With Hollywood set to bestow Oscars on films celebrating alternative lifestyles, are you looking for some wholesome entertainment? Consider taking your family to see Walt Disney Pictures’ G-rated IMAX film Roving Mars. It is not only an excellent film, it tells the story of how the federal government can actually get things done. NASA has done something extraordinary in landing two Exploration Rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity, on the planet Mars.
IMAX movies are the magnificent films presented on those huge screens. I saw Roving Mars in the National Air and Space Museum Lockheed Martin IMAX theater during a special screening at which director George Butler and producer Frank Marshall appeared. These are Hollywood heavy-hitters who have used their talents in a positive way.
You may begin watching the film and thinking that the pay-off is the look at the Martian surface, but the story of how the NASA team worked together on the mission and erupted into joy when they realized that the Rovers were landing safely is also a big highlight. These are very smart people who worked long and hard to make this mission a success. It makes you appreciate those in the federal government who take their jobs seriously and make America proud. This was a tremendous accomplishment.
Think about the planning that went into landing these spacecraft on Mars. Then think about how they had to plan to make sure that they landed safely. The Rovers had to descend to the planet surrounded by what look like large airbags, in order to cushion their landing and not get damaged or destroyed. Then they had to emerge from the debris, open up their solar panels for energy, and move around taking pictures and samples.
The film of the Martian landscape is combined with animation of other aspects of the mission, giving the audience an amazing eyewitness view of the entire process that landed the Rovers on the red planet. The Rovers, incidentally, are incredible machines that function like complicated robots directed from earth.
While the U.S. currently has two Rovers on Mars, the Chinese are moving forward aggressively with their own space program. I asked NASA Administrator Michael Griffin about this as he arrived for the Roving Mars screening on January 26.
“The Chinese are making a major new initiative in space,” Griffin said. “The United States wants to cooperate with everyone but I think we need to cooperate from a position of leadership.”
No evidence has been gathered so far to suggest that life ever existed on Mars. But more exploration needs to be done. If everything goes according to plan, Americans could be the first human explorers on the planet later this century. Or the Chinese, who are now planning a Moon landing, could beat us.
The rest of the story is up to us.