Frankly, I was ignorant. I freely admit that. Before I joined the cast of the National Geographic series, Mars, I didn’t know very much about Mars ― and to be honest I didn’t really care. Like many people, I didn’t see how it related to me and why we should spend the money to go to Mars when there are so many problems in the world today that I deemed more important.
But as I prepared for my theatrical role as a crew member of the first mission to Mars, something wonderful happened. As I studied for my part by watching videos, reading articles, and finding out as much as I could about how and why we plan to send humans to Mars, to my great surprise I found my perspective changing. Later, when I was on the set, I found an infectious passion among the crew and cast. I wasn’t the only one who was transformed by our participation in Mars. Many of my fellow cast members also discovered themselves as being passionate advocates for making humanity a multi-planet species. We all realized that this was not like an ordinary film project. Instead, we were part of something that was bigger and of more lasting importance. We had the potential to inspire students and show the world that sending human to Mars will be one of the most important and historic events in human history.
We need big dreams. Children in France (where I’m from) don’t seem to have big dreams these days. In fact, I’m not sure that they are even aware that sending humans to Mars is no longer science fiction but is now within our reach. I was born in 1981, and many people in my generation simply don’t believe that we as a species are capable anymore of doing great things. And I find that sad and even a little scary. This wasn’t the case when my parents were growing up. The world was far from perfect, but they had big dreams. My parents told me that the most amazing thing that they remember ― the event that inspired them and made them hopeful for the future ― was when the Apollo 11 astronauts first stepped foot on the surface of the Moon. They made small steps on the Moon, but it was a giant leap forward for humanity, and they came in peace for all humanity. Unfortunately, the most transforming memory I have (and I’m sure it’s true of my generation as a whole) is the September 11th attacks – clearly a very significant event, but not the type of event that makes anyone hopeful for the future. Sending humans to Mars, however, is my generation’s opportunity for a positive future, and we should embrace it.
I also believe, as Elon Musk has stated, that humanity needs a backup plan, so to speak. I’m not someone who believes that Armageddon is around the corner, but I do think that Mars gives us the chance to assure the future of humanity if something terrible were to happen on Earth. I’m reminded of a cartoon that depicted a dinosaur looking up at the heavens seeing a huge asteroid about to hit, and stating, “Maybe we should have started a space program…”
I now want to go to Mars, and not just in a movie but for real. I’d even go one way ― and I sincerely mean that. And I’m not someone who is dissatisfied with my life here on Earth. I’m a happy person and I love life on Earth, but I long to explore. I want to feel the Martian soil in my hands and hike through the canyons, gullies and craters of Mars. I want to learn to live off the land and discover whether life ever existed on Mars. And even if it didn’t, I will know that it does now!
I now want to go to Mars, and not just in a movie but for real.
When humanity is living and working on Mars, it will change everything, and I am convinced that it will also transform Earth for the better. I know that some people claim that we shouldn’t go to Mars because there are many problems to solve and that there is much suffering here ― and I was one of those people ― but I now get it. I truly believe that exploring Mars will inspire the world, lead to new and important perspectives as well as result in new and innovative ways of doing things. Thus, life on Earth will noticeably improve if we send humans to Mars and otherwise explore beyond the confines of our home planet.
I hope that this series – Mars ― will help inspire people and that they will view its storyline as being both realistic and important, because it is truly both of those things. It’s about brave and inspiring people who could be flying real missions to Mars in the near future. Indeed, the people who will first walk on Mars are alive today.
I can’t think of anything more fulfilling and personally rewarding than if, on the first actual human mission to Mars, the astronauts look back and say that the National Geographic series Mars inspired them to become astronauts and go to Mars.
Clementine Poidatz plays the role of Dr. Amelie Durant in the National Geographic series Mars.
This piece is part of a special op-ed series, curated in partnership with Explore Mars, in which contributors from diverse fields such as science, education, policy, business and culture answer a simple question: “Why Mars?” For more, follow the links below or visit /exploremars.org/"}}">exploremars.org.