The Martian — ARES: live | Farewell

Information elements and project structure

11 min readMar 9, 2020
Departure (7 June 2015) — Turning on a video camera (GoPro) without understanding its instructions (written in Armenian), NASA astronaut Mark Watney begins broadcasting live from the Hermes space station, introducing the crew before leaving the Earth’s orbit for destination Mars. Informal tones, jokes, curses and ironies respect the original novel by Andy Weir (2011) and anticipate the comic-dramatic atmosphere present in the film story.

1. Introduction

This document proposes an analysis of Ares: live | Farewell (3:30), promotional video of The Martian (R. Scott, 2015).
The research considers the product and its related materials by studying the creative choices, the informative properties, the modalities of visual representation and promotion.

Introductory note: The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) is set in 2035–36. During the Ares III mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is mistakenly considered dead during a heavy storm, and abandoned by his crew. But Watney survives and wakes up alone on the hostile planet. With few supplies available, Watney must use ingenuity, intelligence and a spirit of survival to find a way to report to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to try to bring to program a bold — if not impossible — rescue mission. As these stories of incredible courage evolve, the world unites to support Watney’s return.[1]

1.1. Extended entertainment
During the articulated promotional campaign of The Martian, the series-prologue initiative called Ares: live developed into six main project interventions designed to introduce the fundamental narrative coordinates of the fictional world by outlining scenarios, people, environments, technological context, time intervals and existential conditions related to the film story. Considering the recent sectoral need — which has today become a priority — to transform the promotional campaign of a media product into an additional entertainment experience, the immersive strategies integrated in Ares: live have developed by fragmenting the information into serial videos, with the aim to stimulate commercial curiosity towards the primary product (The Martian), expanding the narrative context with collateral materials
and interdependent informative notions.

2. Analysis

2.1. The Ares: live channel
Conceived as the official YouTube channel dedicated to its space program, Ares: live hosts 6 promotional videos interconnected with the film story of The Martian, published between June and October 2015.

The video series includes:

  1. Farewell
    7 June 2015
    On board the Hermes space station, astronaut Mark Watney personally records a live video to introduce the crewmembers a few hours before leaving the Earth’s orbit for Mars.
  2. The Right Stuff
    4 August, 2015
    During preparation for the Ares III mission, the crewmembers are interviewed by a NASA psychologist after a 10-day isolation period.
  3. Our Greatest Adventure
    27 August 2015
    The American astrophysicist Neil deGrass Tyson presents a brief fictional
    documentary set in 2035, illustrating the main features of the Ares III mission.
  4. Leave Your Mark
    9 September 2015
    Astronaut Mark Watney is filmed during the intense athletic training phase prior to the Ares III mission, promoting Under Armour’s technical sports apparel.
  5. Bring Him Home
    22 September 2015
    The world population mobilizes in a solidarity campaign requesting to bring Mark Watney home through a recovery mission.
  6. Ares 3: Chem Cam
    8 October, 2015
    Having succeeded in remaining alive on Mars, Mark Watney films himself on video inside the housing unit (HAB) intent on performing some scientific experiments planned during the Ares III mission, commenting on his condition and making fun of the other crew members.
Visualization and synthesis of Ares: live promotional materials in order of publication (June-October 2015) and in narrative order (2034–2035/2036)

2.1.1. Farewell
7 June 2015

Ares 3: Farewell (3:30)[2] inaugurates the series-prologue of The Martian by presenting the Hermes space station and the Ares III mission crew to the public during the hours before the departure for Mars.[3] Using a portable mini-camera[4], astronaut Mark Watney broadcasts live the images recorded while interviewing his astronaut colleagues (Martinez, Lewis, Beck, Vogel, Johanssen) in different environments (storage room, navigation station, flight deck, kitchen, Apollo laboratory)[5].

The images integrate textual elements in real time simulating the dynamic interface of a plausible social platform[6], including user comments, dominant hypertext references on the Net, technical information and personal biographical notes on each member.[7]

In concluding, Watney addresses a friendly goodbye to the public, wishing everyone an extraordinary year on Earth, and recalls the importance of the Ares III mission for all humanity. He says goodbye his parents with affection and stops the transmission.

