if they ever get back to Earth, they're most likely going to be court-martialed doesn't put too much of a damper on his enthusiasm.
  • Majorly Awesome: A major in the USAF, and one of NASA's best pilots.
  • Raised Catholic: a crucifix being included in his personal items. Justified as he is implied to be Latin American.
  • Rank Up: In the epilogue, Martinez is shown to be commander of ARES V.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Ace Pilot, willing to casually risk his life and throw his career away to save Mark, and convinces NASA to allow him to bring a wooden crucifix as one of his personal items, despite it being a fire hazard.
  • Undying Loyalty: The entire crew, and the rest of NASA, are this to Watney, but Rick is quick to jump at the chance to save Mark, and explains to his wife that had it been the other way around, Mark would do the same.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Martinez and Watney spend most of their time jokily mocking each other.

    Dr. Chris Beck 

Portrayed By: Sebastian Stan

Mission Specialist who serves as the ARES III's flight surgeon.


  • Deadpan Snarker: Revealed (and lampshaded by Martinez) when he joins in on radio chatter between Watney and Martinez.
  • Hospital Hottie: One promo video includes a tweet describing him as "McDreamy", and Watney calls him by the nickname "Handsome" at one point in the movie.
  • The Generic Guy: Isn't as defined as the rest of the crew. Part of it is his mission speciality, aerospace medicine, never obviously coming into play. Not helped by the fact that his other specialty, doing spacewalks, gets sidelined in the film so Lewis can pull her Atoner act.

    Alex Vogel 

Portrayed By: Aksel Henie

A German astronaut serving as Mission Specialist aboard the Ares III.


  • Captain Obvious: When Lewis suggests that he he build a bomb to blow out Hermes' Vehicular Airlock, he says the following:
    "...But I feel obliged to mention that setting off an explosive device in a spacecraft is a terrible, terrible idea."
  • Chekhov's Skill: His chemistry expertise is utilized in the climax to develop a makeshift bomb for a highly risky plan.
  • The Comically Serious: Is the most straight-faced and serious (usually) member of the crew. Lewis apologizes to him for the others' antics but he takes it all in fun stride.
    Johanssen: All right, we’ve got a batch of personals. Dispatching them to your laptops... I don’t need to read Vogel’s weird German fetish emails...
    Vogel: They are telemetry updates.
    Johanssen: Hey, whatever does it for you man. There's a video message. It's addressed to the whole crew.
    Beck: I wanna get in on that telemetry action.
  • Germanic Depressives: Subverted. He's stoic for much of the movie, but later goofs off on a video to his family. And when the crew makes the decision to rescue Mark, he says quietly but with intense conviction that time in space added to the mission is "more than enough space for one life", and votes yes.
  • Gratuitous German: Utters "Mein Gott" (my god) when reading the message about the "Rich Purnell Manoeuvre" they are instructed to pull with the Hermes. It's pronounced with an accent though, revealing the Norwegian actor to be a Fake German.
  • Happily Married: Is a family man.
  • Mad Scientist: He's not, but Watney works out that he must be one, because he has a German accent, a base on Mars, and has awesome chemistry skills
  • Nerves of Steel: Played for Laughs. He's actually the most cautious of the crew, but every bit as professional.
    Psychiatrist: Do you have any fears?
    Vogel: No, I'm German. We...don't feel fear.

    Beth Johanssen 

Portrayed By: Kate Mara

Mission Specialist aboard Ares III who serves as chief systems engineer.


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    Hermes 
The Ares project's interplanetary spacecraft.

  • Artificial Gravity: While Hermes doesn't spin, her central gravity ring spins to provide artificial gravity for the long voyage to Mars.
  • Cool Starship: She's enormous and incredibly beautiful. Even moreso since she's perfectly feasible with our current technology and construction techniques, befitting the hardness of the rest of the story's science.
  • Drop Ship: She has one in the form of the MDV the crew uses to get down to the Hab on Mars.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Hermes almost pulls a dramatic one when the crew explodes the inside of the docking port at the front of her command quarters to slow her down, releasing some of her atmosphere in the process, rendering her interior virtually uninhabitable without a spacesuit until it refills.
  • Mile-Long Ship: Relative to today's standards, anyway. Hermes is 225 meters long, or only 0.14 miles (or about as long as a block in Manhattan is wide). Still, it is twice the length of the International Space Station and the largest and most complex spaceship mankind has built.
  • The Mothership: This mothership's the pinnacle of NASA technology. She's even described as a "once-in-a-generation achievement."
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Hermes takes this to her advantage and mixes in NASA tech smoothly and beautifully.
  • Starship Luxurious: Her interior's clean, tidy and advanced.

