Executive Produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, MARS Showcases the Dramatic Setbacks and Successes of the Modern Scientific Space Revolution, While Envisioning Humankind’s First Harrowing Attempt to Colonize the Distant Planet
MARS Premieres Globally November 2016
“When the first humans set foot on Mars, the moment will be more significant in terms of technology, philosophy, history and exploration than any that have come before it, all because we will no longer be a one-planet species.” -Stephen Petranek, author of “How We’ll Live on Mars”
WASHINGTON & BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Of all the planets in our solar system, none has captured our collective imagination like Mars — a mysterious, indelible part of the zeitgeist. The quest to send humans to Mars has engaged the top minds in science in a modern-day space race, and it has infiltrated pop culture through blockbusters like Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and through out-of-this-world tweets from astronaut Scott Kelly. Now, National Geographic Channel (NGC), Academy Award- and Emmy-winning producers Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Rosenberg of Imagine Entertainment; and Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning producer Justin Wilkes and Dave O’Connor of RadicalMedia have joined forces to launch viewers farther into outer space than ever before with the global event series MARS.
“If the next president were to get up in the spring of 2017 and announce his or her commitment to send humans to Mars, we could be there by the end of that administration’s second term.”
Premiering on the National Geographic Channel in 171 countries and 45 languages this November 2016, MARS — which is set both in the future and in the present day — will redefine television storytelling by combining feature-film-quality scripted drama and visual effects with best-in-class documentary sequences to drive forward a cohesive, edge-of-your seat story of mankind’s thrilling quest to colonize Mars. This epic six-part global event series tells the inspiring story from the vantage point of a fictitious crewed mission in 2033. For more information, visit www.foxflash.com and www.MakeMarsHome.com.
“Brian [Grazer] and I, along with our friends at Radical, had this ambitious idea, which was to create a documentary about the quest to go to Mars but also bring it to life in a really dramatic and cinematic way,” said Executive Producer Ron Howard. “The offer to the audience will be information meets vivid and experiential filmmaking. Nat Geo’s ambition was high, and we are really honored and thrilled to try and meet that challenge.”
The starting point for this unique storytelling method is the year 2033, and we have embarked on the first crewed mission to MARS. As dramatic scripted elements and feature film-caliber visual effects bring this future world to life, the modern-day quest to reach the red planet is told through documentary vérité and interviews with the present-day scientists and innovators who are leading the research and development of space technology that will make the 2033 mission possible. Executive producers Howard and Grazer hand-selected visionary Mexican filmmaker Everardo Gout (“Days of Grace”) to direct the scripted portions of the series, filmed earlier this year in Budapest and Morocco.
The First Crewed Mission to MARS
MARS envisions the future of space travel funded through a corporate-public partnership of two fictional organizations: the Mars Mission Corporation (MMC), a consortium of aerospace corporations formed in 2022 and headquartered in London that builds and manages the technological hardware for the Mars program, and the International Mars Science Foundation (IMSF), which was created by a coalition of space-faring nations to carry out a mission to Mars.
The scripted portion focuses on Earth’s first crewed mission to MARS aboard the spacecraft Daedalus. Its maiden voyage in 2033 is crewed by a carefully selected international crew of six uniquely qualified astronauts, including American mission commander Ben Sawyer (Ben Cotton), Korean American mission pilot Hana Seung (Jihae), Spanish hydrologist and geochemist Javier Delgado (Alberto Ammann), French mission physician and biochemist Amelie Durand (Clementine Poidatz), Nigerian mechanical engineer and roboticist Robert Foucault (Sammi Rotibi) and Russian exobiologist and geologist Marta Kamen (Anamaria Marinca). Back on Earth, the MMC control team based in London includes Hana Seung’s twin sister, capsule communicator (CAPCOM) Joon Seung (also played by Jihae) and French CEO of the MMC Ed Grann (Olivier Martinez).
Once Daedalus successfully lands on Mars and sets up a preliminary base of operations, British nuclear physicist Leslie Richardson (Cosima Shaw) will lead a Phase 2 settlement team along with her husband, world-renowned experimental botanist Dr. Paul Richardson (John Light).
