Life on Mars and beyond...
The cast of doco-drama Mars are split on whether life would be any good on the red planet, writes Matt Suddain.
Going to Mars is a bit like visiting a hotel bar in Dubai: there’s no atmosphere, there’s nothing to drink, and if you go outside you’ll probably die. It’s a desolate, lifeless ball of red dirt roughly 140 million miles away, where nothing grows, where one dust storm can cover the entire planet and rage for months, and where the temperature can fall to minus-130 degrees Celsius. Plus, a day on Mars is 39 minutes, 35.244 seconds longer than a day on Earth.
You can imagine the one-star Trip Advisor reviews. ‘‘Too dusty. Days longer but no late checkout available!? Give it a miss.’’
‘‘Life there is tough, but beautiful,’’ says Clementine Poidatz, who plays physicist Amelie Durand on National Geographic’s hybrid documentary-drama show Mars. ‘‘Everything that happens can potentially be a disaster, because we’re so far from home. No chance of help. Far away from your family, your loved ones, good food, good cheese.’’ (Clementine is French.)
The planet is too far away to even let you call or Skype your family. The delay on the line would be 10 minutes or more. You’d be limited to video messages, or cryptic status updates. ‘‘Anyone know how to make beer from dust LOL.’’
Jeff Hephner, who plays mining colony leader Kurt Hurrelle, recently gave up drinking – though it wasn’t to prepare for the fictionalised hardships his character will face. He did it for his health. And he misses it. ‘‘It’s a social thing, a thing to get through the day. The dangers of an actor’s life’’ – much like a Martian colonist’s life, I imagine – ‘‘is that you’ve got nothing to do.’’
Season one of Mars focused on the challenges of just getting there. This season, a decade has passed since the voyage, and the International Mars Science Foundation (IMSF) astronauts have built a burgeoning colony. The six-episode series arc, which alternates scripted and documentary sequences, explores how the settlers deal with challenges such as contamination, natural disasters, the arrival of the private sector, even motherhood.
‘‘I’m the mother of the first Martian baby,’’ says Poidatz. ‘‘It’s really cool. But there’s this conflict of ‘Should I have the baby?’ Because that child will be stuck on the planet its whole life. Because of Martian gravity, your bones and muscles don’t develop the way they would on Earth.’’
‘‘There’ll be some muscle wastage,’’ says Stephen Petranek, whose book How We’ll Live on Mars formed the basis for the show. ‘‘But you won’t need as much muscle, because for every step you take on Mars you can walk nine feet. You’ll feel like a superhuman.’’
From left, Jeff Hephner, who plays mining colony leader Kurt Hurrelle; Clementine Poidatz, who plays physicist Amelie Durand; and Stephen Petranek, whose book How We’ll Live on Mars formed the basis for the Mars show.