Earth

    Teddy Sanders 
Portrayed By: Jeff Daniels

Director of NASA.


  • All There in the Manual: He is revealed to be Dr Teddy Sanders in a Blu-Ray DVD exclusive video.
  • Big Good: As much as he clashes with the other mission directors on how to save Watney, he is most concerned about the safety of everyone, including the other not-so-imperilled astronauts and NASA as a whole.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Every time one of his directors pulls a fast one while he chooses discretion, they pull it off. The one time he decides to cut corners, he loses a multi-million dollar rocket and slices a lot of time off Mark’s clock.
  • The Comically Serious: Always speaks in a deadpan tone, even when insisting on Glorfindel as a code name.
  • Not So Above It All: When the meeting to discuss Purnell's highly risky manuever is dubbed "Project Elrond", he requests Glorfindel as his code name.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He's doing what's best for NASA's mission, even though it puts him at odds with mission directors. Real Life NASA Administrators are not corporate CEOs or jumped-up middle managers. They're scientists, engineers, or even astronauts, most whom have long tenures with NASA itself, so Teddy is not only very likely the most qualified person for his position, he also has NASA's best interests at heart, even if his decisions may seem callous or unreasonable.
  • Slave to PR: Completely justified. All of his actions in the movie are working towards the long-term survival of NASA and the approval of future missions.
  • The Spock: With Venkat/Vincent as The Kirk, and Mitch Henderson as The McCoy.
  • Straight Man: Jeff Daniels is a very versatile actor who can do humor and serious well. The scene where he acts as the straight man to Rich Purnell's silly demonstration is even funnier if you just recently saw Jeff being over-the-top-silly the previous year in Dumb and Dumber To.

    Venkat/Vincent Kapoor 

Portrayed By: Chiwetel Ejiofor

NASA's Director of Mars missions.


  • Black and Nerdy: Although Vincent is half-black and half-Indian, so he also doubles as Bollywood Nerd.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Out of all the characters, he has the most managerial duties, and is probably the most exhausted person next to Mark and Bruce.
  • The Kirk: The balance between Teddy and Mitch.
  • The Lancer: To Teddy Sanders.
  • Oh My Gods!: When asked if he believes in God, in the book he says he's Hindu and so has plenty to choose from. In the film he responds that he has a Baptist mother and Hindu father, giving him even more options.
  • Race Lift: Was originally Indian and named Venkat Kapoor in the novels; in the movie he's half-black, half-Indian.
  • Rank Up: Supplementary information in the Blu-Ray DVD reveals Vincent succeeds Teddy as Director of NASA
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Vincent proves this.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Becomes the main point of communication between Watney and the rest of Earth.

    Mindy Park 

Portrayed By: Mackenzie Davis

A staffer at Mission Control who is the first to discover that Watney is still alive.


  • Adorkable: Up to Eleven. Her glasses, her intelligence about latitude and longitude even the scene when Vincent asked Mindy about the context of Mark Watney's response of "Are you fucking kidding me?".
  • Almighty Janitor: She has one job: Keep track of Watney through the satellites. For someone who works at NASA and has a Master's Degree, this job is akin to being a highly paid voyeur, but she has the most experience in tracking Watney, and is talented in noticing and deducing his situation based on low-resolution imagery.
  • Field Promotion: She sort of gets unofficially promoted due to her discovery. She gets invited into very high-level meetings, and looks completely out of her depth the entire time.
  • Race Lift: Sort of. While her ethnicity is ambiguous in the novel, Word of God is that she was envisioned as Korean, but the author is also perfectly content that she is played by a blonde Canadian actress.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: In some scenes.
  • Servile Snarker: After years of doing nothing but watch grainy satellite pictures of just one guy, she doesn't take shit from the Director of Mars Missions anymore.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the book, she went from a meek and mousy little technician to someone who can snark back at someone who is seven levels above her, because she is the person who has the most experience in tracking Mark Watney and is the only person trained in recognizing all the Ares equipment by sight... even after everything Mark's done to it.

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    Annie Montrose 

Portrayed By: Kristen Wiig

Head of NASA's Public Relations.


