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MISSION TO MARS
Bill Fentum interviewed Brian
De Palma upon the release of
Mission To Mars at
Damien Michael Belliveau
Michael K. Crowley
|MARS ROCK ABLE TO TRANSPORT LIFE|
NEW STUDY BOOSTS SPECULATIONS ADVANCED IN DE PALMA FILM
M2M SPOILER ALERT At the conclusion of Brian De Palma’s latest film, Mission To Mars, astronauts discover that the Earth they inhabit was seeded by Martians. A groundbreaking new discovery by researchers at Caltech, Vanderbildt and McGill universities has found that living organisms are indeed able to survive the trip through the solar system embedded, perhaps not in a rocket ship as in the fantasy of the film, but in the relatively cool womb of a meteorite. Scientists are looking at this as a serious alternative to previous assumptions about the way life may have developed here on Earth—that Martians may indeed be our ancestors.
THE HOUSE ON ALLEN HILLS
KEEPING ITS COOL
|NASA REVISES MARS PROGRAM|
SIX ROBOTIC MISSIONS IN NEXT 15 YEARS
On Thursday, October 26 2000, NASA unveiled plans for six robotic missions to Mars over the next 15 years, a reorganization of schedules and targets that Mars program director Scott Hubbard said is directed toward two fundamental questions: "Did life arise there, and is life there now?" The revised plan takes into account the possibility that Mars may have some surprises in store for space scientists (not to mention the human race in general), and is thus made to be flexible, while at the same time determined to "follow the water" in the search for possible past or present life on the planet.
LET’S GO TO MARS
A DECADE OF ROCKS AND ROVERS
|2001 -- The Mars Odyssey Orbiter, a high-resolution mapping and imaging observer.|
2003 -- Two Mars Exploration Rovers that will search for water and other geological details.
2005 -- A Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter modeled on the agency’s Mars Global Surveyor, with the added capability of taking microscopic images as small as 30 centimeters in diameter.
2007 -- A "smart" surface lander that can carry up to 600 pounds of scientific instruments and will be equipped with a hazard avoidance system and precision landing capability. The agency also plans a "Scout" mission for 2007 that may entail a small Beagle 2-type lander, or even a balloon or an airplane, two ideas which have been proposed recently. 2007 may also see NASA collaborating with the Italian space agency or the French on Mars-related orbiters and landers.
2009 -- NASA may join the Italians again on a follow-up to the European Space Agency’s planned 2003 Mars Express mission, which involves a ground-penetrating radar probe that looks for water on the planet.
2011 -- Previously planned for 2005, NASA’s revised program sees a long-term effort to bring soil samples from Mars to Earth beginning as early as 2011, but more reasonably by 2014.
CAMPAIGN ALL AROUND
DO YOU PREFER PEPSI OR COKE?
BOOMERS BLASTOFF OR BUST
Sources for this story were Space.com, Reuters, and Associated Press.
|OVER 30,000 NEW MARS IMAGES RELEASED|
On Monday, October 16 2000, NASA/JPL and Michael Malin released over 30,000 images of Mars' surface taken by Malin Space Science Systems' Mars Orbiter Camera, which is currently orbiting the planet aboard the Mars Global Surveyor. The images cover the period from September 1999 to February 2000. Combined with the 20,000-plus images Malin released on Monday, May 22 2000, which covered one full Mars year (or 687 Earth days, from September 1997 to August 1999), over 50,000 images are available for the public to peruse on the web. The images are laid out in "a web-based photo album" at Malin's web site, www.msss.com/moc_gallery/, without captions or explanation, so that, according to a press release by NASA/JPL, viewers can explore the photos just like the scientists who study them do: "What's this? What's that?"
|NEW MARS IMAGE|
BELIEVED TO INDICATE WATER-CARVED VALLEYS
NASA/JPL's Mars Global Surveyor has found a nice way to celebrate the beginning of its fourth year of orbit around the red planet--snapping the above image of three major valley systems that some believe were carved by torrents of water at some distant point in the Martian past. The image was captured September 13th 2000 by Michael Malin's Mars Orbiter Camera, and covers about 500 miles across, with North to the left and the sun extending light from the lower left. In it, you can see, from left to right, the Dao, Niger, and Harmakhis valleys, which lie east of the Hellas plains. The Dao Vallis may be targeted by future robotic missions to Mars exploring how ground water may have helped form the valley system. To see the image in larger detail and get more information, visit the Malin Space Science Systems website.
