National Geographic’s “Mars” miniseries has posted the first episode “Novo Mundo” as well as a prequel episode “Before Mars” on streaming services such as iTunes and the on demand section of individual cable networks. The series, at least at first viewing, looks like an infomercial for NASA’s Journey to Mars with a lot of background material from SpaceX’s Elon Musk and a few other Mars advocates such as Robert Zubrin. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

The premise of the series is that in 2033 an international consortium of national Space agencies such as NASA and the ESA and private industry send a six-person expedition to Mars.

A number of robots have already set up a Mars base with power systems, oxygen and water collectors, and equipment for a lengthy stay.

The first episode depicts the landing and its immediate aftermath. The spoiler that the arrival does not go as smoothly as planned is not an unexpected one. The depiction is interspersed with documentary-style interviews with experts such as Musk and Zubrin talking about how humans might get to Mars and why we should go.

“Before Mars” is actually a more interesting episode in that it depicts how one of the crew members of the Mars expedition, an American of Asian heritage named Hana Seung, is inspired to go down the path in 2016 that leads her to voyage to Mars 17 years later.

The discovery of a ham radio and a quest to find an unobstructed spot for transmission enables the teenage girl to develop a bond with a female crew member on the International Space Station. The unmistakable message of STEM education as an engine for female empowerment, despite being thought of as ”weird” by Hana’s schoolmates, is not subtle but not wrong either.

The miniseries is being produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment and RadicalMedia. Howard and Grazer brought us the epic movie “Apollo 13” and the follow on miniseries “From Earth to the Moon.” “Mars” is set to premiere on the National Geographic Channel on November 14, 2016.

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