Mars One is the program that ties these five disparate lives together. Funded by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, the independent space mission sets to send four valiant souls to Mars in 2022 or 2026, depending on which new source you believe. After viewing the first five segments — each between five and seven minutes in length — you come to realize the series has very little to do with journeys of no return. The saga is one of self-discovery, healing one’s deepest emotional wounds and believing life is better in a place 140 million miles away.
“Citizen Mars” spotlights Sue Ann Pien, an L.A. tech worker who savors dangerous adventure, and presumably had a troubled childhood; Mohammed Sallam, of Cairo, whose life has been about serving others after his parents died in a car crash when he was 16; Pietro Aliprandi from Trieste, Italy, who wants to follow in his thrill-seeking grandparents footsteps; Adriana Marais, from Cape Town, an academic whose passion for space flight is both personal and professional; and Shradha Prasad, a mechanical engineering student whose mother fled an abusive husband to give Shadha a better life.
On balance, the ratio of heartache to blue horizon adventure is 2–1, which is what keeps this from a higher rating. The words “I’m taking off and I don’t know if I am coming back,” and proclamations of joy over the prospect of living “in the void” are chilling, introspective and meaningful, but also have tinges of sad desperation. By the way, the void which Sallam refers to is that part of the journey to Mars in which those in flight can see neither Earth nor Mars.
The production and approach by Engadget/AOL Studios delivers a compelling experience by interspersing interviews with experts in the area of space exploration along with former astronaut Mary Ellen Weber, who remains a major skeptic as to the viability of the Mars One project. She succinctly sums up her take on what it will require to pull off such a monumentally expensive mission, saying, “We don’t know how to do that.”
If there is one takeaway from “Citizen Mars,” it’s that we should be excited about what is to come from the Engadget brand. How AOL’s video plans in general, and Engadget in particular, fit into parent company Verizon’s upcoming services should be interesting.