Both in real life and in The Martian, NASA is filled with projects and code names. Within The Martian, many of these code names revolve around Greek and Roman deities; for example, Mars itself is named for the Roman god of war. From here is the Ares project, Ares being the Greek equivalent to Mars and a fitting name given Watney's battle with the harsh Martian landscape, and Hermes, the ship that carries them and the Greek god of messages, which could be seen as dramatic irony as many of their problems came from their lack of access to communication with Watney in the first half of the book.
The landscape of the Red Planet
The Martian landscape is stark, dusty, red (because of oxidization in the soil), and visually iconic. The reader has a sense, based on Watney's descriptions, of what life on Mars is like, and the text takes place largely in this red, barren, chilly setting.
Houston's/NASA's office scenes
The other primary setting of the text makes for a jarring juxtaposition with the barren landscape of Mars: the offices of NASA on Earth. These offices present typical office imagery: calculators, cups of stale coffee, cubicles, and endless computer and TV screens. The disjunction between the office images of Earth and the Martian landscape images of space is one of the central leaps the book makes again and again, as it toggles between Earth's and Watney's perspectives.
Hermes and other spacecraft
Science fiction is filled with images of spaceships, which in themselves resemble both the "real" rockets from the late 20th century and nautical ships from the 19th century. The Hermes must support astronauts for several years, and in this sense it functions exactly as a 19th-century ship might—all the crew's food and water are located within it, and the astronauts must do what they can to feel "at home" in a cramped space.
The Martian Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Martian is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.