The intro is pretty Z-list, with a exposition filled backstory generation, but the cast saves this from total boredom.
The mission does not start in 2001, but the bosswoman is still called Bowman. She has a trinity of characteristics: bossy, hyper-competent, and mamma bear. The intro explain the matrix of egos she has to manage, and the trip to Mars orbit adds some flavour.
Until shit happens. Space Weather sneaks up on them and the ship is knackered. They boys get their asses to Mars, while the captain stays back to recover the ship.
Instead of a smooth landing, they are deployed on a small capsule surrounded by airbags that rolls around hard to a far away place. The old, esoteric Terrence Stamp is injured and will remain behind, the first casualty of the Martian voyage.
The base station they were going to is completely destroyed. To add insult to injury, there are no oxygen-generating algae! They are gone. In which case, they will run out if air in a few minutes. Time to brood and skulk.
The meek bionerd tries to calm the co-pilot jarhead, and gets rebuffed hard. After a scuffle, the jock falls down a Martian crevice as far as the eye can see, a Greater Canyon. 2 down, 3 to go.
On the eleventh hour, they fund that turns out there’s now enough oxygen to breathe on Mars. Without algae! How does that happen? Science will have to take a back seat, since their ride is leaving, they positively need a radio to haul ass from the surface.
They burn the remains of the base for heat on the -50°C Martian nights and will make a run for the remains of Pathfinder, who happens to be nearby.
Up in orbit, Bowman is of course removing colourful panels and tweaking them with a pointed stick. She it trying to get back home, and assumed all boys have asphyxiated by now.
The guys reach Pathfinder/Sojourner, communicate to Earth who relays to Bowman and the talk for the first time. They find an old Russian probe that can lift them to orbit, to go back home. After conferring with the designer, a deli owner in Queens, they find it takes 2 people, but there are 3 guys there. The mind games begin…
Eventually, the mentalist goes rogue and gets himself killed by the Big Dog. And they find out what’s eating the algae, some kind of bug that eats people too.
The janitor protagonist reaches the Russian ship, kills the Big Dog for the battery and gets thrown into orbit. Mamma Bear launches into space to catch him and CPR him back to life. From that point she turns into Wife Bear.
Our heroes save the world from climate change and return home safe and sound.