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Wildest Weather in the Cosmos
Imagine a tornado so powerful, it can form a planet, or winds sweeping across a planet but blowing at 6,000 miles per hour! How about rain....made of iron? Sounds like science fiction, but this type of weather is occurring daily in our solar system. Scientists are just beginning to unlock the secrets of these planets and their atmospheres. Can this research help scientists solve long unanswered questions that we have about Earth? As our own planet churns with the effects of global warming, it's natural to look into the heavens and wonder about the rest of the real estate.
Space colonization is no longer the fodder of science fiction, it is becoming a reality. Examine the efforts underway to establish a human colony on Mars, including how they plan to grow food, recycle wastewater and introduce greenhouse gases to revive the red planet and make it more habitable for humans. Cutting-edge computer graphics are used to bring the universe down to earth to show what life would be like on Mars, and to imagine what kind of life forms might evolve in alien atmospheres.
Blues for a Red Planet
The episode, devoted to the planet Mars, begins with scientific and fictional speculation about the Red Planet during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, Edgar Rice Burroughs' science fiction books, and Percival Lowell's false vision of canals on Mars). It then moves to Robert Goddard's early experiments in rocket-building, inspired by reading science fiction, and the work by Mars probes, including the Viking, searching for life on Mars. The episode ends with the possibility of the terraforming and colonization of Mars and a Cosmos Update on the relevance of Mars' environment to Earth's and the possibility of a manned mission to Mars.
What if aliens landed on Earth? Much of science fiction explores the moment of first contact – what will people do when the aliens land? From H. G. Wells’ pioneering The War of the Worlds to Independence Day, Men in Black, and District 9, Invasion deals with our fears of alien invasions of earth. David Tennant explains the appeal of Doctor Who’s Daleks and Cybermen while John Carpenter and Chris Carter explore the rich appeal of the paranoia fuelled by hidden aliens with The Thing and The X-Files. It also asks, what if the monsters were our own creation? With the aid of rarely seen animation tests, Phil Tippett takes us behind the scenes in the creation of the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. But not all invasions are hostile. Peter Coyote and Richard Dreyfuss discuss the creation of Spielberg’s spellbinding classics E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There is more than one kind of invasion.
The Real History of Science Fiction
The computer animated drama takes place on Darwin IV, a planet 6.5 light years from earth, with 2 suns and 60% of Earth's gravity. Earth sends a pilot mission with three probes. This robotic fleet is responsible for finding and assessing any life forms on Darwin IV. The probes soon find themselves in the middle of a developed ecosystem teeming with diversity of life of all sizes. "Alien Planet" is motivated by real science missions, such as the NASA Origins Program and the NASA / JPL Planet-Finder Mission, as well as the European Space Agency's Darwin Project. It is a cosmic expedition along side Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Jack Horner, Craig Venter, and George Lucas, and NASA's Chief Scientist Jim Garvin. No longer just the domain of science fiction, "Alien Planet" dramatizes an exciting and possible answer to what alien life really looks like and when we'll find it.
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