Ex-astronaut is over the moon for ‘Mars’
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.