National Geographic’s Mars: Will humans make the same mistakes on Mars?
Humans have landed on Mars, but what happens next?
National Geographic’s seminal space docu-drama Mars returns tomorrow (Sunday, November 11) for new insights on how humans can live on Mars. Last season, based on real science and predictions for the next two decades, Commander Hana Seung (Jihae) successfully established a human settlement on Mars. What comes next is the hard part.
Mars season two looks at questions of science vs profit, disease and human catastrophe on a foreign planet and whether humans are doomed to plunder and destroy. Ultimately, it asks one huge question: Will humans make the same mistakes on Mars as they have on Earth?
We spoke to members of the cast, production and big thinkers assigned to National Geographic’s most-talked-about show for their thoughts on season two and the future for space exploration.
“One of the crises in this season is space programmes aren’t funded in the way they were previously funded,” reveals newcomer Akbar Kurtha, who portrays medic Dr. Jay Johar. “Now you’ve got private corporations getting involved in the space programme, and once private corporations are involved we’re bringing capitalism to a new planet.
“I think there a lot of interesting dilemmas about the world we will create based on the values we have in our current world. That’s what season’s two’s about.”
Series two sees the International Mars Science Foundation team joined in space by for-profit corporation Vulcrum Industries, bringing science and capitalism into conflict on Mars. “I think the second season’s very realistic in that there’s a tension between the commercial people who arrive on Mars and the scientific people,” says Big Thinker Stephen Petranek, who wrote the book How We’ll Live on Mars on which Mars is based. “There are a lot of scientists who would like to leave Mars as a scientific park forever, which is not going to happen.”
“The second season is more about us,” adds Clementine Poidatz, who portrays doctor Amelie Durand. “There is a conflict between IMSF and Vulcrum on Mars for economic reasons. We don’t want to make money out of Mars, we just want to make life. Season one was the survival mission. The stakes were very high. Now it’s been nine years that we’ve been on Mars so life and human nature is explored more in this season.”
The second series uses models of resource extraction on Earth to predict how commercialisation of the Red Planet might start to look. Oil expert Antonia Juhasz was called in to lend her expertise to the show for its second season. She has a bleak outlook on humankind’s history of plundering: “When you look at oil extraction, very often it is the most autocratic governments that have used oil extraction in the most detrimental way without looking at the broader impact on the people who live there and the environments where they are.
“That really can’t be our approach to going to other planets because we’ve seen where that’s led us on this planet.”
“It’s so human of us to think ‘I’ll do it better this time’,” says newcomer Jeff Hephner, who portrays Vulcrum Industries head Kurt Hurrelle. “If our past portends our future, we’re just gonna do the same thing, we’re gonna be humans.
“That’s the negative take on it. The positive take for me is the hopefulness of it. The idea of thinking that there is that possibility we could do it right.”