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Netflix series “Away”: the journey to Mars, chock full of personal drama

Cosmacelf

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Mar 6, 2013
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Discussed last year. They did make a couple of exciting trailers for Ad Astra. Expectations were high before the full theatrical release. Alas, I agree with @ecarfan on this one.
Space movies (possible spoilers)

Well, I’ll give Ad Astra a try, even with that bad ecarfan review. Not that I don’t believe he is right. I’m sure the scientific plausibility Is just as bad as he said. BUT sometimes other aspects of a movie can be so good (to the right audience) that such flaws don’t matter. I recently watched The Space Between Us. A small film about a boy who was secretly raised on Mars but dreams of visiting earth (among other problems, there are no girls his age on Mars, something that would be bugging me too had I been him!). It too is riddled with scientific errors, but the movie is so sweet, the acting so good that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Bringing this back full circle to a comment Grendal said, if all we had were sci-fi films that stayed true to the known laws of physics, the sci-fi movie landscape would be dull indeed. No faster than light travel imposes severe narrative problems! Ironically, that’s the challenge I’ve set myself. To write an interesting character driven sci-fi without FTL travel that involves aliens.
 
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Grendal

SpaceX Moderator
Jan 31, 2012
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Bringing this back full circle to a comment Grendal said, if all we had were sci-fi films that stayed true to the known laws of physics, the sci-fi movie landscape would be dull indeed. No faster than light travel imposes severe narrative problems! Ironically, that’s the challenge I’ve set myself. To write an interesting character driven sci-fi without FTL travel that involves aliens.

There's a good book on this from John Sanford (known for thrillers) and Ctien called "Saturn Run."

I watched about ten minutes of Ad Astra and had to switch channels. Though I didn't watch it from the beginning.
 

ecarfan

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Sep 21, 2013
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I am continuing to plod through episodes of Away. The number of absurd and contrived situations continues to escalate. Since no one in this thread seems concerned about spoiler alerts with this show, likely because no one else is watching it except me :rolleyes: here are just a few of the many that really annoy me:

The Atlas spacecraft (taking the humans to Mars) has a main water recycling system and a backup system. The main system breaks and somehow becomes “contaminated” and cannot be repaired. The backup system is described as “temperamental” and can supply only a small fraction of the water volume of the main system. Both systems are described as being tremendously complex with thousands of critical parts. Who the hell would design a spacecraft like that, a craft tasked with taking people to Mars and back? The water system would be a triple redundant system that would be repairable.

The crew goes on water rationing and the commander becomes dehydrated and really cranky (everyone else is managing okay). The onboard edible plant nursery has to be sacrificed because it requires a lot of water to maintain. Yet one tiny plant appears to be thriving while all the other plants die quickly. It is determined that the commander has been using part of her water ration to maintain that one plant, which in reality would likely require just a few cc’s of water a day to keep alive.

A cargo spacecraft was launched a few months earlier than Atlas and was supposed to land on Mars where the Atlas is planned to land to provide new supplies of food, water, etc., except that contact with it is lost during its entry into the Martian atmosphere and not regained. It is presumed destroyed.

So with water supplies severely limited it is decided to abort the mission by “slingshotting” the Atlas around Mars (no landing) and doing a rendezvous with an incoming cargo resupply ship. They are supposed to “dock” together in space while approaching each other from the opposite direction. The absurdity of such a plan is mind boggling, as it would take huge quantities of fuel to achieve such a docking, fuel which certainly would not be available.

Atlas is described as having large quantities of water in a 1” layer just inside the outer hull, not accessible to the crew, for “radiation shielding”. Brilliant design; large quantities of water unusable even in an emergency.

I could go on... :eek:
 
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doug

Administrator / Head Moderator
Nov 28, 2006
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Away makes me wish the rumored "play at higher speed" feature would hurry up and come to Netflix.

What's interesting to me is how they seem to be trying to get the physics right in some places and just fail in other places. They make a big deal about having centrifugal pseudo-gravity in the crew quarters but being weightless elsewhere. Yet all the crying (so much crying) they do in the supposedly weightless regions of the ship, still has tears streaming down their faces.