The production team took painstaking efforts to base the scripted narrative in real-world science. The series writing team worked with an extensive group of experts, both in the public and private sectors, to understand how the science could serve the story. Dr. Robert Braun, an aerospace engineer and professor of space technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, provided expert consultation on all scientific aspects of the fictional storyline. Dr. Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut who holds the distinction of being the first woman of color in space, acted as a space advisor on the series, working closely with the cast to help them hone their portrayals.
In terms of the visual look of the series, production designer Sophie Becher turned to NASA and SpaceX to help inform her designs of the Daedalus spaceship and Olympus Town, the first human colony on Mars as portrayed by the series. Costume designer Daniela Ciancio extensively researched the types of fabrics being created today to make spacesuits lighter, stronger, more flexible and radiation resistant to protect the astronauts of tomorrow. And Framestore, the Academy Award-winning visual effects team behind Gravity, will layer in the final external visuals to complete the look of the series.
VISIONARIES PAVING THE PATH
MARS also showcases an unprecedented collection of interviews with the top scientific minds currently working to overcome the many obstacles that stand in the way of an eventual maiden launch. National Geographic received exclusive access to film Elon Musk (founder of Tesla and SpaceX) and his team at SpaceX mission control as they successfully landed their Falcon 9 reusable rocket on a drone ship off the East Coast of the U.S. this past April.
“The future of humanity is fundamentally going to bifurcate along one of two directions: either we’re going to become a multi-planet species and a spacefaring civilization, or we’re going to be stuck on one planet until some eventual extinction event. In order for me to be excited and inspired about the future, it’s got to be the first option,” says Musk in the series.
MARS truly brings together all of the world’s leading minds in a way never before accomplished — think of the world’s largest TED talk with the most fascinating people on Earth. Those interviewed for the series include:
- Charles Bolden, NASA administrator; former NASA astronaut
- Peter Diamandis, founder and executive chairman, X-Prize; co-founder and co-chairman, Planetary Resources
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director, Hayden Planetarium at The Rose Center for Earth and Space
- David Dinges, professor, department of psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
- Casey Dreier, director, space policy, Planetary Society
- Ann Druyan, executive producer and writer, Cosmos
- Charles Elachi, retired director, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL); professor emeritus, Caltech
- Jim Green, NASA planetary science division director
- John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate; former NASA astronaut
- Jennifer Heldmann, NASA planetary scientist
- Jedidah Isler, award-winning astrophysicist; emerging Explorer, National Geographic
- Thomas Kalil, deputy director, policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; senior advisor, science, technology and innovation, National Economic Council
- Roger Launius, associate director, collections and curatorial affairs, Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum
- John Logsdon, professor emeritus, political science and international affairs, George Washington University
- James Lovell, former NASA astronaut; commander, Apollo 13 mission
- Elon Musk, CEO and chief technology officer, SpaceX; CEO, Tesla Motors; chairman, SolarCity
- Stephen Petranek, author, “How We’ll Live on Mars”
- Mary Roach, author, “Packing for Mars”
- Jennifer Trosper, Mars 2020 mission manager, JPL
- Andy Weir, author, “The Martian”
- Robert Zubrin, president, The Mars Society; president, Pioneer Astronautics
The quest not only to reach Mars but also to colonize it one day has stirred vigorous debate within the space community. The question is not only “could we?” but also “should we?” Neil DeGrasse Tyson is not convinced that we have to send humans to Mars; he bets it would take less effort and less money to figure out how to survive threats to Earth than to colonize another planet in order to maintain the species: “I think we should visit planets, as you’d visit any place you’ve never been before…. But we evolved on Earth to live on Earth.”
The consensus seems to be forming that humans will eventually make the trip to Mars, but the time table for doing so also remains a point of debate. Robert Zubrin, president of The Mars Society and of Pioneer Astronautics, makes a bold assertion: “If the next president were to get up in the spring of 2017 and announce his or her commitment to send humans to Mars, we could be there by the end of that administration’s second term.”