“We were inspired by a simple idea: depict the Ares III astronauts as celebrities and follow the events of the mission in a manner that blurred fiction and reality. […] We asked ourselves what it would look like if we took the pop culture appeal of Apollo and Mercury-era astronauts and infused that world with today’s hyper-connected social media culture. […] This idea ended up being a ripe territory for content that allowed us to develop an emotional bond with these characters and also capture the humor, drama, and science that people loved in the book.”[8]

Combining the information shown between the dialogues and the 14 animated captions, the biographical profiles of the characters begin to take shape:

  • Mark Watney
    Astronaut specializing in botany, he has participated in sustainable agriculture programs in developing countries. He thanks his mother for her strong professional ethics and sense of humor. He is a fan of the Cubs, the Chicago baseball team. Before suspending the signal, he says goodbye his parents, promising, once he returns, to have dinner with them at Gino’s for a deep dish, the typical Chicago pizza. [9]
  • Rick Martinez
    Pilot, he graduated the best student of his class at the Air Force Academy and won a national award in the military institute’s boxing team. He is married to his high school sweetheart. Interviewed by Watney on navigation, he quantifies a period of 150 days and a distance of 36 million miles to reach Mars, pretending to confuse the chosen travel direction by incorrectly indicating the planet Uranus.[10]
  • Melissa Lewis
    Commander of the Ares III mission and Hermes space station, she is passionate about disco music and a great collector of vinyl records. Interviewed by Watney while she is intent on consulting documents at a station in the Apollo laboratory, she mentions astronauts Laurel Clark (1961–2003), Christa McAuliffe (1948–1986) and Eileen Collins with admiration.
  • Chris Beck
    Surgeon, he appears briefly, sitting at his station and then in the kitchen with Vogel, intent on eating a food defined as “chewable” (apparently similar to pasta). Note: simultaneously an animated information quantifies the daily calorie consumption of an astronaut in 1900–3200 calories. Another animated caption reveals the presence of a coffee machine on board the Hermes.
  • Alex Vogel
    Of German nationality, he appears sitting at a station interacting with a touch screen. Filmed in the kitchen with Beck, he greets the audience by showing Watney’s camera a plate with two sausages, pronouncing the corresponding term in German (wurst). His operational role is not stated.
  • Beth Johanssen
    A telecommunications expert, at the age of 17 she won the most important
    computer science competition organized by NASA and then graduated from MIT with a double degree in computer science and mathematics. Gamer and passionate about classic martial arts films, she is a coffee addict and a night owl. Unaware of being filmed by Watney live, she expresses her enthusiasm for the mission by cursing. She then addresses a personal warning to Watney, telling him to ignore the negative opinions about him because he is actually a good person. Watney instinctively thanks her, but then remains perplexed and says that he wants to talk about it in private.

“Just remember. What we’ll do up there, we will doing it for everyone on Earth. This gonna be an amazing journey. For all of us. We’re all in together.” — Mark Watney

Farewell: visual development synthesis — 1) On the Hermes space station, Watney turns on a GoPro and starts recording, broadcasting the video live on the Net; 2) Mark presents his astronaut colleagues (Martinez, Lewis, Beck, Vogel, Johanssen) exploring the different environments of the station; 3) The colleagues and Watney say greet the public shortly before starting the maneuver operations to leave the Earth’s orbit and head towards Mars; 4) In concluding, Mark affectionately says goodbye to his parents and ends the broadcast. Note: the reading order is lateral, starting from the top left. The number of frames shown does not represent the exact visual development of the video.

Main communicative properties:

