For­mer as­tro­naut Mae Jemi­son over the moon for ‘Mars’

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - TELEVISION/EXPLORE - BY RICK BENT­LEY Tri­bune News Ser­vice LOS AN­GE­LES

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. The 62-year-old knows her way around the so­lar sys­tem, as the physi­cian, engi­neer and so­cial sci­en­tist served six years as a NASA as­tro­naut. Dur­ing her time aboard the Space Shut­tle En­deav­our STS-47 Space­lab Ja­pan Mis­sion in Septem­ber 1992, she per­formed ex­per­i­ments in ma­te­rial sci­ence, life sciences and hu­man adap­ta­tion to weight­less­ness.

Jemi­son has had a pas­sion for space since she was grow­ing up in Chicago. She made it a point not to miss any of the tele­vised Mer­cury, Gemini or Apollo space mis­sion launches. 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. It’s one of the char­ac­ters.”

The events un­fold in 2042 when the In­ter­na­tional Mars Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (IMSF) as­tro­nauts have de­vel­oped a fullfledged colony.

“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.”

Na­tional Geo­graphic 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 enough fund­ing to con­tinue the work.

DU­SAN MARTINCEK Na­tional Geo­graphic Chan­nel

Jeff Heph­ner por­trays Com­man­der Kurt Hur­relle, the com­man­der for the Lukrum crew.

Mae Jemi­son

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