A GLOBAL EVENT
National Geographic will extend the MARS storytelling in an unprecedented cross-platform effort, including a six-part digital companion prequel series. Before MARS, which will launch prior to the premiere, is an extensive digital virtual-reality experience at www.MakeMarsHome.com. There will also be the MARS Experience installation in New York City this October. Further, MARS will be the November cover story of National Geographic magazine and will be featured in a standalone book, “MARS: Our Future on the Red Planet,” on sale October 25, 2016. The NG Kids Book, “MARS: The Red Planet,” will go on sale September 27, 2016. There will be media and educational materials for kids; a touring NG Live speakers series; and ongoing MARS coverage on nationalgeographic.com.
MARS is produced by Imagine Entertainment and RadicalMedia for NGC. For Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Rosenberg are executive producers. For RadicalMedia, Justin Wilkes, Dave O’Connor, Jonathan Silberberg and Jon Kamen are executive producers. For NGC, Robert Palumbo is executive producer; Matt Renner is vice president, production; and Tim Pastore is president, original programming and production.
About National Geographic Channels
The National Geographic Channels (The Channels) form the television and production arm of National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between 21st Century Fox and the National Geographic Society. As a global leader in premium science, adventure and exploration programming, the Channels include: National Geographic Channel (NGC), Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo People and Nat Geo MUNDO. Additionally, the Channels also run the in-house television production unit, National Geographic Studios. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society’s commitment to exploration, conservation and education with entertaining, innovative programming from A-level talent around the world, and with profits that help support the society’s mission. Globally, NGC is available in more than 440 million homes in 171 countries and 45 languages, and Nat Geo WILD is available in 131 countries and 38 languages. National Geographic Partners is also a leader in social media, with a fan base of 250 million people across all of its social pages. NGC contributes over 55 million social media fans globally on Facebook alone. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com and www.natgeowild.com.
Imagine Entertainment was founded in 1986 by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer to create independently produced feature films, television programs and other original programming. Imagine Entertainment has been honored with more than 60 prestigious awards including 10 Academy Awards and 40 Emmy awards. Past productions include Academy Award Best Picture winner ”A Beautiful Mind,” as well as “Apollo 13,” “American Gangster,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “8 Mile,” “Liar, Liar,” “Backdraft” and “Parenthood,” to name a few. Upcoming films include “Inferno,” the third installment of the Dan Brown franchise; “American Made,” starring Tom Cruise; and “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week - The Touring Years,” a documentary about The Beatles. Current television productions include Fox’s “Empire,” “Shots Fired!” and “24: Legacy,” as well as National Geographic Channel’s Breakthrough and Genius series. Past television productions include NBC’s “Parenthood,” NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” Fox’s “24” and “24: Live Another Day” and Fox’s and Netflix’s “Arrested Development,” as well as HBO’s “From the Earth to the Moon,” for which Howard and Grazer won the Emmy for Outstanding Mini-Series. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer began their collaboration in 1985 with the hit comedies “Night Shift” and “Splash.”
Since 1993, RadicalMedia has produced numerous films and television programs that tell nuanced, multifaceted stories, including the Academy Award-, Emmy- and Grammy-nominated documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” directed by Liz Garbus; Academy Award- and Independent Spirit Award-winning documentary “The Fog of War;” Academy Award-nominated documentary, “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”; Grammy-winning “Concert for George”; “Under African Skies,” the Emmy award-winning documentary examining the making of the groundbreaking and controversial Paul Simon record “Graceland”; the Ron Howard-helmed Jay-Z documentary, “Made in America”; “The United States vs. James J. Bulger,” Joe Berlinger’s investigative documentary that chronicles the trial of crime boss Whitey Bulger; and the Tony Robbin’s documentary “I Am Not Your Guru” for Netflix. Recent television credits include five seasons of the Emmy-nominated series “Oprah’s Masterclass” for OWN; six seasons of “Iconoclasts” for Sundance Channel; “David Blaine: Real of Magic” for ABC; “Doc and Darryl” and “You Don’t Know Bo” for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series; “Hello World” for Discovery Channel; the Emmy-nominated “Park Bench With Steve Buscemi” for AOL; and the Emmy-winning series “10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed the World” for History Channel.