|NASA FINDS "COMPELLING EVIDENCE" OF LIQUID WATER ON MARS|
|NASA held a press conference on Thursday, June 22nd, an hour after the journal Science offered an early version of a paper that suggests "compelling evidence" of liquid water existing within the surface of Mars. The paper, written by Michael Malin and Kenneth Edgett, was to be published in the journal on June 30th, but quick word of mouth on the internet (such as SPACE.Com) and media speculation caused the journal and NASA to release the findings sooner than they all wanted. Panelists at the NASA press conference, which included authors Malin and Edgett, expressed consistent desires to have been better prepared to share their information with the public and media, with Edgett repeatedly saying they would have had an animated cartoon that illustrates their hypothesis ready if they had had the extra week to prepare. Despite this, Malin and Edgett were very excited to talk about their findings, with Malin adding that they (NASA) are giving the public back what it has paid for with its taxes. The panel stressed that while this paper suggests very compelling evidence that water may be seeping up from underneath the Mars surface as recently as yesterday, this is by no means actual proof of liquid water on Mars. Malin looked forward to Mars exploration, saying that the only way to really get proof is to have someone on the planet with a pick to actually dig in and discover first hand. However, the suggestion of liquid water in certain images taken by Malin's Mars Orbiter Camera, which is currently orbiting the planet aboard NASA/JPL's Mars Global Surveyor, offers NASA specific destinations to aim for when sending probes and, hopefully, humans to Mars.|
"Follow the water" was the slogan of the conference, referring to the fact that wherever water has been found on Earth, life has found a way to exist as well. NASA has known for a long time that there is water on Mars, but that was frozen water. The suggestion of liquid water rising up to the planet's surface periodically offers a whole new playing field of possibilities that NASA hopes will spark renewed interest in what has previously been deemed its "dead" Mars program.
MORRICONE'S MARS BREATHES LIFE BACK INTO FILM MUSIC
Andy Dursin sits up and takes notice of Ennio Morricone's Mission To Mars score. You can read his thoughts at Film Score Monthly.
|DE PALMA TALKS AT CANNES|
INTENDS TO STAY IN FRANCE FOR A WHILE
|Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars made its French debut Friday, May 12th, when it screened out of competition at the 53rd Annual Cannes Film Festival. When asked if he is going to continue to make technically challenging pictures like Mission: Impossible and Mission To Mars, De Palma told a French TV interviewer that he is done with that kind of moviemaking, saying that if he does anything else, it will be a smaller film with no special effects. He then mentioned that as he looked around him at the hotel, his mind begins "imagining stories that could happen to these people." De Palma told the interviewer that he planned to stay in France for "some time." (Special thanks to Screenfreekz at the "Directed By Brian De Palma" Forum for the interview info.)|
De Palma was much more irritated with the press at a Cannes press conference for Mission To Mars. According to ABC News, De Palma snapped back when he heard the word "homage," saying, "What does that mean? That I'm a rip-off artist?" The director went on to say that early in his career, he made the "error" of trying to learn about filmmaking by studying Hitchcock, and that he has been branded a "homage" filmmaker by the press ever since. When chided by the moderator for his quick replies, De Palma expressed his desire to move things along. He clearly wanted to get it over with, saying that he prefers to go to festivals to watch films, not promote them. He had some nice things to say about the NASA scientists who worked on the film, and when asked about having any reservations about replacing Gore Verbinski, the original director on Mission To Mars, De Palma said, "The director of Mouse Hunt? No. And Disney was happy to have me." You can read the entire ABC News story by clicking here.
|MALIN RELEASES NEW IMAGES OF CYDONIA|
|Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems released eight new photos April 5th of the Cydonia region of Mars. The photos were taken by the laboratory's Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) aboard the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) between April 1998 and April 2000. An attempt to take a photo of a portion of the "Face" was thwarted this past February when the MGS spacecraft "experienced a sequencing error and most of that day's data were not returned to Earth." The new photos can be viewed at Malin's web site.|
SPSR SAYS THANKS/WHERE'S THE FACE?
