Year: 2033. Address: Somewhere on Mars.

The National Geographic channel’s latest offering is a six-part mini-series about efforts by Elon Musk’s company Space Exploration Technologies Corporation to build a colony on Mars by 2033. MARS, co-produced by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) and directed by Everardo Gout, cuts between the present and 2033. In the future, a fictional crew sets up a colony on the red planet, while in the present, Elon Musk joins other space research celebrities, including former astronaut Charles Bolden, Mars Society president Robert Zubrin and Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, about the possibility of a life on Mars. The show will be aired on National Geographic every Monday from November 14 at 9pm.


In the fictional portions, a team of astronauts led by the actor Ben Sawyer is taking its maiden voyage to the red planet aboard the spacecraft Daedalus. The future is presented as filled with uncertainty and drama. Even the launch of Daedalus is presented as a nerve-wracking event even though we know how it ends. The fictionalised events are so engaging that the present-day interviews with the scientists pale in comparison.

MARS has been scripted keeping in mind the real possibilities and limitations of such an expedition. The crew in 2033 runs through scenarios listed by the scientists. “Some of us, if not all of us, will almost certainly die on this mission,” Sawyer tells hie crew. ”Might be in take-off, might be in landing, might be in the new world itself”.

MARS lists out the preparation, money, time and research that a space endeavour involves. The idea is to reduce the distance between earthlings and the red planet. However, the jargon in the documentary bits holds MARS back ever so slightly from becoming cutting-edge television. For many viewers, Mars and space research are scientific mumbo-jumbo, and the series goes some way, if not all the way, towards demystifying Earth’s attempts to colonise its planetary neighbour.