Episode available within Canada only.

The race to get to Mars is on, seizing the imagination of the world. Every month there seems to be a new revelation. 

overhead shot of Mars landscapeMars landscape

Mars today is a planet entirely populated by robots. They have names like Spirit, Opportunity and most famously, Curiosity, the rover that has revealed a hauntingly familiar landscape

There are 13 satellites already orbiting Mars; India’s just arrived last year; a European Space Agency rocket is en route.In 2018 industrialist Elon Musk of SpaceX is sending his “Red Dragon” lander, and soon after, in 2020 Mars is going to get crowded: India’s second mission will arrive, China will land a rover, Europe will land another, and the United Arab Emirates will launch what they call “the first Muslim rocket to Mars”.

National space agencies and billionaires are competing to be the first to put humans not only in orbit but, soon after, to land. Now, President Obama has announced the US will have human explorers there in the mid -2030’s, “not just to visit but to stay.” But industrial titans like Elon Musk of SpaceX and Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame are aiming to arrive earlier. One man, Bas Lansdorp, of Mars One, set off a global competition to send the first humans to go and never return. 

There are specialists lecturing on mining Mars, corporate property rights and space law. There are scientific papers and conferences discussing “terraforming” Mars – making it a second earth – our Noah’s Ark as a species. Astrophysicist Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society wants raise Mars’ temperature 10° in ten years by creating a greenhouse effect using large installations that will emit the same gasses that are overheating earth. Elon Musk recently suggested using thermonuclear bombs to melt Mars’ ice caps. To these billionaires and to NASA’s leaders it is our destiny to become a “space-faring species.”

MORE:
Mars: Like You've Never Seen it Before
Meet the Astropreneurs: 5 Companies That Hope to Conquer Mars
The Lure of Mars: Our Destiny or Our Delusion?

It’s striking how much is already being prepared for the human journey. This documentary takes us into high-security US space laboratories. We meet Erisa Hines while she is driving the Curiosity rover over 250 million kilometers away, Michael Hecht who is designing a giant oxygen manufacturing facility on Mars, MOXIE. It takes us to the Johnson Space Centre to see tests of the surface vehicle astronauts will use, and to the giant underwater training lab that simulates space.

It follows Canadian Barbara Sherwood Lollar two kilometres underground in a mine to find life forms in the oldest water on earth –over a billion years old—so we know what to look for on Mars. Victoria Hipkin of the Canadian Space Agency describes galactic collisions and the mystery of why Mars died. And we go to the Las Vegas facilities of real-estate billionaire Robert Bigelow, who is under NASA contract to design massive habitats for the Moon and Mars. He plans to rent space to countries and corporations like Disney.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: A sneak peek at what an off-world colony might look like.

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has declared it essential for humans to colonize Mars. “If our species is to survive the next hundred years, let alone a thousand,” he says,  “it is imperative we voyage out into the blackness of space to colonize new worlds across the cosmos.”

Then there are skeptics: The Washington Post’s space specialist Joel Achenbach says that behind the allure are large corporate, military and intelligence interests who want to assure American domination of space. “It’s a good story,” he says “we’re going to go  put people on Mars, but the money we spend on civilian space helps prop up this very powerful aerospace industry which has a huge significance to the country in terms of national security. They don’t just send up civilian rockets, they also send up military satellites. If you simply look at, telescopes in orbit around the earth, most of them look down, they don’t look out at the rest of the universe.”

Curiously on the surface of Mars


The Mars Curiously explores the red planet.

Another skeptic, noted astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz, sees a dark side in the fantasy of Mars as “a fallback planet” for humanity, which allows us to hide from the fact that weare destroying earth. “I think the implication that we will gleefully leave this world and go inhabit Mars and that it will be just as good is a little like the captain of the Titanic telling you that the real fun is happening later on the lifeboats.”

Nevertheless, the race is really happening. Billions are being spent now. New generations rockets are being tested now.” How will we get there? How might we settle there? How would we try to transform Mars? Should we? Are we embarking on an epic expedition, or a grand delusion? 

Destination: Mars is a science documentary with stunning imagery, vivid CGI, vibrant characters, and provocative ideas. 

The journey has begun. 

MORE:
Mars: Like You've Never Seen it Before
Meet the Astropreneurs: 5 Companies That Hope to Conquer Mars
The Lure of Mars: Our Destiny or Our Delusion?

Credits (Click to expand)

Written, Produced & Directed By
Mark Starowicz

Executive Producer
George Flak
Mark Starowicz

Produced By
Jackie Carlos

Line Producer
Linda Stregger

Picture Editor & Visual Effects Designer
Tony Coleman

Director Of Photography
Michael Sweeney Csc

Original Music Composed By
Varouje Hagopian

Story Editor
David Wells

Visual Research
Gina Cali

Second Unit Director
Caitlin Starowicz

Additional Camera
Brian Kelly
Peter Mignon

Sound Recordists
Jean Asselin
Richard K. Pooler
Chris Russell
Robert Silverthorne
Pascal Van Strydonck
Mary Wong
Steve Yasui

Additional Research
Shayla Howell

Dialogue And SFX Editor
Ryan Birnberg

Re-Recording Mixer
Stephen Traub

Video Post Producer
Caitlin Starowicz

Colourist
Mila Patriki

Coordinator
Ike Murphy

Publicity
Susan Reisler, Media Profile

Accounting Services
Linda Stregger

Legal Counsel
Willa Marcus

stock & archival material
© TED
Alamy Stock Photo
Barbara Sherwood Lollar
Bard Canning
Bigelow Aerospace, LLC
Blue Origin
Budget Suites of America
Chris Hadfield © Canadian Space Agency, 2013
Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center
ESA - European Space Agency
ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
ESA/Roscosmos/ExoMars
Getty Images
"Haredevil Hare" - Studio Warner Bros. Cartoons
Journey To Space, LLC
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Bantam Books, 1979
Mars One / Bryan Versteeg
Media Fusion/NASA/MSFC
NASA - Professor Stephen Hawking On Space Exploration 
NASA Goddard
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Johnson Space Center
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU
NASA/JPL-Caltech/T.Pyle (SSC)
NASA/JPL/MSSS, Olivier de Goursac
NASA/Kepler mission/Dana Berry
Pond5
Prasar Bharati Archive - ISRO
Ronald S. Sletten
Scientific Visualization Studio, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Shutterstock Inc.
SpaceX
U.S. Air Force
UAESA - MBRSC / UAE
Virgin Galactic
The War of the Worlds (1953) - Paramount Pictures
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells - Signet Classics, 1986, Cover by Richard Clifton-Dey and Roger Dean
Xinhua News Agency
Red Planet by Robert Heinlein, Pan Books, 1967

Thanks
SNOlab (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory)

Produced By
Mars Project Inc.

For The Cbc

General Manager, Programming
Sally Catto

Executive Director, Unscripted Content
Jennifer Dettman

Senior Director, Documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld

Executive In Charge Of Production
Sue Dando

Director Of Production, Unscripted Content
Alexandra Lane

Director Of Finance, Unscripted Content
Julie Lawlor

Produced By
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

© Mars Project Inc. 2016

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