‘MARS’ goes out of this world for the NatGeo series’ second season

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Get ready for another trip to “MARS” with the second season of the acclaimed NatGeo Channel series. Starting Monday, November 12, the six-episode arc will continue with last season’s unique hybrid format that mixes a riveting scripted drama about space travel to Mars with documentary sequences with experts talking about the very real possibilities. It’s not as much a work of science fiction as it is a glimpse of the not too distant future.

The NatGeo sci-fi docudrama is based on the book How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek. It offers a dramatization of the first astronauts to colonize Mars, isolated 34 million miles from Earth. It also includes documentary sequences that examine the reality of humanity’s chances of reaching and surviving on the Red Planet, plus interviews with experts dubbed “the Big Thinkers,” including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Elon Musk and The Martian author Andy Weir.

The new season promises to dig deeper into the challenges of life on Mars, covering everything from the first Martian-born babies, to surviving the common cold, to the first commercial efforts to exploit the planet’s resources. The show’s first season debuted in late 2016, and was one of National Geographic’s most-watched shows, with more than 36 million viewers worldwide.

MARS is produced by the powerhouse team of Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Justin Wilkes of Imagine Entertainment, with show runner Dee Johnson, and author Stephen Petranek as co-executive producer and scientific advisor. The cast includes Jihae, Alberto Ammann, and Clémentine Poidatz as members of the Mars mission, with Esai Morales and Jeff Hephner joining the cast this season.

At the Television Critics Association’s summer 2018 press tour NatGeo presented an interview panel with the creative team and stars, but the real rockstars of the session were some awesome astronauts and other VIPs—Dr. Mae Jemison, scientific advisor and former NASA astronaut; Leland Melvin, engineer and former NASA astronaut; Casey Dreier, Director of Space Policy at the Planetary Society; and Antonia Juhasz, an expert in oil and energy. All gave great insight to the NatGeo production about a trip to Mars and the efforts being made to turn it into a reality. And on the heels of the NatGeo panel, this summer had breaking news reports regarding the discovery of bodies of water on the red planet adding to everyone’s excitement about the project.

This season on MARS, the story picks up five years after the conclusion of season one. Following the successful maiden mission to Mars, it’s now the year 2014 and the International Mars Science Foundation crew has established a colony. But they cannot finance the Mars expedition alone, and the doors of opportunity have swung wide open to the private sector. Tensions arise among original mission-driven scientists and miners sent by a for-profit corporation, which creates new challenges for everyone on the Red Planet.

“The show is inspiring and has tremendous potential,” said Ron Howard, who is ultra enthusiastic about his Imagine production. “It’s a great creative adventure because the whole thing was a bit of an experiment with the fictional drama creating accessibility to the very real scientific ideas, one of the unique aspects of the show. Our desire is to deal with the science in an accurate way, as well-researched as we could, but also make a great show that is thought-provoking. I always characterize it as informed, creative conjecture.”

Dr. Mae Jemison, a science mission specialist on the Spacelab in 1992, talked about the fictional aspect of the series enhancing the learning experience for viewers. She said, “Sometimes you can imagine things and discuss them when they’re not a part of your everyday world. Sometimes we can see things more clearly if you imagine them in the future, imagine it somewhere else. We can reflect back here on Earth that we want to do things differently.”

At a “Mars Under the Stars” party hosted by NatGeo recently, there were Hollywood stars, astronomers, scientists, NASA astronauts and other VIPs with a passion for space exploration. All were excited about the MARS second season. Tune in to see what all the excitement is about.

Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.

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