An out of this world series focusing on our relationship with our planet and the threats it faces. Killer asteroids, solar flares, potentially lethal alien viruses are some of the dangers. It features those who recognise this threat, examines the history of the space programme and follows the successful mission of Shuttle Atlantis through the eyes of an astronaut.
Defenders of the Planet
Killer asteroids, solar flares and potentially lethal alien viruses are some of the dangers our planet faces. A small number of individuals and organizations have started to recognize this threat and are working to defend the Earth.
One of the greatest achievements of mankind has been to break free of Mother Earth and explore the Universe that surrounds us. But this has not been without risk or loss of human life. To Boldly Go looks at the history of the space program and some of the sacrifices that have been made through our quest to explore other frontiers. The program also looks ahead to the future of human space exploration, to the International Space Station and Mars.
It was always assumed that it was space itself that posed a risk to astronauts, but tragically it was a fire on the ground that killed astronauts Scott Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee as they tested the first Apollo rocket. A short circuit in the capsule caused a fire that killed all aboard almost instantly and led to a huge cloud of doubt that hung over NASA until the first successful moon landing in 1969.
Apollo 13 almost ended in tragedy when an explosion ripped apart part of the capsule. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, Jack Swigert and the team at mission control all feared that Apollo 13 would never make it back to Earth. However human ingenuity saved the day as people on the ground created a makeshift filter to rid the capsule of excessive Carbon Dioxide that was threatening to suffocate the crew. Fred Haise talks us through the mission.
Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done to save the seven members of the Challenger crew, who perished on January 28 1986. We speak to Roger Boisjoly, the engineer who tried to stop Challenger from taking off that day, and June Scobee Rodgers, wife of the Challenger commander, who talks of the guilt she felt after the explosion.
It took another three years before a shuttle took off, but we are now entering a period of great hope and excitement in the Space Program. The International Space Station represents a huge international effort by the world and will be the most exciting space mission since the Shuttle. We speak to Mir veteran Norm Thagard about the dangers of having a permanently manned space station.
Far beyond the Space Station is the dream that many people have, of sending a man to Mars. Jim Garvin is head of NASA's Mars program and has been fascinated by the red planet all his life. We look at the possibility of manned missions to Mars. One man who is convinced that putting man on Mars should be a priority is Robert Zubrin, who believes humans will one day colonize the planet. We visit his laboratory where NASA employs him to experiment with ways in which man could live on Mars.
We follow the astronauts of STS-106, the 99th NASA Space Shuttle as they prepare for their mission to the International Space Station. Focusing on one of the rookies of the mission, Dan Burbank, we see how astronauts learn to work, eat and sleep in space. We follow the launch and mission of the Shuttle Atlantis.