Mark Watney is the protagonist of The Martian. He is left stranded on Mars after his crew leaves him for dead during a sandstorm, believing he has been killed. He is a botanist and an engineer. The skills he has as a result of these two specialties allow him to survive alone in complete isolation. He keeps a diary which serves as the bulk of the novel, especially the first third. His tone throughout varies from determined to devastated. He uses his glib humor as a coping mechanism to aid his survival as much as he uses his mind and prodigious skill set.
Venkat Kapoor is the director of the Mars Mission. He is the first person who makes contact with Watney once they have established a radio connection. He is the leader of the team on the ground, and he stays focused for nearly the whole novel. He serves as something of a moral sounding board, striking a balance between Mitch and Teddy.
Teddy Sanders is the chief director of NASA itself. His hierarchical role is larger than Venkat's, and we often see him taking larger issues into consideration—Congress, the media, and so on. In what he deems later as an abundance of caution, he rejects the Rich Purnell maneuver because it is too dangerous.
Mitch Henderson is the flight director onboard the Hermes. He pushes back against Teddy by illegally sending the details of the Rich Purnell maneuver to the crew, resulting in their mutiny. He believes it should be their choice whether or not to save Mark. He believes, though, that based on their natures, they will choose to do it. He is correct.
Lewis is commander of the Ares 3 mission to Mars.
Martinez is the pilot of the Ares 3 mission and a MDV/MAV specialist.
Johansen is a systems operator for the Ares 3 mission.
Beck is a flight surgeon for the Ares 3 mission.
Vogel is a chemist and astronaut representing the European Space Agency on the Ares 3 mission.
Annie Montrose is a public relations coordinator at NASA dealing with the fallout of Watney's supposed death and the discovery that he was abandoned alive.
Mindy Park is a satellite communications engineer who discovers that Watney is still alive.
Rich Purnell devises the plan of using Earth as a slingshot to send the Hermes back to Mars to save Mark Watney.
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