In 2035 the crew of NASA's Ares 3 mission have arrived at Acidalia Planitia for a planned month-long stay on Mars. After only six sols, an intense dust and wind storm threatens to topple their Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), which would trap them on the planet. During the hurried evacuation, an antenna tears loose and impales astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and engineer, also disabling his spacesuit radio. He is flung out of sight by the wind and presumed dead. As the MAV teeters dangerously, mission commander Melissa Lewis has no choice but to take off without completing the search for Watney. However, Watney is not dead.