National Geographic's "Mars" returns for a second season on Monday (Nov. 12), bringing a blend of extraterrestrial drama and real-life insights about humanity's future on the Red Planet.
The docudrama premiered in 2016 with the story of the first humans to ever embark on a mission to the Red Planet. While actors dramatize the events taking place on Mars, real-life experts bring the story down to Earth with unscripted segments in which they explain humanity's progress toward launching a real crewed Mars mission and the challenges that will face the first Mars colonists. These so-called "big thinkers" include Elon Musk, Bill Nye, Andy Weir and other experts from NASA and the private spaceflight industry.
When the story left off at the end of Season 1, things were looking pretty bleak at Olympus Town, the Martian colony built by a group of astronauts working with the International Mars Science Foundation (IMSF). After losing multiple lives to a series of unfortunate events — accidents caused by a combination of human error and the Martian environment — IMSF officials on Earth were considering putting an end to the whole gig, bringing the colonists back home and never sending people back to Mars again. [Living on 'Mars 2': The Real Tech Behind Nat Geo's Martian Colony]
Season 2 picks up the story five years later, and not only are the colonists still on Mars, but the Martian population is booming! Several new spaceships (which bear a striking resemblance to SpaceX's "BFR") have arrived with dozens more IMSF astronauts. But that's not all — now a for-profit corporation called Lukrum Industries is sending crews of miners to Mars in an effort to take advantage of natural resources like water. Naturally, the two groups start stepping on each other's toes. This new conflict between the scientists and miners leads to the first group brawl on Mars, and that fistfight is only the beginning.
In the unscripted portion of the series, scientists draw parallels between the conflict on Mars and conflicts people on Earth are faced with today, particularly when it comes to natural resources. For example, the series shows actual footage of protesters with the environmental group Greenpeace trying to stop oil companies from drilling for oil in the Arctic. "Mars" Season 2 also shows how mundane occurrences on Earth can turn into catastrophic scenarios on Mars, like getting pregnant, coming down with a contagious virus, or simply coexisting with others.
Will the Mars colonists figure out how to get along despite their clashing interests, or will we see the first war break loose on the Red Planet? You can watch drama unfold on the National Geographic Channel on Mondays at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST.
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.