Mars, Dead or Alive

Mars, Dead or Alive

2004, Science  -   12 Comments
Ratings: 8.68/10 from 31 users.

Mars, Dead or AliveThe great PBS science series Nova scores another hit with Mars: Dead or Alive, capturing all the excitement surrounding the Mars rover landings of early 2004.

Originally broadcast just as the first of the twin rovers ("Spirit" and "Opportunity") was experiencing temporary communication problems with Earth-bound mission controllers, this riveting hour-long episode chronicles the risky $820 million Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project from design to touchdown, dramatically illustrating (through the use of detailed simulations and sophisticated computer animation) the considerable chances of failure--a nail-biting gamble considering that fully two-thirds of all previous Mars missions never reached their destination.

Through rigorous testing and initial failure of the MER parachute system to the celebrated transmission of pristine photos from the "Spirit" landing site, we see just how intensely complex and emotionally involving the missions are, especially for Cornell University astronomer and lead MER scientist Steve Squyres and his devoted team of colleagues at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Careers are on the line as technical problems accumulate, and one feels the same mixture of dread, anxiety, and elation that accompanied the historic return of Apollo 13. A bonus interview with Mars-mission pioneer Donna Shirley puts everything into resonant perspective, celebrating science and the MER missions as an essential human endeavor.

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12 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Asok

    It is so amazing and cool docs, no idea , finally what happened to both the twin Rovers....? now the third Curiosity is still working !

  2. Pauline Carr

    Wow!!!! now that was gripping, i cheered at the end :p

  3. Praveen Krishna

    oh, god. they faced loads of barriers before launching. But it's awesome, when they finally achieved. a great feeling as viewer too..

  4. Aldo Solari

    And at 5 M USD a piece, the manufacturer didnt make any stress tests ? I thought that such things didnt happen at NASA.

  5. Nigel from New Zealand


    hahahaha, classic, laffed my butt off, you should write childrens novels with narative skils like that!!

  6. andrew

    what a waste of mine and your money ...

  7. Carl Hendershot

    Stevie, Couldnt you have made me a Dinosaur of at least something manly. LOL anyhow love your story. Had me laughing pretty good. I liked this DOCU.

  8. Stevie

    Thanks Vlatko. Think of it as nice graffiti or something.

    The documentary was good, I enjoyed and Mr. Howe above me shares my sentiments.

    You have a good site here and your ban on 'text' speak makes for a fine forum too.

  9. Eric Howe


    Humans did this. No gods, no magic, no ancient superstitions; just science, engineering, and determination.

  10. Stevie

    There's this little house on Mars that you've got to visit. It's not really a house. More like an odd little shack in the middle of a lake. There's water on Mars. They're lying to you about that. The little shack sits on a stone island in the middle of the lake. You have to rent a boat from this toothless guy. There are no paddles. Bring your own. It's nice to paddle. You should visit.

    There's this girl Kate that lives in the little shack on Mars. She's a nice girl. She tells stories about herself in the third person. There's not much to do on Mars since they closed the roller coaster due to lack of gravity. The cars just kept floating into space. Kate hasn't had much to talk about since the last day the roller coaster was open. She misses the screams from the riders as they floated into orbit.

    There's this stupid beach on Mars. No one goes there anymore. They built a shitty restaurant near the beach. The owner is a talking flamingo named Carl. He keeps shitting on the beach. That's why no one goes to the beach.

    There's this animal on Mars that doesn't breathe oxygen. It's got these wings that keep it on the ground. He's a fuzzy little frog with huge feet. We call the animal Graham. He bites us.

    We used to take trips to Mars all the time. Then mom got sick and dad lost his job. My brother went away to college and my sister got married. We all fell apart. Some days I sit on the roof and look up at Mars and think 'Gee, I wonder how Kate is doing in her shack. I wonder if they'll open the roller coaster. I wonder if they'll clean up the beach. I wonder if Graham has died since no one is there to feed him with their flesh.'

    I used to fly on Mars. You have to tie a rope to your waist so you don't float away. I could do the best flips on Mars. Things were always easier with less gravity.

    I think I'll move to Mars if I grow up.

    So if you're ever on Mars, tell Kate I said hi. But don't go to that beach. It's shit. And Graham will bite you. Don't go see him.

    Mars isn't that far away if you drive straight up....

    1. Vlatko

      Hahahaha... Although obviously not a documentary review I had to let this comment live.

    2. Edward P Campbell

      I must be different from most people, perhaps way too serious but for me Stevie's story speaks more of loss and longing than just a surreal, bizarre, impossible montage.

      As a small boy I left Belfast, N Ireland, in Aug. 1957, to go to the promised land, Canada. We lived in London, Ontario for just 11 months when my parents decided to return to Ireland because they failed to integrate and make it their home. I loved every day there.

      They're both dead now and my brother Howard, who was born there 2 weeks before we left, sold up and returned to Canada 10 years ago and hasn't come back to the UK since.

      I understand what it's like to lose your dreams, however strange those imaginings may be. Canada to me is like Mars to Stevie. However weird and far away, it's the place we call our spiritual home.

      "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... humph... Attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion. I watched C Beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears... in rain... time to die", and so in the act of expiring, replicant Roy Batty releases the captive white dove from his grasp and it flies into the rain filled sky, above the roof of the Bradbury Building he is squatting on, in the final showdown. Blade Runner, 1982.

      "Do androids dream of electric sheep"? Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982)

      It's no fun being a chattel slave, a Nexus 6, of the Tyrell Corporation. By the way Stevie all your little animal friends on Mars are replicants, sorry pal.