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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Meet The Mars Generation director Michael Barnett at Umm Al Emarat Park

Free movie screening follows the adventures of Mars simulation camp attendees

Space cadets – Nasa’s teenage trainees are the subject of a Netflix Originals documentary. Courtesy Netflix
Space cadets – Nasa’s teenage trainees are the subject of a Netflix Originals documentary. Courtesy Netflix

Aspiring space travellers excited by the news that the UAE is preparing to select its first astronauts have the opportunity to put in some early study this weekend, with a public screening of US director Michael Barnett’s latest documentary, The Mars Generation.

The screening will be held at Umm Al Emarat Park in Abu Dhabi at 7.30pm on Saturday, where the director will answer questions.

Barnett’s film follows the experiences of a group of American teenagers attending the first Mars Simulation Camp at Huntsville, Alabama’s internationally renowned space camp.

He will also host private screenings in schools and colleges over the next week as part of the US embassy-supported Discover America UAE 2017 programme.

The director said that the concept is a simple one at heart, but said that the movie is much more than a fly-on-the-wall look at a group of children having fun.

“Through the kids we start to learn a lot about Nasa and our space exploration history,” he said. “We sort of use the kids as a Trojan Horse to get us into some deeply political, historical conversations about space exploration, and take a very contemporary look at where we are now with reusable rockets and SpaceX, and some deeper philosophical questions about why we should explore space.

“Are we alone? Where did we come from? These are some of the most profound questions we can ask ourselves, and if we go to Mars and find some kind of fossilised microbial life and answer one of these questions, how do you put a price tag on that?”

The children also serve as a means of lightening the mood among the burning philosophical questions the film poses. “Every time we get a little too ambitious or deep, we cut back to these really bright, really eccentric kids, which kind of grounds us.”

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Read more:

A Martian chronicle of teens in training for a mission to the Red Planet

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UAE ready to train its first astronauts as early as next year

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Barnett said that the movie’s subjects could well be the next generation of Nasa scientists and astronauts, and he said that we are far closer to visiting Mars than many people realise – particularly with the entry of businessmen, such as Elon Musk, into the space travel arena.

“I really think we’re on the cusp of one of the most exciting times in terms of space exploration, but nobody’s talking about it,” he said.

“Nasa’s budget has been going up every year since the shuttle was retired in 2011 and no one knows that. With the private sector now increasingly taking care of low-orbit work, Nasa can refocus its energy on something extraordinary. I made a film to talk about that because nobody else is.”

Mars Generation screens at Umm Al Emarat Park on Saturday, October 7, at 7.00pm. Screening is free but park entry is Dh5. The film can also be streamed on Netflix