The Horizon Guide to Mars (first board cast in 2009) is a documentary that looks into the fantastic human strive to find out the secrets of the red planet. To provide a time-line of Mars exploration history Dr Kevin Fong uses more than 40 years worth of BBC & Horizon archive footage which shows how we developed such a great extent of knowledge about Earths closest neighbour.
Upon the launch of mans first space probe to the planet (Viking 1),we only had blurred telescopic images which left room for a lot of speculation. Patrick Moore from the long running fortnightly astronomical news show sky at night can be seen speculating about whether the first images from the approaching probe depicted rainforests on the surface of Mars. Of course this would be a ridiculous statement if made today but it just shows how far we have come in learning about this fascinating world in space.
Mars is 50 million miles away and a window of opportunity to travel there from Earth only presents itself once every two years. In the film we see some of the ingenious inventions which have been created to make it there and gather data. Make no mistake while we see lots of amazing news about probes making it to the red planet it is without doubt a perilous challenge where only two thirds of the craft have made it, while the other multi-million dollar probes have burnt up in the atmosphere, crash landed at thousands of miles per hour or completely missed orbital target and travelled off into space, never to be seen again. One amazing example of a disaster is the 1998 Mars Climate Orbiter worth 78 million pounds which burnt up the martian atmosphere because the space craft was programmed in meters and centimetres but the communication dish it used operated in feet and inches.
Horizon has explored how scientists believe the only way to truly understand Mars is to send people there. If and when we do, it will be the most challenging trip humanity has ever undertaken. We see this as we watch the The Horizon Guide to Mars documentary.