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MISSION TO MARS

NASA - Real
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, known throughout the world by its initials NASA, signed a Space Act Agreement with "Mission To Mars" to participate in the film. The production worked very closely with NASA for over a year, relying on the expertise of a number of invaluable consultants, and NASA representative Bobbie Faye Ferguson spent a great deal of time on the set, liaising with the filmmakers and cast on a number of points of authenticity.

Former NASA astronauts Story Musgrave, the longest-serving astronaut to date and the one who holds the record for space-walking hours, and Joe Allen, who also served as a consultant on "Armageddon," served as technical advisors on "Mission To Mars." Their work began during the development phase, reviewing the script for accuracy, and then Musgrave and Allen met with the cast before shooting began, and talked about their experiences in space.

"The actors found them tremendously helpful," says producer Tom Jacobson. Musgrave remained on set throughout most of production, working with the actors as they did their own stunt work to simulate zero gravity.

According to Jacobson, "It was very interesting when our NASA consultants read the script. They loved it not just because they'd love to go to Mars, not just because they loved the science in it, but mostly because they loved the story. I've found out that these people are dreamers. Of course they're all tremendous technicians, engineers, pilots or physicists, but they're also explorers, and the script is about the dream of exploring the next frontier. And they loved the spirit of that in the script. Story and Joe were excited to work on this movie not just to help get the science accurate, but because of the spirit that the story promotes. They want us to go to Mars. They feel it's important to the human race to continue space exploration."

One of the things that made the producer most proud, he says, was that, "When the consulting technical experts visited the set, they said they felt like they were at home at NASA."

Executive producer Sam Mercer had amassed a great deal of space experience on an earlier project, which had given him the opportunity to really study NASA. He already knew how to go about eliciting NASA's support and had ideas about who to ask to serve as consultants. "Obviously," he says, "they want a piece of material that speaks strongly to what NASA and a man-in-space mission are all about. So, they were very cognizant of looking to see the scientific elements of the story and the design elements, to make sure that the ship and habitat we were going to build were technically in line with what would exist, hopefully, 20 years from now.

"That's one of the great things about this movie," he continues. "It's about space travel. It's a rescue mission and it's about strong characters that are real astronauts. Everything about the movie is real, especially the technical execution of the sets. When NASA consultants visited the set they were absolutely wowed by the level of detail in the sets."

NASA's participation involved major contributions in terms of access to scientists, trips to Houston and Florida to investigate what's in development and what's already real. Mercer elaborates, "The first process was technical assistance from NASA in terms of developing the screenplay and then the research. And the final process was to see if everything we wanted to do was in line with what NASA is doing and if the story makes a positive statement. Then it would get their seal of approval — which we received."

Other key advisors included Lewis Peach, former Director of NASA's Advanced Projects/Future Concepts; Cathy Clark, Chief Scientist on the International Space Station; and Matt Golombek, Chief Scientist on the Pathfinder mission and forem

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