How the human race will colonise Mars

A new part-documentary part-drama series on Nat Geo Abu Dhabi shows how we will become a spacefaring race.

Neil Churchill November 13, 2016

Since man first discovered the solar system we’ve been a species obsessed with visiting other planets, but none has captured our attention like Mars.

The red planet has always been of the most interest, probably because it’s the closest and we therefore know more about it than Jupiter, Saturn and the rest.

Now there is a unique TV series dedicated to the subject of the human race colonising it – which many scientific minds believe is necessary – and it’s airing on National Geographic Abu Dhabi.

Centred on both a fictitious crewed mission to Mars in the year 2033 and on real-life scenarios, MARS is both a scripted documentary and factual drama that will envision humankind’s future attempts to live on Earth’s neighbouring planet, and presents real-life arguments for doing so. The first of six episodes airs tonight. 

It’s not just the storyline that is galactic; there are some big names involved too. Oscar-winning double-act Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are executive producers, and they hand-selected the director Everado Gout. 

The race to reach Mars has grown in popular culture in recent years, with a number of films touching on that specific and other celestial subjects, including Interstellar, The Martian and new flick Arrival. The series will also give a unique insight on today’s scientific space revolution, which after events such as Pluto’s fly-by and Barack Obama’s backing for NASA, is more pertinent today than it has been in years.

While the scripted portion of MARS focuses on the crew’s mission, the show will blend together present day documentary sequences including commentary from some of the world’s most foremost minds on the subject.

The underlying theme behind MARS is the expert opinion that colonising the red planet is the best way to ensure the future existence of our species, and the show will present real-life arguments for getting there as soon as possible – 55 million kilometres away.

One of those is Elon Musk, of SpaceX and more recently Hyperloop fame. He had this to say: “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. For me to be excited and inspired about the future, it's got to be the first option." 

As well as Musk, other notable names to feature in the series and be interviewed include: former Apollo 13 commander James Lovell; author of The Martian Andy Weir; founder of Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, John Logsdon; chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, Peter Diamandis; and director at Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

colonising mars nat geo abu dhabi series the martian jordan wadi rum.jpg Jordan's Wadi Rum desert doubled for Mars in film The Martian.

Sanjay Raina, general manager at National Geographic Abu Dhabi MENA said: “You can call it television pointing the way for reality as we tell a science-supported, but cinematic story of humankind’s first steps onto a new planet.

“We consulted a series of globally renowned experts and have successfully redefined visual story-telling with MARS. The documentary and scripted drama formats have combined to deliver a unique reality-based format.”

Another interviewee to feature in the programme, Stephen Petranek, author of ‘How We’ll Live on Mars’, sums up how important colonising Mars would be to the human race. “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.” 

MARS is a six-part series showing on National Geographic Abu Dhabi. The first episode is tonight, 13th November at 10pm UAE time, with the rest airing on the subsequent five Sundays.