Ex-as­tro­naut is over the moon for ‘Mars’

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Television - BY RICK BENT­LEY

The sec­ond sea­son of the Na­tional Geo­graphic se­ries “Mars,” set to de­but Mon­day, will con­tinue to blend fic­tional sto­ry­telling with fact to present a look at what the ef­forts to es­tab­lish a colony on the red planet would look like in the year 2042. The six episodes will bounce be­tween events on Mars and in­ter­views with some of to­day’s top names in sci­ence and space ex­plo­ration.

The show’s cre­ators are tak­ing ev­ery pre­cau­tion to make sure the fic­tion­al­ized part of the story is based in fact, in­clud­ing by hav­ing for­mer NASA as­tro­naut Mae Jemi­son – the first African-Amer­i­can woman to travel in space – as one of the sci­en­tific ad­vis­ers.

Jemi­son, 62. has had a pas­sion for space since she was a lit­tle girl grow­ing up in Chicago. Her pas­sion was com­pounded when she saw “Star Trek.”

“One of the things that used to ir­ri­tate me was that all the as­tro­nauts were white males,” Jemi­son says. “I kept think­ing that aliens were go­ing to think that was the only kind of peo­ple we are. But ‘Star Trek’ had this very di­verse cast. And, it was a show where sci­ence was in the cen­ter. What is in­ter­est­ing about ‘Mars’ is that sci­ence is in the cen­ter.”

The events un­fold in the se­ries in 2042 when the In­ter­na­tional Mars Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (IMSF) as­tro­nauts have de­vel­oped a full-fledged colony. If that is close to the ac­tual time frame, Jemi­son’s time in space came a half-cen­tury too early.

“I feel like we have been putz­ing around with this too long and I should have been on Mars when I was an as­tro­naut,” Jemi­son says. “When I was a lit­tle girl grow­ing up, there was ev­ery ex­pec­ta­tion that we were go­ing to con­tinue on and we would be able to do more things. What I look at is that we have not in­volved the pub­lic enough.

“That’s been to our detri­ment be­cause the pub­lic is ex­cited about space. If we had kept the pub­lic in­formed on what was go­ing on, we would be much fur­ther along.”

The lack of con­nec­tion with the pub­lic has not been from a lack of try­ing by Jemi­son and Na­tional Geo­graphic. She’s pro­moted space ex­plo­ration as the author of “Find Where the Wind Goes: Mo­ments from My Life” and a True Books se­ries on space ex­plo­ration. And in 1994 she founded in­ter­na­tional sci­ence camp The Earth We Share for 12- to 16year-olds.

As for Na­tional Geo­graphic, the com­pany part­nered with Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Rosen­berg of Imag­ine En­ter­tain­ment to cre­ate the se­ries. This sea­son delves into the bound­aries be­tween sci­ence and in­dus­try on an iso­lated, un­for­giv­ing fron­tier. It also looks at what hap­pens when a deal must be made with the pri­vate sec­tor to get fund­ing for the work.

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