The Discovery Channel is well known for their exploration of both the past and the future through the use of modern science to discover the mysteries of civilizations long since gone, and what might happen to our own civilization in the future. Mars Rising takes a long hard look at the trials of making a manned trip to our planetary neighbor Mars. Few of us have not looked in awe at the pictures returned from those two small rovers Opportunity and Spirit that are still scuttling their way across the Martian landscape 3 years after the 90 day warranty expired!

In 2003 George Bush announced that NASA would be exploring the possibility of conquering the red planet within our children’s life.

This six part documentary airs Sundays on Discovery at 9pm eastern.

Episode one Journey to the Red Planet (Oct 7) sets the scene, and provides an overview of what we can expect in the upcoming shows. If you think getting to the Moon was tough for NASA’s Apollo initiative. As Academy-Award winning filmmaker James Cameron (‘Titanic’), and narrator William Shatner show us, the Moon was a cake walk in comparison.  In Journey to the Red Planet we get to appreciate some of the challenges.

The past record of robotic missions to this inhabitable neighbor has only chalked up a 30% success rate. If you are a Baseball fan a 300 average does not get you to the World Series!

Even worse though are the logistics of the mission, because of the huge distances involved, the best case scenario is a six month journey there, a six month journey back, and… a mind boggling 18 month stay. Why so long? I hear you ask. Well it’s the was our planetary system works, sometimes Mars is close to us (if you think that 56 million Kilometers is close), and for most of the time it is much further away than that. You obviously are not going to sending a craft like the Shuttle. The shuttle is an ultralight, what is needed is an Airbus 380! 

NASA has some ideas on the drawing board. They will not be cheap, and they will stretch current technology to it’s limits, but it can be done. The actual craft will be built in space, the components assembled by humans and robots, the delivery system being a ‘next generation’ rocket system dubbed Aries and able to lift 130 metric tons of cargo.

Technology is not the only issue though, we humans tend to be cranky animals on occasions, how can you find a group of six people that are not going to want to kill each other after a 180 plus days in the equivalent of a small apartment?

The deadly environment of cosmic radiation, weightlessness, and even illness from natural causes, are all likely to result in death. All in all this is not a great situation!

Great series, get your TV’s tuned to it!

Simon Barrett

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