 

favo

P3D+ owner
Apr 5, 2012
1,061
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Durham, NC
A cargo spacecraft was launched a few months earlier than Atlas and was supposed to land on Mars where the Atlas is planned to land to provide new supplies of food, water, etc., except that contact with it is lost during its entry into the Martian atmosphere and not regained. It is presumed destroyed.

Apparently the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and various other orbiters don't exist in the show's reality. :rolleyes:

Atlas is described as having large quantities of water in a 1” layer just inside the outer hull, not accessible to the crew, for “radiation shielding”. Brilliant design; large quantities of water unusable even in an emergency.

I don't think 1" of water would provide enough shielding, anyhow.
 

Cosmacelf

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Mar 6, 2013
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I don't think 1" of water would provide enough shielding, anyhow.

Right, as I recall, you need something like 1 meter of water to shield you from a solar flare, which is why people have envisioned special shielded "flare rooms" that have heavy shielding for those events. And if you aren't going to use the water for some other purpose, there are better materials to act as a shield anyways.
 

ecarfan

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Sep 21, 2013
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What's interesting to me is how they seem to be trying to get the physics right in some places and just fail in other places. They make a big deal about having centrifugal pseudo-gravity in the crew quarters but being weightless elsewhere. Yet all the crying (so much crying) they do in the supposedly weightless regions of the ship, still has tears streaming down their faces.
Yes I noticed that too. I suspect either their science advisors missed that or, more likely, the cost of the CGI to make weightless tearing look accurate was too much money.

But in general I find the weightless scenes unconvincing. Of course the actors are actually suspended by cables which are later digitally removed, but the way their bodies are positioned rarely looks realistic to me; they are often horizontal with backs slightly arched or primarily vertical and hanging without moving.

The ship design with the two “crew quarters” pods rotating around the long axis of the vehicle is interesting but the deployment mechanism shown looks much too complex to implement in real life. Too many points of potential failure.

What really amuses me is that, if such a system could be made to work, surely it would be optimal to have the crew spend almost the entirely of their time in the artificial gravity environment and minimize the time in the main body of the ship? It would not be used just for sleeping and personal private time as the health benefits on a 6-8 month voyage would be tremendous. From the crew quarters the crew could easily monitor everything happening on the ship.

Or maybe — though this is not stated in any episode I have seen so far — the main body is radiation shielded but the crew quarters are not, so the crew cannot spend all their time there?
I don't think 1" of water would provide enough shielding, anyhow.
It most certainly would not, as @Cosmacelf correctly pointed out.

The issue of the risk from additional radiation dosage during a trip to Mars is in dispute. Yes it would increase lifetime cancer risk, but not necessarily by a large amount. Effective shielding against solar flares (which are transient events) would certainly be important but that can be accomplished without shielding the entire crew compartment, just a subsection, as @Cosmacelf also noted. I hope that SpaceX is already planning for such shielding in the Starship design.

The idea of inducing artificial gravity by spinning Starship does not seem to be an option; the vehicle radius is not large enough for that to be effective and a separate compartment farther out from the center has never been mentioned for Elon. It would be an extremely difficult engineering problem.

SpaceX can certainly draw on the large amount of data NASA has accumulated on the ISS about how to counteract the effects of microgravity on the human body, but it will be a very challenging issue to deal with during a trip to Mars. The only good news is that the much lower Martian gravity may be somewhat easier to adjust to after many months in zero-G.
 

ecarfan

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Sep 21, 2013
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What's interesting to me is how they seem to be trying to get the physics right in some places and just fail in other places.
Along those lines, here is another egregious example of getting basic science wrong.

In the episode where the crew is faced with severe water rationing and no resupply ship on the surface of Mars yet, and are considering drilling the interior hull lining to access the water in the radiation shielding tank, back on Earth the support team tries to come up with an alternative approach to accessing that water. They create a mock up of a system to attach a hose to an external water tank fill valve and route the hose a short distance to another connection on the hull that apparently would lead into the ship where it could be readily accessed from the inside (no reason given why such a connection would exist).

It is stated that the water being drawn from the tank would be heated up and turned into steam so that it would not freeze while passing through the exterior hose back to the connection that goes back into the ship. The test system is activated and in a few seconds what I guess is the heating element around the hose where it is attached to the external valve bursts into flame.

