As global warming and doomsday threats continue to expose our vulnerabilities here on Earth, scientists are looking to Mars as a potential refuge for humanity. Mars: Making the New Earth outlines the mission to convert this inhospitable planet into our future home.
This conversion process is known as terraforming, a collection of processes by which a planet is reconditioned to resemble Earth. Currently, Mars is a frozen wasteland incapable of sustaining human life. How do you populate endless planes of red dust and rock into fertile soil and teeming forestation? How can you warm the planet's temperature from its current climate of eighty below zero? Would it be possible to transform its radioactive atmosphere into an oxygen-rich environment where humans can thrive?
These are just a few of the challenges that face planetary scientists here on Earth. NASA scientist Chris McKay is one of the believers. The film follows McKay as he attempts to replicate the conditions on Mars, and determine how much warmer the climate needs to be before trees, grass and other vegetation can begin to grow. He conducts these tests alongside a volcano in Mexico, which stands at a towering height of 18,000 feet. This is the closest approximation we have of the temperature and arid conditions found on the red planet.
It will likely take many generations to produce the ideal conditions by which humanity can exist on Mars, but McKay and others are convinced it can be done. But as eager as they are to populate the planet, their mission does come with a caveat. Even if we can achieve this monumental feat, we must stop to consider whether we should.
The film outlines a potential ethical conflict. What if we discover the presence of life on Mars, even of the microbial variety? Should we invade the functioning bio system of an existing life form, or leave it untarnished by human manipulation? The filmmakers include the opinions of experts from both sides of this debate.
Mars: Making the New Earth dazzles with impressive animations from acclaimed visual artist Dan Mass. These images, and the insights that accompany them, give life to complicated science.