CU Boulder’s AeroSpace Ventures program hosted an advanced screening of the National Geographic show Mars last Monday night. The packed Glenn Miller Ballroom was shown episodes four and five of the docudrama and listened to a panel of consultants and actors talk about the show afterwards.
Mars is a new program developed by National Geographic that is half documentary and half science-fiction. The two halves are interspersed with each other and both focus on what it would be like for humans to live on Mars.
The documentary features Andy Weir, author of the popular novel The Martian, and Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live on Mars, who was in the audience. Additionally, the documentary featured scientists from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. They discussed what it would take to get humans to Mars, the possibilities for creating a sustainable human colony and the difficulties that could arise.
The fictional aspect of the story focused on the first group of humans to arrive on Mars and start forming a permanent settlement there. The first three episodes were about the initial landing and establishment. The episodes the audience watched were set after the colony had been established and focused on the problems the crew faced in maintaining their settlement, such as how to grow food and how to adapt to such an unfamiliar and psychologically challenging environment. Episode five ended on a dramatic note that left the audience in a commotion.
After the screening, Abby Benson, Executive Director of AeroSpace Ventures, moderated a panel discussion. The panelists were Petranek; Dr. Bobby Braun, consultant on Mars and incoming dean of engineering and applied science at CU; Leonard David, author of Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet; and Mars actor Sammi Rotibi.
The panelists talked about what it was like to work on the show and discussed their predictions for the non-fiction future of human travel to Mars. David shared an anecdote about holding a panel about space exploration at CU in the 1970s and having to explain that it wasn’t a Star Trek convention. He expressed pleasure at how much interest in the subject has increased since then.
Rotibi talked about the human element of the show and what it was like to portray the psyche of someone in such an alien situation. He said he hoped the fictional part of the show would get more people interested in space exploration and talked about how excited he was to have met former astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, who consulted on the show and put him through “Mars boot camp.”
Benson opened the panel up to audience questions, and at the end audience members received free copies of Petranek and David’s books. There is one more episode of season one of the Mars series, which can be watched on the National Geographic TV channel.
Contact CU Independent News Reporter Carina Julig at email@example.com.