A first-of-its-kind TV series that combines documentary with scripted drama is set to take audiences around the world on a new Mars mission from next week.
National Geographic Channel's new series "Mars", which launches on Monday, aims to set new trends in television storytelling by combining real-life events and interviews with fictionalised drama.
"The offer to the audience will be information meets vivid and experiential filmmaking. Nat Geo's ambition was high, and we are really honoured and thrilled to try and meet that challenge," said Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard, who is the executive producer of the series.
The futuristic series is set in the year 2033 with flashbacks to the year 2016 to capture mankind's fascination with the red planet and whether it can sustain human life. To make the production as realistic as possible, the team consulted a series of space experts, including Robert Braun, an aerospace engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut who was the first black woman in space.
The six-part series tells the story of a fictional astronaut crew on the very first human Mars mission. In addition to this fictional story, the series weaves in interviews with a number of real-world space enthusiasts, including Elon Musk, CEO and chief technology officer of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla Motors, and a series of NASA astronauts and specialists as well as author of "The Martian" Andy Weir.
Musk said: "The future of humanity is fundamentally going to bifurcate along one of two directions: Either we're going to become a multi-planet species and a spacefaring civilization, or we're going to be stuck on one planet until some eventual extinction event.
"In order for me to be excited and inspired about the future, it's got to be the first option."
National Geographic's November issue has a cover story on "Mars" and the firm has also produced a book called 'Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet' to coincide with the series launch, which will air across 171 countries in the world.
Besides Howard, the team of this new inter-planetary TV mission brings together award-winning producers Brian Grazer and Michael Rosenberg of Imagine Entertainment and Justin Wilkes, Jon Kamen, and Dave O'Connor of RadicalMedia and Mexican filmmaker Everardo Gout.
The series was filmed earlier this year in Budapest and Morocco. The scripted portion focuses on Earth's first crewed mission to Mars aboard the spacecraft Daedalus. Its maiden voyage in 2033 is crewed by an international team of six, played by a mix of actors from across the world including Ben Cotton, Alberto Ammann, Jihae and Sammi Rotibi.
Nat Geo has described its new television event as "the world's largest TED talk with the most fascinating people on Earth".