When a disastrous dust storm ruins the first manned mission to Mars, the crew assumes botanist Mark Watney is dead and leaves him behind as they flee the planet. After Watney regains consciousness, returns to base, and treats his own wounds, he must figure out how to survive without being able to communicate with anyone on Earth. He soon figures out how to generate water and grow his own food, which will allow him to survive until the next crew arrives in 4 years.
Back on Earth, NASA discovers Watney is alive through satellite images and begins developing a plan to rescue him. Watney builds a solar-powered rover in hopes of traveling to the next landing site (it also allows him to contact NASA), but disaster strikes when his base is damaged and his crops die. This forces NASA to find a quicker solution involving the return of his crew, but the plan is dangerous for both Watney and the other members of the Ares 3. Troubles continue to plague Watney, but thanks to his constant ingenuity, the rescue is ultimately a success.