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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that MARS is a mini-series that mixes documentary-style interviews and footage with a dramatic story about a future mission to Mars. It explores the idea that human habitation of Mars is not only possible but necessary for the future of humanity. Past and present scientific discoveries, researchers, engineers, and risk-takers in the field are profiled. There are some violent moments, including crashes, graphic surgical procedures, and lots of blood. The word "damn" is audible, and on occasion men are shirtless, but it's not in a sexual context. Older tweens should be able to handle it, but younger or more sensitive viewers may find discussions about planetary extinction and the risks involved with space travel a little scary.
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What's the story?
Based on the book How We'll Live on Mars and co-executive-produced by Ron Howard, MARS is a visionary series about the future of humanity as an interplanetary species. In 2033, after the world's greatest space agencies joined forces to create the International Mars Science Foundation, and with the help of MMC, a private company headed up by Ed Grann (Olivier Martinez), the first one-way mission to Mars is launched in hopes of creating a human settlement on the planet. Mission Commander Ben Sawyer (Ben Cotton) heads up the crew of international astronauts, including engineer and roboticist Robert Foucault (Sammi Rotibi), exobiologist Marta Kamen (Anamaria Marinca), physician and biochemist Amelie Durand (Clémentine Poidatz), geochemist Javier Delgado (Alberto Ammann), and mission pilot Hana Seung (played by singer/actress JiHAE). Together they set out on the Daedalus, knowing they probably will never make it back to Earth. As we follow their journey, the historic roots and technological breakthroughs that led to the mission are documented by science experts and engineers from 2016, including NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green and Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, a private rocket company committed to developing the technology necessary to establish a self-sustaining colony on Mars. Archived footage of space-related events is also shown. The voyage is still very risky in 2033, but the Daedalus crew is willing to risk failure if it means breaking ground for the future.
Is it any good?
This unique and entertaining series blends documentary and drama to tell a story about Mars exploration, supported by real-life contemporary scientific breakthroughs and invention. Rather than simply offer a fictional narrative about the future that centers on hope and imagination, it gently guides viewers to the present time to discuss the current research and technology designed for future interplanetary migration. It also highlights the prevailing problems scientists and engineers are trying to solve. These conversations and demonstrations are paralleled with the fictitious 2033 journey, revealing how the mission crew is addressing some of these obstacles.
While technology is a central theme, it's the real humanity behind space exploration that is at the heart of the fictional story world. It points to the contributions of people from Galileo and Amelia Earhart to astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Scott Kelly, who had the strength and courage to take risks in the name of air and space travel, and connects them to the personal sacrifices the members of the Daedalus crew are making. The countless moments of strain, suspense, and heartrending events that take place during the mission also make it engaging. Overall, MARS is an appealing invitation to learn more about planetary exploration and to help us be more excited and inspired by the future.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the future of the Mars mission. Given the technology and development presented here, do you think it would be possible to live there during your lifetime? Would you go?
The people who spent (or are spending) their lives advancing air and space travel are willing to take risks and sacrifice a lot to do it. Does this make them good role models? Would you do the same for something that is as important to you?
Television programs like MARS take a lot of risks when coming up with unique ways to tell their stories. What are they? Is the way this miniseries combines drama with documentary a good way to talk about about interplanetary exploration?
- Premiere date: November 14, 2016
- Cast: Ben Cotton, Olivier Martinez, JiHAE
- Network: National Geographic Channel
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Curiosity, Gratitude, Humility, Perseverance, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 12, 2020
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