The Martian

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Teddy Sanders Character Analysis

As NASA Administrator, Teddy has the final word on all decisions at NASA. He knows that the public sees him as accountable for both NASA’s successes and failures, and he takes this responsibility seriously. Even more so than other top managers, Teddy tends to be unwilling to take risks that might damage NASA’s reputation.

Teddy Sanders Quotes in The Martian

The The Martian quotes below are all either spoken by Teddy Sanders or refer to Teddy Sanders. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Broadway Books edition of The Martian published in 2014.
Chapter 6 Quotes

Today was the memorial service for Mark Watney. The President had given a speech, praising Watney’s bravery and sacrifice, and the quick actions of Commander Lewis in getting everyone else to safety […] The administrator had given a speech as well, reminding everyone that space flight is incredibly dangerous, and that we will not back down in the face of adversity.

Related Characters: Mark Watney, Venkat Kapoor, Teddy Sanders, The President
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage opens Chapter 6, and marks readers’ first glimpse of events on Earth. Weir uses flat, declarative sentences to create an authoritative tone that gives readers the sense that they are hearing the “official” account of events, the version of the story that will appear in history books and government documents. The narrator summarizes the president’s speech in a way that makes it seem impersonal; as a dead national hero, Watney has become two-dimensional. Readers know him as funny, nerdy, and resourceful, but to the public, he is simply brave and self-sacrificing, like any other dead national hero.

The narrator’s summary of the speech given by the NASA administrator (Teddy Sanders, whom readers will soon meet) also seems like a series of clichéd stock-phrases. This speech is not so much about Watney as it is about the future of space-travel. Reading between the lines, we can see that Teddy is afraid that the tragedy of Watney’s death will make people question the wisdom of sending astronauts on dangerous missions. He is encouraging the public and US government not to “back down in the face of adversity” because he fears that, in light of Watney’s death, future NASA missions will suffer from lack of public support.

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“Okay, consider this: Sympathy for Watney’s family is really high. Ares 6 could bring the body back. We don’t say that’s the purpose of the mission, but we make it clear that would be part of it. If we framed it that way, we’d get more support in Congress. But not if we wait a year. In a year, people won’t care anymore.”

Related Characters: Venkat Kapoor (speaker), Mark Watney, Teddy Sanders
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Venkat (Director of Mars Operations) attempts to convince Teddy (NASA Administrator) to approve his request for satellite images of the Ares 3 site. Venkat wants to see what equipment is still intact because, as the Ares 3 crew left much earlier than intended, their remaining supplies could be used for a yet-to-be-funded Ares 6 mission. Teddy is hesitant because he knows that Watney’s body will show up in the images, and Watney’s death has already resulted in bad press for NASA.

Weir uses this passage to show the complexity of NASA’s relationship to the public, the press, and the federal government. NASA is a publicly funded organization, so their missions need to be approved by Congress, and Congress responds to public opinion. Venkat’s argument for taking photos of the site (and of Watney’s body) takes into account how public opinion, the media, and the news cycle, influence politician’s decisions. Venkat knows that there’s a limited window of time in which people will be engaged with Watney’s story. During that period, NASA be able to use the story to their advantage.

Chapter 8 Quotes

“What about the RTG? Does the public know about that yet?” Teddy asked. Annie leaned forward. “So far, so good,” she said. “The images are public, but we have no obligation to tell them our analysis. Nobody has figured it out yet.” […] “How dangerous is it?” Teddy asked. “As long as the container’s intact, no danger at all.”

Related Characters: Venkat Kapoor (speaker), Teddy Sanders (speaker), Annie Montrose (speaker), Mark Watney
Related Symbols: The RTG
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

NASA has been tracking Watney using satellite images, so they know that he has dug up the RTG and that he is using it in the rover. Earlier, Watney imagined that NASA would cower in fear and horror if they knew he was using the RTG, but in this scene, we see that they are relatively unconcerned. Teddy, Annie, and Venkat know that the RTG is unlikely to endanger Watney—they are more concerned with public perceptions of nuclear power and radiation.

Weir uses this scene to show that NASA’s tendency to err on the side of caution is actually the result of pressure from the media and the public. Of course, Teddy wants to keep NASA astronauts safe, but he also wants to avoid any action that might appear to endanger an astronaut (even if it is actually relatively low-risk). In this way, the public and the media protect astronauts and act as a check on NASA—but NASA’s awareness of public opinion can also prevent the kind of risk-taking on which Watney’s survival now depends.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“If this becomes a negotiation by diplomats, it will never be resolved. We need to keep this among scientists. Space agency to space agency. I’ll get a translator and call NASA’s administrator. We’ll work out an agreement, then present it to our governments as a fait accompli.”

Related Characters: Guo Ming (speaker), Teddy Sanders, Zhu Tao
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

CNSA under-director Zhu Tao suggests to Guo Ming that the booster from the CNSA probe Tiayang Shen could be used to rescue Watney, but Guo tells him that there’s no way that the Chinese and American governments would be able to negotiate a deal in time to save Watney. Instead, he says, they’ll need to negotiate directly with NASA scientists. By bypassing the bureaucracy of international diplomacy, the scientists may be able to overcome national barriers and create an effective rescue plan.

Even Guo and Teddy, who are at the top of their respective organizations’ bureaucratic hierarchies, recognize that formal protocols can hold back scientific progress. Weir uses this scene to highlight the dangers of state bureaucracies, but he also uses it to show how science and a common humanitarian cause can bring people together—even when they are people who perpetuate damaging bureaucratic structures.

“Space travel is dangerous,” Mitch said. “We can’t make this a discussion about what’s safest.” “I disagree,” Teddy said. “This is absolutely a discussion about what’s safest. And about how many lives are at stake. Both plans are risky, but resupplying Watney only risks one life while the Rich Purnell Maneuver risks six.”

