Stephen Petranek: It’s Not If We Get To Mars, It’s A Matter Of When And Why That’s Important

Posted Monday, November 14th, 2016 08:18 pm GMT -5 by

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Tonight, humanity’s first voyage to Mars is “documented” in National Geographic’s new miniseries ‘Mars.’ The series is unique in that it uses scripted scenes of a crew tasked to land on Mars in the year 2033 interspersed with present-day interviews with scientific experts. We were fortunate to speak to Stephen Petranek whose short book ‘How We’ll Live On Mars’ was the inspiration and source material for the NatGeo series.

Travelling to Mars is no longer a thing of science fiction as Petranek predicts that we may actually be able to send someone to the planet by the year 2030:

“I wrote [‘How We’ll Live On Mars’] to wake people up that there would be humans on Mars in a very short period of time. Almost by certain by 2030 and there is even a bigger surprise behind that in that there will be 50,000 people on Mars by 2050. Twenty years before the first people on Mars, there will be thousands of people on Mars.”

A scant 15 years from now. With private companies like Space X and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk behind the push, this dream may just be achievable even before NASA’s estimation of a Mars landing of their own.

As for why the push to get to Mars? Petranek explains:

mars-portraits_stephenpetranek-300x300“It’s an insurance policy for humanity. You can wake up tomorrow and there could be a headline in the NY Times that said “10 mile wide asteroid spotted near Jupiter headed on a collision course with Earth. We now have the technology and the ability to alter the course of incoming asteroids, we don’t have any of that set up and I don’t see anyone volunteering to do this.

“So that is a death sentence for all of humanity. An asteroid like that, there is a 100% probability that an asteroid that big will hit the Earth. We just don’t know when. It may not kill everyone on Earth but it could set back civilization hundreds of years to get back to the technology and life that we know today.

“We can’t stay here forever. The Earth is going to look like Mars in about 200 years. We have to become a muli-planet species in order to survive as a species.”

According to Petranek, ‘Mars’ was originally pitched as a 2-hour documentary for Fox studios to be aired on HBO or Netflix , but soon after Fox bought out National Geographic, “the whole thing expanded from a 2 hours documentary to a six-part miniseries for National Geographic and 6 hours of television. That was far more than I have ever imagined.”

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As for the format of the series, while it wasn’t exactly what Petranek had envisioned, he is pleased by how it worked out:

“I have never imagined part of it being drama, part of it being scripted – essentially fiction – but we worked extremely hard to make that so-called fictional part of it nonfictional by making it as accurate as it could possibly be. I went over every script, every version of every script, letter by letter, word by word trying to making it accurate. And so did Dr. Bobby Brown who was the genius behind the Curiosity landing on Mars, so we feel very good about it.”

Watch humanity’s maiden voyage to Mars unfold in National Geographic’s new miniseries “Mars.” Premiering Monday (Nov. 14) at 8 p.m. EST in the U.S.