So Mark's been stuck on Mars and the entire world has been aware of that. Including the kids. Including kids who are now wondering if they're gonna get stuck a really long way from home and be left to die on nearly-live satellite TV.
Naturally, Sesame Street did an episode about it to help you, The Concerned Parent, explain the situation to your kids. And even more naturally, when Mark gets back, one of the first places NASA shoves him is in front of the Sesame Street cameras. Mark's always had a thing for Big Bird, so they get to talk about making nests out of things you find and how your friends come and get you in the end. Even if they have to defy NASA to do it, but that part doesn't get put into the episode.
It's the most highly-watched episode of any kids show ever, and Mark has to sign a lot of autographs. It's a preview of what the rest of his life is gonna be like: dude's a famous astronaut, but no, he's never going to be allowed to astronaut again. He's going to be on good will tours instead.
But, hey, man, NASA needs some funding. Because, um, they spent it all on Mark.
He gets it. He's gotta pay things forward. If this is the deal he had to make to get rescued, well, no one showed him any fine print, but he'd've signed it anyways.
NASA's been fighting the good fight against people using Mark's name and image while he's gone, but even Mark is impressed and appalled with The Mark Watney Survival Challenge. It dumps people in remote places and then keeps buzzing them with flying cameras and watches them attempt not to die. It has a TV deal in four countries and incredible ratings.
So far, six people have very-nearly-died and had to be air-lifted out of there. Eight more just gave up after two weeks.
Mark posts on NASA's YouTube channel to declare himself the ultimate victor of any kind of survivalist bullshit. The creators are wise enough to realize they will never top this and so it's quittin' time.
The lawyers knocking on their door probably helped encourage them, though.
There are folk songs. What.
A lot of them are in languages he doesn't speak, and he does his best to track down translations. His secret favorite is The Man Who Created Water, but in interviews just says that he really loves the one in Klingon. It really speaks to him on an interstellar level.
Screw HIPAA, Mark's medical records are now of legitimate scientific interest. His goddamn gut bacteria has been the subject of five papers to date, with three more pending. Everyone wants to know how Mars can fuck you up in new and exciting ways. Certain prominent scientists are convinced Mark has every type of cancer possible.
And this is how Mark is sitting there, happily judging a Scottish school science competition, when a teenager in a Mars: Population 1 hoodie and Saturn barrettes in her hair says to him, "I think the reduced gravity on Mars is what made your scars heal three times faster than your baseline."
This is not the weirdest thing someone has said to him even this week, so Mark rolls with it. Turns out the school has a lot of science club alums go on to medical school, and so they've started to specialize. Mark's kinda enjoying the discussion, but when they ask him to take his shirt off so they can look at his ribs, he decides that is the perfect time to beat a highly-strategic retreat.
Mark reads all the tell-all books he can get his hands on. His mom's makes him cry, but that's because it's all about how much of a bratty kid he was, constantly taking apart the TV and fixing it, and how much she misses him, and how proud she is, but how much she wishes he had gone off to join a commune and grow artisanal potatoes. His dad appears in the book mostly to add suggestions about all the things Mark could have been doing with his life, on Earth, without dying. Yeah, they both knew he was going to read it. Love you, Mom. Love you, Dad.
The ones from inside NASA are terrifying. Mark had known he was probably going to die on Mars and he also knows that the people who talk to these authors have axes to grind and agendas to push, but to read them tell it, NASA, when left to their own devices, utterly failed to rescue him. Which is an odd thing to read, having already been rescued. But the point remains.
Because, wow, even after deciding they probably should go and rescue him, NASA fucked a lot of things up on their end. After reading one of these books, Mark wouldn't be shocked if the Hermes crew punched a few NASA folks in the stomach.
"But we weren't the ones to fuck up Pathfinder," retorts the anonymous source on Chapter 18 of the second book, the one titled Mutiny On The Hermes. "That was Watney all by himself."
And Mark thinks: yeah, that's fair.