Related Characters: Teddy Sanders (speaker), Mitch Henderson (speaker), Mark Watney, Rich Purnell
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

Now that NASA has access to the CNSA probe Tiayang Shen, they have two options. The Tiayang Shen booster could either be used to send a supply probe to Watney, or to send a supply probe to Hermes (allowing the Ares 3 crew to rescue Watney using the Rich Purnell Maneuver).

When the top NASA managers meet secretly to decide which rescue plan is best, Mitch argues that the Ares 3 crew should be allowed to decide whether or not to do the Purnell Maneuver. Teddy believes that, as NASA administrator, he is accountable for the astronauts’ safety, and that he should therefore choose whichever rescue plan endangers the fewest people.

This disagreement between Teddy and Mitch echoes their earlier conflict over whether or not to tell the Hermes crew that Watney was alive. While Teddy feels an obligation to “protect” the crew (and NASA’s reputation) in every way he can, Mitch believes that there is a moral imperative to be honest with the crew and to involve them in critical decisions. Weir represents Teddy’s views as reasonable, but Mitch’s views as correct: when it comes to space travel, it’s foolish to play it safe. Risk taking is essential to progress.

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Teddy Sanders Character Timeline in The Martian

The timeline below shows where the character Teddy Sanders appears in The Martian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
...just left Mark Watney’s memorial service. Venkat declined to give a speech, but NASA administrator Teddy Sanders gave a speech reminding the public that, though “space flight is incredibly dangerous, we... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
Teddy soon arrives in the office, and Venkat asks him to authorize satellite images of the... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
The scene shifts again. Venkat has just told Teddy and NASA’s director of media relations Annie Montrose that Watney is still alive. Annie knows... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
Annie suggests contacting Lewis just to be sure, but Venkat and Teddy argue that the news could distract the Ares 3 crew and make them less likely... (full context)
The Media Theme Icon
...when they’re required to release the images. They’ll make an official statement. In the meantime, Teddy will visit Watney’s parents in Chicago and fill them in. Though they’ll be happy to... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
...Watney’s miraculous survival is the top news story in the world. At a press conference, Teddy reiterates that NASA will keep the public informed, and announces that CNN will have a... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Venkat and Teddy meet to discuss next steps. Venkat summarizes the Jet Propulsion Lab’s current rescue plan, in... (full context)
Solitude and the Human Need for Connection Theme Icon
Teddy wonders aloud what Watney must be thinking and how alone he must feel. Weir cuts... (full context)
Chapter 8
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
...of view that follows Mindy’s thoughts. She’s in a meeting with NASA’s top management, including Teddy, Venkat, Annie, JPL director Bruce Ng, and Ares 3 flight director Mitch Henderson. She’s extremely... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
...Ares 4 MDV to rescue Watney and then fly to the Ares 4 MAV site. Teddy asks Mindy to adjust satellite trajectories to improve imagery of the Ares 3 site. (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
Though Teddy and Venkat have already decided not to tell the Ares 3 crew that Watney is... (full context)
Chapter 11
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
Just as Teddy gets off the phone with the president, Mitch knocks on the door and, once again,... (full context)
Chapter 15
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
The scene moves to a meeting of NASA managers, led by Teddy. Annie explains she’s giving daily press updates, and that CNN’s The Watney Report is the... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
...Bruce explains that the team building Iris is behind schedule—they need about 15 more days. Teddy asks Maurice to skip standard inspections in order to cut 10 days of time; Watney... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Betrayal of the Familiar Theme Icon
Mitch, Venkat, Teddy, and Annie all watch the Iris launch. On Hermes, the Ares 3 crew is listening... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
Teddy prepares to give a speech. In his office, Venkat feels a deep sense of failure.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
...ask NASA to include a Chinese astronaut in the Ares 5 Mars mission. Guo calls Teddy. (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
Venkat calls a secret meeting with Annie, Mitch, Teddy, and Bruce under the name “Project Elrond”—a Lord of the Rings reference. He explains that... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
...and he is almost certain she will say yes to the Hermes fly-by. Venkat and Teddy insist that it’s NASA’s responsibility to choose. If the Hermes flyby goes wrong and the... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
The next day, Venkat, Mitch, Teddy, Bruce, and Annie meet again. Teddy announces that they’ll send the Iris 2 food supply... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
Teddy calls Mitch into his office and tells him that though he has no proof, he... (full context)
Chapter 19
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
The scene shifts briefly to Teddy and Venkat, who have just arrived in Beijing and are waved through security by their... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
At Jiuquan’s mission control center, Guo Ming welcomes Teddy and Venkat. Teddy comments that science transcends international and cultural borders. (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Solitude and the Human Need for Connection Theme Icon
Weir gives readers a brief glimpse of Mitch, Venkat, and Teddy at work in a Jiuquan office, then cuts back to a video chat between Martinez,... (full context)
Chapter 21
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
The Betrayal of the Familiar Theme Icon
At NASA, Teddy, Venkat, Mitch, Annie, Mindy, and Martian meteorologist Randall Carter meet. Mindy explains that Watney has... (full context)
Chapter 26
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Bureaucracy vs. Human Endeavour Theme Icon
...Hermes crew members go to their stations. They are 20 seconds from intercept. At NASA, Teddy gets off the phone with the president. He, Venkat, and Mitch feel totally helpless. Johanssen... (full context)
Science, Human Ingenuity, and the Fight to Survive Theme Icon
Solitude and the Human Need for Connection Theme Icon
The Media Theme Icon
...Chicago embrace one another. Mitch and Venkat look at each other and sigh with relief. Teddy takes a blue folder out of his briefcase and prepares to brief the press. (full context)