PrintE-mail Written by Nigel Watson

In its mission to provide more scripted drama, National Geographic has produced the six-part Mars TV series that combines a fictional story about how we will visit and explore Mars in 2033, inter-cut with documentary footage of our current attempts to make such a project possible.

The press and members of the cast got their first view of episode one at The Barbican, London, on 19 October 2016. As might be expected from the National Geographic they have made the series as authentic as possible and have consulted experts throughout the world about how such a mission would be conducted. Through the help and power of executive producer Ron Howard, they had exclusive access to Elon Musk’s Space X operations where they viewed the triumphs and failures of rocket science.

The main contention of the experts showcased here is that it is not an issue of how we can get there but ‘should we?’. Stephen Petranek, author of ‘How We’ll Live on Mars’ believes, ‘we had the technology to visit Mars thirty years ago but there was not the political will or budget to go ahead with it.’ Today, with commercial enterprises like SpaceX planning manned Mars expeditions with projected landing dates in the near future, it has made NASA and other companies up their game.

The scripted story, directed by Everado Gout (Days of Grace), follows the fate of spacecraft Daedalus. The mission is a collaboration between aerospace corporations and space-faring nations. Filmed on location in Monaco for the Martian exterior scenes and spacecraft interiors in Budapest, Hungary, it uses feature-film quality visual effects and designs approved by NASA and SpaceX experts.

‘The science factor is important here, but it was important not to lose the human element. This is not just about rockets, it is about humans and their journey,’ said Everado.

The spacecraft commander is Ben Sawyer (Ben Cotton), and his crew consists of Robert Foucault (Sammi Rotibi), Hana Seung (Jihae), Javier Delgado (Alberto Amman), Amelie Durand (Clementine Poidatz) and Marta Kamen (Anamaria Marina).

To add authenticity the actors were trained by former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison. They were impressed by how her astronaut training enabled her to quickly solve problems, and by the fact she made them complete written tests and identify Mars in the heavens. This, and daily emails with links to space-based facts sent by the director, helped them get into an astronaut’s frame-of-mind.

Ben Cotton said: ‘When I read the script I wasn’t sure how it would fit with the documentary sequences, but seeing the finished film it works really well.’

‘This is something happening now and many people do not realise this,’ added Sammi Rotibi. ‘The timing of the the show is perfect as it relates to what is coming in reality. It is entertaining and informative.’

In conjunction with the series that will be broadcast by the National Geographic Channel in 171 countries and 45 languages, the National Geographic magazine is featuring it as their cover story, and producing a standalone book ‘MARS: Our Future on the Red Planet’. For children there is another book, ‘MARS: The Red Planet’, and prior to launch there will be a six-part companion digital virtual-reality experience at:

Mars launches on Sunday, November 13th  at 9pm on National Geographic

More details at:

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