Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"The Mars Underground": Gripping documentary makes case for manned missions, settlement and terraforming of Mars

The Mars Underground: The Secret Story of Planet Mars” (2007/2014), by Scott J. Gill (narrator, Rob Thorne) and Orange Dot, is a compelling 77 minute documentary which outlines and makes a case for human settlement on Mars and even eventual terraforming of the planet within a few hundred years.The 
The central proponent for the project is engineer Robert Zubrin, who established the Mars Society (link ) and authored “The Case for Mars”.  An important colleague who often also appears is David Baker.


Zubrin, born in 1952, was a boy when Sputnik launched in 1957, and felt inspired to become a scientist.  Within a few years of the first man walking on the moon in 1969, the space program floundered, and Zubrin became a science teacher, before finishing graduate school and becoming an engineer again.

Even by the early 1990s, Zubrin had advocated a plan called “Mars Direct”, which would involve sending separate unmanned components to Mars, to be assembled by robots, before people land.  The first manned explorations would require a 2-1/2 year commitment, with over 500 days (the Martian day is slightly longer than Earth’s) on the planet.  Crew would use pre-mailed material to grow food and generate an atmosphere within living quarters, as well as to fuel the return.  Fuel can be made with 19th century chemistry that used to run gas street lights before we had electricity.

The most visually striking part of the film shows what Mars would look like after terraforming, which would be accomplished by what is happening on Earth – release of greenhouse gases, which would set off a runaway chain reaction that would release water from the Martian soil with rapid warmup of the planet (although this could take a few hundred years). 

Zubrin argues that we should be determined to get to Mars as simply and cheaply as possible at first, and force ourselves to settle new lands, just as our ancestors did when they explored new worlds.  He points out that man is naturally a tropical creature, which gradually adapted to colder climates as it migrated by inventing technology, although this took tens of thousands of years.

Selecting the crew, and the initial settlers, would certainly raise issues we’ve never faced (although Zubrin says that long ship voyages were just as challenging).  Would initial astronauts be people who did not intend to have children?

The film can be viewed free om YouTube from Documentary HD, but it appears to be connected to Radius TWC.  It has been viewed over a half million times so far. I think it would make sense to process it with Extended Digital and show it at science museums, like the Baltimore Science Center or the Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, or similar facilities around the country.  It could make some money that way. 

See also a related film "The Last Days on Mars" Dec. 17, 2013.  A couple of major films were "Mission to Mars" (2000, Brian de Palma, Disney) and "Red Planet" (Anthony Hoffman, WB, with Val Kilmer), also 2000).  Don't forget John Carpenter's "Ghosts of Mars" (2001, Screen Gems).

I'll reiterate a link for Disney-Epcot's Mission Space and "Rocket to the Red Planet", which I hope to visit in April 2015, here , with a YouTube video here with a crash landing on the polar ice cap. . 

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