Human Journey

The Science Behind ‘Mars’: More Sci Than Fi

In real life, humankind may be taking its sweet time to get to the Red Planet, but in the movies, we’ve been there hundreds of times.

The latest iteration in the voyage to our planet’s red sibling comes in the form of Mars, an indie animated romantic comedy from Austin, Tx-based director, animator, and writer Geoff Marslett. And oh yeah, it’s set in a spaceship on its way to Mars.

The movie follows three astronauts on their journey through space to seek out life on Mars, and without spoiling anything for people who haven’t yet seen the film, some of the ideas presented here do stretch the limits of credibility just a little.

But Marslett, who studied theoretical physics before going into filmmaking, did draw on a lot of current research when creating his film. So while the movie is a story first and scientific second, we can definitely look to the film–set in the near-future–to see where space travel may be going.

Without further ado, we present Three Things In Mars That Seemed Like Sci-Fi But Aren’t:

  • Ion Thrusters

    Think ion drives are the stuff of Star Trek? They’ve been in use in satellites for years, and space agencies are testing the propulsion systems for use in interplanetary voyages. Engineering company Hughes developed a system called XIPS (later bought by Boeing) which keeps satellites in orbit; the ESA is also planning to send an unmanned ship, named BepiColombo, to Mercury using a combination of regular rocket fuel and ion thrusters. The ion drive, powered by solar energy, is much more efficient in the long run than rocket fuel, though it’s much slower. Here, an artist’s rendering of the BepiColombo as it approaches Mercury.mars_bepicolombo.jpeg

  • Comfy Space Suits

    Current space suits are bulky and unflattering, but the suits in ‘Mars’ look flexible, thin, and allow for easy movement. They look like something that wouldn’t protect you against anything–let alone radiation, dust storms, and temperature extremes–but many researchers are working on “space suit 2.0.” Pablo de Leon, who leads the University of North Dakota Space Suit Laboratory has designed a series of suits that would work in the harsh, dusty environments of Mars without restricting mobility. mars _main1.jpgmars_ndx1.JPG

  • The Beagle 2

    In 2003, the European Space Agency launched the Beagle 2: a Mars lander that conked out on Christmas Day and was never heard from again. Again, no spoilers, but in Mars, the Beagle makes another appearance. And okay, okay, that doesn’t really sound that unbelievable. In fact, this isn’t even the bot’s first appearance in a feature-length film—but it may be the Beagle’s first accurate appearance.

    The lander also had a cameo in Transformers, when it was stepped on by a Decepticon. Marslett says he was kind of disappointed when he saw it: “I was like ‘Oh, they put the Beagle in here! Don’t steal my idea!’ But they made it into a rover that drove around. It was like they didn’t even bother to look up what the robot looked like,” he says. In Mars, the ‘bot looks pretty much like it did in life.

Final thoughts, from Marslett himself:

“We’re all telling stories, and [unrealistic science] is not a reason to dislike a film. There are places where my characters float and it’s not how they’d float in space, but you know what? We weren’t filming in space. Those were wire tricks. But I do hope that because we researched the science, this movie doesn’t just feel like I said ‘Flux Capacitor’ and pushed some buttons.”

The trailer for Mars, which premiered at South By Southwest, is below. If you’re interested in seeing the whole film (which stars Mark Duplass, Zoe Simpson, Paul Gordon and even Kinky Friedman), keep an eye on Marslett’s production company, Swerve Pictures, as the film will be making the festival circuit.

MARS – The Movie [HD Trailer] from Geoff Marslett on Vimeo.

Rachel Kaufman is a freelance writer currently rocking out at South By Southwest and guest posting for Breaking Orbit.
Image credits: BepiColombo rendering: ESA – P. Carril; NDX-1 space suit: Pablo de Leon; still from Mars: Geoff Marslett

  • mkp

    The article throws light that films are being made; a lot of research does go into it especially if you do know what you are talking about!! The film Mars does to have something going for it as it seems to be authentic about what is has to tell its audience! It is not pulling wool over your eyes and does look more than the usual Sci-Fi stuff! Saw the trailer and was quite impressed by it! I am sure it will fare well and it deserves it too! Coursework

  • diyRoberts

    I love it how movies always get there before scientists!!
    Great article
    Will Roberts
    Cheap Web Hosting Provider

  • repliertoll

    Space movies is awesome, especialy in HD. Thanks
    Rapiddigger – Rapidshare search

  • penarthits

    I can’t believe so much research goes into making some of these science based films. I think it’s really good – well done guys!
    John – bad credit loans expert

  • js

    Your time and research is a great asset, thank you
    Jeremy – nanny payroll

  • js

    Makes you wonder what the future holds!
    accountants harrogate

  • js

    I’ve studied physics for years and still can’t get to grips with ion drives.
    Clairenanny jobs

  • penarthits

    Nor me!
    Mac – birthday catering london

  • penarthits

    a lot of research does go into film making so that you do know what you are talking about!!
    Film maker and cheap single beds sales person

  • jp2506

    Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part people lack substance but I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!
    I’ll be checking in on a regularly now.
    Keep up the good work!
    Air Max 1
    Jim Kelly Jerseys

  • Husker

    But Marslett, who studied theoretical physics before going into filmmaking, did draw on a lot of current research when creating his film. So while the movie is a story first and scientific second, we can definitely look to the film–set in the near-future–to see where space travel may be going.
    Auto transporters
    Without further ado, we present Three Things In Mars That Seemed Like Sci-Fi But Aren’t:

  • cristianx82

    I fermly think there was life a very long time ago on mars
    Cristian – make money online

