Science Fiction? Nat Geo ‘Mars’ Is Science Factual

Image credit National Geographic

Nat Geo will air a six-part series in November called ‘Mars’. It’s an ambitious project in that it attempts to mesh actual documentary footage and interviews with experts with a fictional story of a crew embarking on a manned mission to Mars.

PopSpective’s Jordan Bradley had the unique opportunity to be present when the real life crew of the HI-SEAS Mars experiment emerged from a habitat on the side of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. It was the first time the six-person crew got to breathe fresh air or eat fresh food in a year. The purpose of the HI-SEAS experiment was to learn about how a crew will perform in such desolate, isolated conditions for such a long period of time, and try to discover issues that should be addressed before we endeavor to send an actual crew of human beings to the planet Mars.

HI-SEAS Mars Mission from TechSpective

Jordan also got to sit down with one of the actors from the fictional narrative portion of Mars. Ben Cotton plays the part of Ben Sawyer–the captain of the Daedalus–on a mission to colonize Mars set in the year 2033.

Cotton shared his excitement for being a part of ‘Mars’. “This was an interesting project right off the bat. That, plus of course the names. When you read the breakdown and you see there’s National Geographic, and there’s Radical, and Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. I thought–well I first thought, “‘I’m never going to get this.'”

“But the whole thing is kind of thrilling. I mean, the idea of going to Mars…is craziness. It’s wonderful,” declared Cotton. “I’m one of those kids who when I was small I took a tour of Kennedy Space Center–a couple times. I went twice. I was so excited about it, I made my Dad take me a second time. It was just magnificent.”

It looks good on the résumé as well. Cotton said he had played a cowboy, soldiers, bad guys, and other stuff, adding, “Astronaut? Great! Let’s throw that on there.”

Asked about where ‘Mars’ sits on the spectrum between entertainment and education, Cotton said he feels the show does a really good job of straddling the line between the two. “Everything about the mission is as true as anybody could make it to how it is going to go. I guess in that sense, even the entertainment part is going to be educational, because it’s exactly how they’re planning on going and it’s all based on science that’s there today. I don’t think we make any leaps that aren’t, you know, available to us today.”

Cotton shared that one of the producers had dubbed it “science factual” as opposed to “science fiction” because of it’s the effort to be as scientifically accurate as possible even in the fictitious storyline.

Jordan asked Cotton what he thinks–or hopes–the audience will take away from watching ‘Mars’. “I hope that they’re entertained by it. I hope they get inspired by it. I think it’s a very inspiring project,” proclaimed Cotton, adding, “The project–regardless of the subject matter–is ambitious. To bring together the fiction with the documentary elements–and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the first episode, and it works.”

Of course, there’s a big difference between BEING an astronaut and playing one on TV. When Jordan asked him if he would actually go to Mars, Cotton quickly responded, “Hell no. No. I don’t think that’s for me.”

After considering it for a second, though, Cotton added a caveat, “I mean–if you knew you could come back, maybe.”

Watch for information about the upcoming series and make sure you set your DVR to record it. It looks like it’s going to be epic.

About Tony Bradley 67 Articles

Tony is Editor-in-Chief of PopSpective, and a prolific writer on a wide range of topics from movies and music to computer security and tech gadgets.

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