Award-winning factual label Arrow Media has secured unique access to NASA’s latest Mars mission for a special 90-minute documentary, Brian Cox: Seven Days on Mars. This BBC TWO film, made in conjunction with NASA, with whom Arrow Media has a long-standing relationship, helps to cement Arrow Media’s position as a leading producer of space content internationally.
NASA’s Perseverance rover is on the verge of changing humanity’s future. Just over a year after touching down on the red planet, Perseverance is embarking on the most demanding part of its mission to date – striking out at top speed for the sites most likely to house signs of life. To succeed, the team must overcome epic challenges and take Perseverance into uncharted territory: going further than any other rover and traversing jagged terrain - all on a hostile planet 300 million kilometres away from the Earth.
In this unique television event, Professor Brian Cox fulfils a childhood dream by going behind the scenes at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), mission control for Mars 2020 – the mission that may finally reveal if life ever existed on the Red Planet.
In 1980, a young Brian Cox wrote to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory asking for photos from some of their missions to the planets. The pictures they sent him from Voyager and the Viking mission to Mars were a source of inspiration that set him on the path to becoming a physicist.
Now, over 40 years later, he has been granted privileged access to JPL – to witness the workings of the mission as it guides the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter (the first powered aircraft we have ever sent to another planet) across the surface of Mars.
Over the course of a week, he follows the rover’s every move as it navigates its way across the floor of Jezero Crater towards the remains of an ancient river delta – that may contain the evidence of ancient life on Mars. He will come face to face with the engineering models – the identical twins – of both the helicopter and the rover as it is put through its paces in JPL’s Mars Yard, a little bit of Mars on Earth. And he will join the rover drivers whose job it is to plot the rover’s route through the hazardous terrain of the Martian surface.
In the process, Brian Cox will reveal how the mission could radically change our understanding of life not just on Mars but Earth as well. If NASA’s team succeeds, they will transform our knowledge of life in the universe and redefine humanity’s future. This is the inside story of their quest into the unknown.
Arrow Media is internationally recognised for creating world-class, innovative space and science programming. They have produced one of TV’s biggest space projects - the award-winning Live From Space (National Geographic and C4), which took live television to a new dimension. Featuring amazing shots of the Earth from the International Space Station as it performed an entire circuit of the globe, Live from Space revealed the extraordinary science experiments conducted by the astronauts of the 38th expedition to the International Space Station. Arrow Media’s extensive portfolio of space programming also includes Rookie Moonshot: Budget Mission to the Moon for National Geographic Channel; America’s Secret Space Heroes for Smithsonian Channel, Destination: Jupiter for Curiosity and Apollo: the Forgotten Films for Discovery.
As well as the 90-minute special for the BBC, Arrow Media will also be producing a 60-minute presenter-less version of the documentary. Fremantle will be distributing both versions of the documentary internationally.
Ash Potterton, Executive Producer, Arrow Media, says: “With its long-standing relationship with NASA, Arrow is thrilled to be given unique access to this incredible Perseverance mission - and Brian Cox, as one of the BBC’s most prolific presenters of science programming, is the perfect person to transport viewers into the mission to find life on Mars.”
Tom Brisley, Creative Director, Arrow Media, adds: “Programmes about space missions offer both broadcasters and viewers a fascinating insight into what happens on these remarkable endeavours. Our ability to secure unprecedented access to these missions, as well as our proven expertise in making programming of this nature, is what has helped Arrow Media build a reputation as a world-class producer of science and space content.”
Professor Brian Cox adds: “The nature of origin of life is one of the great unanswered scientific questions. Here on Earth, life was present around 3.8 billion years ago, but the evidence for how it arose has been weathered away and erased by the geological activity of our planet. Mars, however, is a different story. It was decidedly Earth-like at the same time, with rain, rivers and lakes, but it soon entered a geological deep-freeze from which it never emerged. If there were Martians, the evidence for their emergence from the geology and chemistry of a young, active world may be far better preserved. The Perseverance Rover, and the Mars Sample Return missions to follow, may therefore answer a deeper question even than ‘Is there life on Mars?’ They may reveal how life begins across the Universe, including here on Earth, and give us unique insight into our own origins.”
Brian Cox: Seven Days on Mars is executive produced by Ash Potterton and Tom Brisley for Arrow Media. The director is Michael Lachmann. The documentary is being distributed globally by Fremantle.