Mars premieres tonight on the National Geographic channel. The epic mini-series, produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, seamlessly merges documentary footage and current science and progress in manned space travel with a fictional drama about the first manned mission to Mars.
The Mars series is a must-see. Space travel has always fascinated humankind and captures our imagination, but a manned mission to Mars is about more than just landing on another planet for the sake of doing so. Successfully colonizing Mars is a crucial step in safeguarding the human race against being wiped out by a single extinction-level event, and the first step in our long-term effort to become an interstellar race—capable of traveling beyond our tiny solar system in our little corner of the Milky Way galaxy.
Traveling to Mars is no longer viewed as a pipe dream or fantasy. The technology and the drive are both there. It’s no longer a matter of “if”—it is simply a matter of solving a few fundamental logistical issues, and being brave enough to pull the trigger and make it happen.
Grazer and Howard spoke at premier screening of the first episode in New York at the end of October and talked about how the project came to be. The seed from which everything else emerged is a short book by Stephen Petranek titled ‘How We’ll Live On Mars’.
Petranek has worked in publishing for four decades—most of it straddling the line with science and technology. He was editor-in-chief of Discover magazine, editor of the Washington Post’s magazine, and a founding editor of This Old House magazine. He is also a TED Talk speaker. His first TED Talk, 10 Ways the World Could End, has been viewed more than a million times. Petranek’s illustrious career has also given him some unique perspective and insight on the feasibility of a manned mission to Mars.
In the beginning of ‘How We’ll Live On Mars,’ Petranek explains, “The settlement of Mars is about to happen far sooner than most people realize, and in a nonregulated way. Most of this book is an examination of the astonishing fact that we have the capabilities to build on Mars. But, this book is also a wakeup call. The potential is enormous, but the pitfalls are numerous. The time to think is now.”
I had the opportunity to speak with Petranek last week while he was in London for the launch of a Mars Habitat exhibit at the Royal Observatory. One of the first questions I asked pertained to whether or not a manned mission to Mars will be a contentious international race—like landing on the Moon—or a collaborative effort, and also whether it will be a public entity like NASA that gets us there, or a private corporation like SpaceX.
Petranek’s money is on Elon Musk. Musk launched SpaceX with the sole purpose of revolutionizing space technology with the goal of enabling people to live on other planets—starting with Mars. Petranek told me that today private companies like SpaceX can get into space cheaper, faster, and better than government agencies.
Check out the full article on Forbes: Stephen Petranek Confident People Will Soon Land On Mars.