I've done a search for this but have not been able to find an answer. In both film and book versions of Andy Weir's The Martian there is no involvement, at all, by the Russians or their space agency. NASA is there, the Europeans are kinda there (though it's notable that in the film Vogel wears a German flag patch whereas in the book (if I recall correctly) he wears the EU one (though the ESA is not mentioned in either as far as I recollect) and, of course, the Chinese come into play.

But despite being one of the two primary partners on the ISS and only way of launching to it at present, the Russians and their boosters aren't even mentioned in either book or film, much less involved.

So has anyone seen any comment by either Weir or Scott about why this might be? Some kind of two fingered salute to the Putin regime? An assumption that by the time of the Mars probes the Russian economy has collapsed and is unable to sustain a space program? Something else? Because given that the Russians are probably more active in space than anyone else at the moment, it does seem to be a pretty substantial thing to just ignore.

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    Fox sued by Russian Scriptwriter for plagiarism
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 8:30
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    Out of universe, I would expect that it's down to the fact that the Russians are currently our enemy and the Chinese are currently our friends.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 8:38
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    For the same reason people think America won WW2 single-handed too? Hollywood films are no less propaganda than anything the Soviets ever came up with. In fact the only difference is Americans don't even realize that it's propaganda.
    – Gaius
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 12:19
  • I felt that my answer to this one was pretty convincing, given the reference to the source novel and quote from the author. Is there anything else you'd like me to add before considering an acceptance?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 17:36
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    @Gaius America was in WW2? Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 11:55

1 Answer 1


The implication is that Russia simply doesn't have anything on the grid that's capable of boosting a rocket to Mars. Given the extensive cooperation between the US and Russia, it can be assumed that NASA would be well aware of anything they have that's suitable and that NASA considered it and rejected it (offscreen) along with ruling out the capabilities of the other space-capable organisations such as the European Space Agency, Korea Aerospace Research Institute, Japanese Space Agency and Indian Space Research Organization, none of whom get more than a passing mention in the story.

Russia is also, presumably, party to the treaties discussed by Guo Ming:

GUO MING, director of the China National Space Administration, examined the daunting pile of paperwork at his desk. In the old days, when China wanted to launch a rocket, they just launched it. Now they were compelled by international agreements to warn other nations first.

It was a requirement, Guo Ming noted to himself, that did not apply to the United States. To be fair, the Americans publicly announced their launch schedules well in advance, so it amounted to the same thing. - The Martian

Note that it's actually a complete coincidence that the Chinese have anything that can make the interplanetary journey:

Guo Ming stood and pinched his chin. Pacing, he said, “We can really send the Taiyang Shen to Mars?”

“No, sir,” said Zhu Tao. “It’s far too heavy. The massive heat shielding makes it the heaviest unmanned probe we’ve ever built. That’s why the booster had to be so powerful. But a lighter payload could be sent all the way to Mars.”

In this interview with nautil.us, Weir makes it clear that he doesn't think there would be a philosophical objection to the Russians helping NASA:

You say you’re a pessimist, but your book is a pretty optimistic one.

On the grand scheme of things with dystopia at zero and utopia at 10, I’d say I predict about a six or a seven. The thing to remember is The Martian doesn’t take place in some far-off, distant, unimaginable future. It takes place maybe 20 years from now. It’s not like, oh, I just took my flying car to work today. Yes, there’s cooperation with the Chinese, but I think we should be cooperating with them more on space stuff, and I think it’s inevitable. Bear in mind, at the height of the Cold War we cooperated with the Russians on space stuff. It’s just a thing we do! I have more faith in humanity maybe than others do, and there is a general optimistic kind of feel to the book, like we can do this, and people tend to inherently want to work together when there’s a problem.

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    You have missed a somewhat exaggerated statement that Soviet / Russian spacecraft were deathtraps. Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 15:21
  • @DeerHunter - That doesn't provide any explanation why they wouldn't consider it though. Especially when the name of the game is transporting cargo
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 15:46

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