CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – After man set foot on the moon in 1969, many scientists assumed that the next step in manned space exploration would be Mars -- and, in fact, German-born American Wernher von Braun had a detailed proposal to visit the red planet, but President Richard Nixon rejected it in favor of the Space Shuttle program.
In a new six-part National Geographic series, Mars, the world finally does make it to our neighbor – in 2033.
It debuts Monday, November 14, at 8 Eastern.
The project by executive producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard imagines an international effort that involves sending a multi-person crew aboard the fictional Daedalus spacecraft on a seven-month journey to Mars, where they will stay for the rest of their lives and help launch a human colony.
The series is part documentary, part scripted drama, and although it is not as entertaining as the recent film The Martian, it is far more family-friendly than the 2015 movie and does a better job in explaining what will be required if we are to succeed in such a mission. For example, what will they eat? Where will they get water? How will they breath? (Example: Supplies will be sent to Mars ahead of the first manned mission.)
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A series of flashbacks are employed, switching the viewer from the 2033 mission to 2016 modern-day America, whereby leaders such as SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk look to the future and lay out their vision. Of course, the filmmakers know that not everyone cares that much about the scientific details, and so they use drama to keep us all hooked. In episode 1 – which I screened – the first manned mission to Mars in 2033 is forced to land some 70 kilometers from their supplies. (How will they survive? We'll have to watch the next episodes to find out.)
The only criticism I had of the first episode is that it is too human-centric. We are going to Mars, we are told, in order to guarantee the survival of the species. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that – and perhaps such a goal is necessary in order to get backing and funding – but what happened to exploring the wonders of the universe because the universe, is, well, wonderful? Not to mention created by an incredible God. When Apollo 8 was circling the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968, astronaut Jim Lovell opened a Bible and read the first few verse of Genesis 1 – the story of creation. And the entire planet listened.
But we can fill in those theological details at home. From what I saw, National Geographic's Mars is well worth watching. (At the beginning of episode 2, we hear a recording of President Kennedy asking for "God's blessing" on the space program.)
When David wrote that the "heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 51), it's very possible Mars was dancing across the skies of Jerusalem. Shouldn't we have the same sense of awe?
Episode 1 of Mars has no violence or sexuality. It has one coarse word (d—n).