  • js

    I don’t think there was life of Mars. I can only see evidence of life on Earth only
    Soni DF – Owner of DFBeds selling Faux Leather Beds, Cheap Single Beds and Kids Single Beds

  • stephen andrew

    Thanks for making such a cool project. I’ve been checking the site for the Windows version, but I never left a comment about it. I know you are working hard and doing it for free so you shouldn’t feel rushed or anything. promotional products

  • josi

    You have different concept. Nice freedom page… Thanks for allowing us to post here News Travel Health body Autos Technology Azka Business Health for life

  • WillPR

    Thanks for this project, it’s really interesting
    Hotel Hostels worldwide Expert

  • WillPR

    Thanks for your time and research skills
    Excellent research
    WPR – Expert in EuroMillions, E Lottery and E-Lottery

  • Marc

    This article makes me play on my head David Bowie’s"Life on Mars" .
    Thanks from Spagna

  • basecom

    I think it’s really good, thanks.
    muhasebe programı | pimapen

  • arogan

    Well explained Tutorial! Your post saved my hours of browsing on the topic.. I was searching for this and I found your post and this is proving to be useful for me. Thanks,
    Internet Marketing California

  • penarthits
  • Terry Winkle

    Hello! great informative article and so nice video, good job! thanks for sharing with us. how to save a relationship | saving a relationship | save the marriage | win back ex | get him back | getting ex back | want ex back | get her back | to get him back

  • josi

    I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else!
    business level | Business and insurance | Health bodies | Watch Movies Online | Fresh Software

  • inter4522

    There is so much research the we have to do on Mars. This is a planet that it is close that we can get a lot of research done.
    orlando personal injury

  • kellybaby118

    I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Thanks for sharing
    location automobile

  • Terry Winkle

    Hello! nice article, thanks for the information to sharing with us. conveyor rollers | conveyor belts | wire mesh | woven wire cloth | conveyor roller suppliers

  • mivpl

    research does go into film making so that you do know what you are talking about!!Search Engine Optimisation UK

  • Franz

    i hope i can see the journey out of our solar system.
    Video effect is great.
    Service Manuals | Free Service Manuals | Boats for Sale | Dizi izle | Online Games | Photography |Toner Dolumu

  • Desktopper

    We must also reflect and draw the correct conclusions.
    Coder of mars wallpapers

  • jameslee

    Mars is definitely an interesting planet. We can learn so much from it.
    watch online free movies

  • jack

    Thank you for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information.
    mbt shoes online
    mbt sandals
    mbt sandals sale

  • Fred

    Great article.
    Fred – Sunny Sun Happiness

  • nicoduc

    from a brief look at the new robot they seem to not learn from spirit.
    they don’t seem to be able to lift a wheel up.
    what does a human do if they get stuck.
    they stand on one foot and lift the other.
    so the robots should at least be able to motorize the suspension so that one or in case of the rear wheels two wheels,
    can be mechanically lifted up and out of trouble be it a rock or soft sand.
    to a scientist the obvious is never very clear
    the solution is a simple actuator attached to the suspension arm and a single up down movement
    however the rest is really impressive the mind boggles at the work behind this project
    that lifts ether set of wheels.
    Submited by : Recetas de dieta

  • humanisov

    I really like your approach. It has valid points, nodoubt that fresh info about the Universe is always awesome to me.
    serving dish | vanity table

  • bbnet

    This is really nice blog, I am very impressed.
    tin tuc

  • penarthits

    Thanks for this interesting blog
    WM – Professional in Massage in London and Massage Kensington

  • penarthits

    Fantastic Information, thanks
    Supplier of bentonite clay and bentonite clay powder

  • WillPR

    I really love this, thanks for this article
    Will – Supplier of Lingerie, Quality Lingerie, night wear, sleep wear

  • WillPR
  • alangston

    Wow that is some amazing stuff. I can’t wait until we get a manned mission to mars. It is so exciting.
    Aaron
    ————-
    Sell Gold

  • gmeyer

    After reading this blog I am really keen to see the film.
    Guiafenesin
    expectorant

  • wilma

    Awesome stuff, thank you for your time and efforts
    Wilma –
    Work from home UK | Stay at home mom jobs

  • lisarey

    Its very nice.I really appreciate you.You done a great job.Don’t stop your bloging.Keep it up.But Marslett, who studied theoretical physics before going into filmmaking, did draw on a lot of current research when creating his film.6 pack abs workout

  • weezle11

    I wonder if someday someone will land on Mars and walk? Do you think that we will have a space station there soon? Its crazy to even think about it.
    Thanks,
    Josh of Email Marketing Software

  • reizen naar india

    It’s really a great thing,if we imagine about living in Mars and we also have the space station there.It’s may be possible,Because modern age is developing day by day.Your knowledge is appreciative.Thanks for sharing the information.

  • Robert Johnson

    Awesome!

  • whoah this blog is excellent i love reading your posts. Stay up the great work! You recognize, a lot of people are looking round for this info, you could help them greatly.

  • los angeles electician

    wonderful points. it would be so awesome if many blogs was like this were on the net. tooo many blog discuss nothing exist on the internet. good job

  • right hub

    I can’t believe so much research goes into making some of these science based films. I think it’s really good – well done guys!
    http://righthub.com

  • film

    Thank you for every other informative site. The place else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal way? I’ve a challenge that I am simply now operating on, and I’ve been on the glance out for such info.

  • dimark

    I love it how movies always get there before scientists!!
    Great article
    Will Roberts

  • dimarka

    I wanted to take some time to state my gratitude towards this blog that was brilliant and you ! Loving it !

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media