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The Mars Generation
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Mars Generation is a 2017 Netflix Original documentary that spotlights members of the coming generation of aerospace engineers/astrophysicists/rocket scientists as they explore the curriculum of NASA's Huntsville, Alabama Space Camp. The need for colonization of another planet to prevent extinction of the human race is discussed. The Nazi background of rocket scientist Wernher von Braun is discussed. The explosions of the Space Shuttles Columbia and Challenger, which each killed all seven astronauts aboard, are shown.
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What's the story?
THE MARS GENERATION is a Time Magazine-sponsored documentary that follows a group of self-described teenage "space nerds" gathered at NASA's prestigious Space Camp as they go through some astronaut training and work on space engineering problems under the guidance of talented teachers. It's noteworthy that the girl-boy ratio seems nearly even in this group in an era when girls are being encouraged to pursue math, engineering, and science. Some kids report they've been ostracized or bullied at school for their one-minded interest in science and space. The group is singularly bright and curious, and the film captures their enthusiasm and aptitude as they simulate rocket design and launches and talk about the importance of creating the technology to send men to Mars, something experts are predicting could happen as soon as the mid-2030s. Experts tout the return on investment of money spent on the space program, noting that many innovations that we enjoy on earth today in our everyday lives originated from space program research.
Is it any good?
This is the perfect documentary for kids and grownups who love and miss American space exploration. For those who lived through earlier, more active days of the federal space program, when rockets were launched regularly, when Americans were sent to the moon, and when shuttles regularly flew to the International Space Station, The Mars Generation feels like a hopeful declaration of a resurgence of American interest in space exploration bolstered by an infusion of private funding and research from such companies as Space X and Virgin Galactic. According to the movie, government funding dropped from four percent of the federal budget in NASA's glory days to four tenths of a percent of the federal budget currently. The hope is that private industry will come up with reusable rockets and other technologies to cut the cost of sending people to land on and colonize Mars.
The movie flags a bit as it turns away from the Space Camp and its passionate campers to allow experts, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, and science promoter Bill Nye to describe how a Mars landing will be impossible without the direct participation of private companies to help build reusable rockets. Scenes of Space Camp teenagers learning how to create heat shields and launching protected eggs, or "eggstronauts," into the air to see if they can land unbroken paint a miniature picture of the details that aerospace engineers must attend to before sending humans into space.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the value of the American space program. Did you know that innovations we take for granted, including improved telecommunications, video quality, LED lighting, ear thermometers, artificial limbs, airplane de-icing systems, better radial tires, firefighting gear, better baby food, air-cushioned sports shoes, golf ball aerodynamics, cordless vacuum cleaners, and water purification, among many others, all derive from work done by NASA and associated researchers?
Why do you think human beings are interested in the unknown? Do you think there is a parallel between man's branching out to different continents over thousands of years to man's interest in the moon and Mars?
Some scientists are looking to Mars as a planet that will one day be home to humans. Would you like to be a Mars pioneer? Why or why not?
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