  • Adaptational Wimp: In the book, Annie is a high-powered executive who curses and snaps with every breath she takes, and she intimidates the hell out of the other NASA nerds. She even joins Mitch in calling Teddy a coward for vetoing the Purnell Maneuver. In the movie, she is demure and deferential (though very snarky).
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: She's never read or seen The Lord of the Rings, so she has absolutely no idea why everyone else thinks it makes perfect sense to name a secret meeting "Project Elrond."
  • The Watson: Her primary role in the story is to have technical issues explained to her.
  • Lady Swears-A-Lot: Only in the book. Most of her dialogue is just expletives, as she has to deal with the public while the egghead geeks wrangle over science stuff that's way too over her head.

    Mitch Henderson 

Portrayed By: Sean Bean

The ARES III's mission director.


  • A Father to His Men: Is the most staunch and outspoken in favor of the Ares III crew and in support of Watney's rescue, particularly.
  • Commander Contrarian: The most vocal and consistent opponent to Teddy's cautious plans, focusing on rescuing Mark instead of the safety of the rest of the ARES III crew.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: The Blu-Ray DVD reveals that despite being forced to resign, Mitch and Teddy play golf with each other once in a while.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: A very driven man who will do anything he has to in order to save Watney. Teddy later claims that most people who work with Mitch think he's an asshole.
  • The McCoy: Significantly more emotional and cares less about political consequences than Teddy or Venkat/Vincent.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Against Sanders' orders, he tells the Hermes crew about the rejected alternate plan of a prolonged expedition to bring Watney home, knowing full well he will be fired after the mission is completed. He's rather smug about it in the book, and gets away with it.

    Bruce Ng 

Portrayed By: Benedict Wong

Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


  • Asian and Nerdy: It doesn't get much nerdier than running the JPL.
  • The Engineer: He and the entire JPL. From tech support millions of miles away to kitbashing several satellites in succession with ever shrinking deadlines, Bruce and his team will get it done.
  • Scotty Time: One of the more realistic ones in fiction. He first recommends that he needs 6 months to build a probe to send supplies to Mark, and is then told by Teddy to build it in 3 months. Then he's informed that he needs to finish it in 60+ days when the Hab explodes, and then told to build another probe in 28 days after Iris blows up. Fortunately, his team doesn't need to build a whole probe after Hermes goes back to rescue Mark.

    Rich Purnell 

Portrayed By: Donald Glover

A NASA astrodynamicist who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


  • Black and Nerdy: Brilliant astrodynamicist who is the one to come up with the plan that rescues Watney in the end.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He behaves erratically and doesn't know who the director of NASA is. Is nevertheless a steely-eyed missile man.
  • Character Tics: In the movie (especially the Extended Edition), he has a tendency to wring his wrist when he's working on his calculations.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: In a movie featuring the weirdo that is Mark Watney, he is several orders of magnitude weirder.
  • Genius Ditz: He is clumsy, socially inept, and seems only vaguely aware of the NASA hierarchy, or even his own workplace hierarchy, but he excels at the trajectory calculations that are the key part of his job.
  • Must Have Caffeine: He is depicted to be a caffeine addict.
  • No Social Skills: In the book, he's not used to talking to people. In the movie, he cluelessly uses the Director of NASA as a prop. In the Extended Edition DVD, it's revealed his colleagues are scared to go into his office.

    Tim Grimes 
Portrayed By: Nick Mohammed

A computer engineer who is the NASA pointman in restoring communications with Watney.

  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Venkat/Vincent asks whether they are receiving their first pictures from Mars, Tim responds by saying that yes, but they would rather look at a black screen instead of a vibrant red planet. note 
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He is acerbically rude to the Director of Mars Operations, but gets to keep his job because he's the JPL's best computer tech guy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Just don't ask him annoying questions.
  • Jerkass: Possibly the meanest character in the entire story. When Venkat/Vincent and the JPL are just about to receive their first transmissions from Mark with an ancient kit-bashed communications array, all Tim can do is snark and complain at their incessant questions.

    Guo Ming 

Portrayed By: Eddy Ko

Head of the CNSA.


  • Honor Before Reason: Agrees to the plan to give up the Taiyang Sheng booster to help rescue Watney. note .

    Zhu Tao 

Portrayed By: Chen Shu

A deputy researcher at the CNSA under Guo Ming.


  • Gender Flip: Was male in the novel, but female in the movie.
  • Honor Before Reason: Suggests the plan to give up the Taiyang Sheng booster to help rescue Watney - and in the novel it's mentioned that it's doubtful that the Chinese government would ever pony up the money needed to build a replacement. note 

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