Everyone looks crestfallen and the plan is abandoned. But...that hose would be in vacuum if that plan was implemented by the spacecraft crew. No oxygen, no flame.

Sigh. This show is a mess.

By the way; if the crew could rig up the external hose, couldn’t they stop spinning the ship, position it so that the side they were working on was in sunlight, and it could then be warm enough to prevent the water in the hose from freezing? Maybe. I know the ISS gets pretty hot on the sunlit surfaces and has to be continuously cooled. Even much farther away near Martian orbit there is still a lot of solar infrared energy.
 
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ecarfan

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Sep 21, 2013
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West Vancouver, British Columbia
I didn’t think it could get worse, but it does...

So the crew attempts to drill a hole on the interior wall of the crew quarters to access the water. Incredibly, all five crew members assemble to do this. They locate the spot to drill based on instructions from Earth. One guy starts drilling as they all stand there and watch. Why risk all five people? It only takes one. And that one should be in a pressure suit.

So of course the drill goes through the exterior wall and air starts leaking out. Even more incredibly, they did not have a patch available. A small piece of steel plate and the proper adhesive would certainly seal the hole; internal pressure will also hold it in place. But they have nothing available. They all rush out of the crew quarters and abandon it, closing the main hatch.

Sigh. Again.
 

doug

Administrator / Head Moderator
Nov 28, 2006
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Yeah I thought it was nuts they didn't start with a smaller hole and have a bit of epoxy (or even duct tape or chewing gum) ready to patch it immediately.
 

mswlogo

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Aug 27, 2018
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Check out the older series Mars on Netflix. I thought that was a pretty awesome series that thought through all the things that could go wrong on a mission to Mars. Politics, Corporate vs Government , Mental, Disease, they covered a lot. Elon was in a few snippets. They go back and forth between the present and the future letting the present real work being done today the as the foundation of a mission in the future. This made it so believable. I thought it was really well done.
 
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ecarfan

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Sep 21, 2013
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West Vancouver, British Columbia
Yeah I thought it was nuts they didn't start with a smaller hole and have a bit of epoxy (or even duct tape or chewing gum) ready to patch it immediately.
I suspect it is not a difficult repair given the right tools and supplies. Given that the possibility of micrometeorite impacts during a six month mission to Mars is not insignificant, of course a real mission would have planned for such an eventuality.

At the end of the ninth episode, the crew solves the problem of transferring water from the shielding tanks to the interior of the vehicle. The method used is...wildly implausible.

Made it through the final episode, which finishes with the landing. The landing technique is definitely copied from Elon’s Starship presentation except that the spacecraft does not appear to have any control surfaces so of course that technique — a “belly flop” and then reversing the vehicle orientation for retropropulsion — could not possibly work.
 
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ecarfan

Well-Known Member
Sep 21, 2013
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West Vancouver, British Columbia
Here is a review of another Netfilx show that has showcases all the stupidity of the show. I found it quite funny.
I reluctantly confess that I watched all the episodes of that series last year. :eek: And I enjoyed that critique tremendously. My favorite line (paraphrasing) “The crew of the ship looked like they were plucked out of a line trying to get into a San Francisco nightclub” and that’s about how qualified they turned out to be as crew members.

Yes, a truly horribly written show. The production values weren’t too bad though. ;)
 
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doug

Administrator / Head Moderator
Nov 28, 2006
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I suspect it is not a difficult repair given the right tools and supplies.
Yeah, the hardest part about dealing with a vacuum leak is locating it. Here they were creating it so they know exactly where it is. Patching such a leak isn't very difficult, particularly from the high pressure side.

If they had started with a small enough hole someone could have literally put their thumb over it until somebody came back with some better materials. The pressure differential is that most 14 psi.
 
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e-FTW

New electron smell
Aug 23, 2015
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@ecarfan thank you for powering through, you may have saved a number of us from brain explosions. You are a hero.

After having read this WP review, I had chosen to avoid Away, but am also now curious about “Raised by Wolves”. But that is for another thread. Review | Is TV getting us emotionally prepared to leave the planet? ‘Away’ and ‘Raised by Wolves’ sure make it seem so. — The Washington Post

Now to go discuss one massive failure of the Nat Geo Mars series: Nov 14 9PM: "Mars" on Nat Geo TV
 
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