On a realistic mission to Mars
“There is life on Mars, and it is us — extensions of our eyes in all directions, extensions of our mind, extensions of our heart and soul have touched Mars today,” the great science fiction writer Ray Bradbury said, speaking at a symposium at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, in 1976. “That’s the message to look for there: We are on Mars. We are the Martians!”
It may have been true then but it’s more so now with National Geographic’s stunning new series having premiered last week in 170 countries and 45 languages. Inspired by the book How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek, the show’s tag line, echoing HG Wells, reads: “Mars showcases the dramatic setbacks and successes of the modern scientific space revolution, while envisioning humankind’s first harrowing attempts to colonise the distant planet.”
Executive produced by Hollywood luminaries Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, and directed by Mexican filmmaker Everardo Gout, the fictional scripted series takes place in 2033. It is the story of Earth’s first crewed mission to Mars in the spacecraft Daedalus, carrying an international cohort of six, and seamlessly threads through the very real scientific efforts happening now to get them there.
The futuristic drama is made possible by the current technologies answering the real engineering questions behind our abiding interest in colonising the Red Planet. Howard calls it a new kind of genre where the documentary aspects, including beautifully shot interviews with 21 experts — among them names such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Martian author Andy Weir and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk — to help us “better understand the reality of the show”. Bradbury would have loved it. Sunday, 7.30pm, National Geographic.
The ‘spacecraft’ Daedalus on the Red Planet in National Geographic’s stunning new series