  • Explores a time interval preceding the story of The Martian, stimulating the user to imagine a hypothetical chronology of events during the journey to Mars (about 150 days, with related daily actions) and scientific research activities on Mars (up to day Sol 6 of forced evacuation).
  • Establishes elements of reality with the fictional world, combining recognizable visual and informative modes (such as the simulated social platform), with the result of increasing the level of plausibility perceived with narration through metacommunication methods.
  • Presents the characters for the first time, their primary psychological profiles and their personal biographical backgrounds (useful for establishing an initial emotional contact with the user by expanding a secondary narrative and prior to the main story).
  • Shows the technological context, the main architectural spaces (inside the Hermes space station), and some iconographic elements of the Ares III mission (including logo, official emblem, interfaces, and NASA logo).
  • Brings together stylistic aspects of the cinema, of visual communication and digital media languages, seeking promotion and high media visibility through the experimentation of innovative combinations.
  • Intrigues an extended audience, recalling the imaginary, the visual style and the informative value of other scientific materials published by the social channels of space agencies (such as NASA, ESA, Canadian Space Agency).
  • Together with related initiatives, it reaches diverse audiences by combining the experience of Mark Watney (and the popularity of Matt Damon) with a truly existing technological product (GoPro) to promote its qualitative characteristics and creative potential.

New technologies like GoPro give filmmakers the opportunity to really push the language of cinema forward and introduce audiences to new perspectives and layers of storytelling that can really be quite engaging. […] Small details that helped drive aspects of the story forward and gave the world an extra layer of authenticity and familiarity.”[11]

See the complete analysis of the Ares: live promotional campaign.

Notes List

[1] Official description on Youtube. The exclusive world premiere of The Martian was hosted during the Toronto Film Festival (10–11 September 2015). See

[2] Directed by Luke Scott. The official description on YouTube reports: Astronaut Mark Watney introduces the Ares 3 crew before their mission launch. The video anticipates the first film promo of The Martian by 24 hours, where the identical shot of the orbiting space station Hermes (2:11) is again visible. The video was also published with the support of the social channels of NASA and some NASA astronauts. e

[3] Watney declares two distinct time intervals before departure: about six hours (0:37), few minutes before (2:37). Looking at the opening scene (0: 08–0: 13) Matt Damon wears a Nike shoe model.

[4] The collaboration with GoPro is officially declared in a GoPro communication and in the promotional video GoPro: The Martian — Life on Mars [1:02; 1 October 2015), where Watney is shown in some daily actions during his survival period on Mars. The video is made entirely using GoPro Hero 4 video cameras, initially used in The Martian as a simple device supplied with the suits. Director Ridley Scott then decided to consider the filmed material as an integral part of numerous scenes. Note: the shootings of Life on Mars are shown without additional graphic interfaces (seen instead in Farewell and Ares 3: Chem Cam) and without color correction. Looking at the scenes at 0:40–43, two operators can be identified. See also the interview with Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro. The soundtrack is The Martian Core Suite. The opening scene of Life on Mars (Watney coming out of the shower) is present in a modified version in The Martian. See (0:46).

[5] Storage Bay, Cockpit, Flight Deck, Galley, Apollo Lab Room. The words are visible in the graphic interface of the camera.

[6] Creative director Chris Eyerman cites the Periscope application and Facebook Live. Comments are given in English, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French and German. Hypertext references (#) appear in the order: Hermes, AresLive, Ares3Farewell, yum, hotbotanist, areslive, astronaut, space, stunning, synthetic, Ares2, Johanssen, itsonlylive, Knackwurst, Vogel, skills, importantquestions, NASA, flyhigh, journeytomars, womeninspace, Lewis, uranus, martinez, wearefamily, apec3, Cubs, mars, forallmankind.

[7] There is no information on Vogel and Beck.

[8] Interview to Chris Eyerman and 3AM. See

[9] The food clue suggests Watney’s geographical origin, later explicitly revealed in The Right Stuff (3:26; 4/8/2015).

[10] Martinez creates a linguistic joke with the English word Uranus, literally pronounced as UrAnus, informal transcription of Your Anus with the double meaning of pretending to be unprepared before the audience, taking the wrong flight direction and making fun of Watney.

[11] Interview to Ridley Scott. See

Study method and sources
This document is the result of a compilation process created with scientific and accessibility requirements. Special care has therefore been devoted to coherently structuring the texts and analysis sections, to selecting functional visual devices, and to providing verified information by correctly citing sources of documentation, with the final objective of sharing useful material for the purposes of study, criticism and information. References to all the sources consulted have been inserted using numbers in square brackets [] and reported in the references at the conclusion, with the relative explanatory notes. The hyperlinks’ accessibility was verified in November 2015, date of the document’s first publication. A final revision was made in May 2019.

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