Mars: The Red Planet

The Universe
Season 1
14 episodes
See below for purchasing options
DVD & Blu-ray
"The Universe" episode no. 2 (season 1)
  • written, directed, and produced by Tony Long
  • edited by Mitoshi Wakabayashi

  • narrated by Erik Thompson
  • Original Music by Eric Amdahl
  • Flight 33 Productions, (c) 2007 A & E TV Networks
  • 1 documentary @ 44 minutes

Data Capsule Review

by Martin Izsak

"The Universe" continues with one of its better season one episodes, focusing on the planet Mars.

A lot of ground is covered in this documentary's first chapter, as we explore the reasons for the thin, reddish atmosphere of Mars, and how observations of the planet's orbit were instrumental in changing our view of the center of the solar system. Mention is made of the difficulties water has in remaining as a liquid on the surface of Mars.

The second chapter focuses on the composition of the polar ice caps and snow on Mars - how much is frozen carbon dioxide and how much is water. We also get an overview of the ideas of canals and civilization within our history of being able to observe Mars through telescopes.

The third chapter comes up trumps by detailing many of the discoveries made by Mariner 4's quick flyby of Mars, and the follow-up detailed mapping by Mariner 9. Many of the most prominent geological features of Mars (areology) are discussed, such as the Tharsis Bulge with Olympus Mons and three other massive volcanoes, plus the gigantic rip of Mariner Valley. We then move on to the discoveries made by the Viking orbiters and landers in 1976, including the famous face on Mars.

Chapter four focuses on the meteorite ALH84001, thought to have come from Mars, and how it re-energized our search for life on the red planet. We also check in with researchers who have found evidence of microbial life existing in hostile low light-level environments in Antarctica, such as the bottoms of lakes that are frozen over all year long.

The final chapter recounts the precision necessary for a rocket to reach Mars from Earth, as we get details and footage and recreations of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that reached the surface of Mars in 2003.

Chapter Breakdown:

  1. Introduction
  2. So Much Like Mars
  3. Early Speculation
  4. A Closer Look
  5. Life on Mars?
  6. Spirit and Opportunity

Participants include:

Neil deGrasse Tyson

American Museum of Natural History

Kenneth Nealson

Geophysicist, Astrophysicist
University of Southern California

Dr. William K. Hartmann

Planetary Science Institute

part of the team that came up with the idea that the moon formed from a giant impact.

Prof. Steve Squyres

Mars Expedition Rover Mission

Robert Roy Britt

Dale Andersen

Carl Sagan Center

David McKay

Johnson Space Center

key member of the ALH84001 Mars meteorite analysis team

Peter Smith

Phoenix Mars Mission

Everett Gibson

Johnson Space Center

Andrew Steele

Carnegie Institute

Jim Bell?


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The Universe
Season 1 Box Set
14 episodes



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Read the data capsule review for another episode: "Jupiter: The Giant Planet"

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