IS MALIN HOARDING IMAGES?
|EARLY CUT OF M2M RAN 165 MINUTES|
|According to Mark Stewart at Film.Com, the web site had originally listed Mission To Mars as running 165-minutes "based on a very early theater preview (critics only)." Stewart said that they unfortunately do not have any records as to the exact screening or date of the considerably lengthier cut, which runs 52 minutes longer than the one currently in theaters. I guess we can keep our fingers crossed for a DVD specialty. Meanwhile, Stewart mentioned that the running time listing has since been "fixed" at the site.|
|"DE PALMA HAS MADE A TRULY RADICAL MOVIE"|
|New York Press film critic Armond White is back this week, responding to his readers' requests "for a fuller accounting of Mission To Mars' pleasures." You can read the full review by clicking here.|
|LOOKING FOR BRIAN|
|"EARTH TO BRIAN DE PALMA," calls out Paul Davids, columnist for AlienZoo.Com. "-- DO YOU READ US?" Davids writes about the premiere party for Erin Brockovich, claiming that the real talk of the party was how well Mission To Mars did despite the negative reviews, and speculates on the possible reasons for De Palma's disappearance. Click here to read the article.|
|MISSION TO MARS AS LITMUS TEST|
|New York Press film critic Armond White sees the beauty in De Palma's new film: "Brian De Palma's critical drubbing over Mission To Mars--reminiscent of the scene in Airplane! where passengers line up to smack an old lady--is the clearest evidence of the catastrophe that has befallen contemporary film criticism..." (Click here to read more).|
|DE PALMA TALKS EXCLUSIVELY TO WEB HEADS|
|Brian De Palma contacted briandepalma.net webmaster Bill Fentum March 9th, saying he wanted the only U.S. interview he does for Mission To Mars to be on Fentum's web site. De Palma, who suddenly disappeared during press junket screenings for the film, said that he made this decision because he feels that press junkets are too exploitative. You can read the interview by clicking here.|
WAKING THE DEAD
|TWO MUST-READ REVIEWS|
|On Mission To Mars - Ray Sawhill|
On Morricone's score - James Southall
(although Southall is mistaken to say that the film does not deserve its score)
|HOAGLAND DECODES MISSION TO MARS|
|"LOOK FOR WHAT ISN'T THERE," AUTHOR SAYS|
(This article may contain spoilers)
Tickled pink that Richard Corliss in Time magazine pegged The Monuments Of Mars as an inspiration to Brian De Palma's new film, radio talk show host Art Bell interviewed that book's author, Richard C. Hoagland, Tuesday evening to get his views on Mission To Mars. Hoagland, who once worked as a NASA consultant to NBC and CBS in the 1960s, liked the film very much, calling it a multi-layered, complex work of art. When Bell, who didn't like it as much, complained about the things he thought were missing from the film (like the take-off launches), Hoagland offered that this was part of De Palma's coded message that the mission was top secret. Hoagland offered as another clue the opening scene where the astronaut Luke Graham tells his son that he will read from the same book every night, so that it is like they are reading together. Even on today's Space Shuttle designs, Hoagland said, they have what they call "family time," where the astronauts can communicate with their families by telescreen. The fact that in 2020 this astronaut would not be able (or, more specifically, allowed) to do so suggests a very top secret mission, which is also why we see no lift-off from Earth. Bell then pointed out that the fact that "voice-print identification" was needed on the ship (echoing Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey) indicated that SOMEONE on the mission knew more than the others. Hoagland agreed, and kept insisting that the key to the film is to look for what is not there, what is missing.
DE PALMA DISAPPEARS
THE DE PALMA CUT
A BONE THROWN?
SPACE ENERGY - FREE ENERGY
19:50--WITH OR WITHOUT US
|IS DE PALMA's MISSION A PERSONAL ONE?|
|Brian De Palma may have been a hired gun on Disney's new sci-fi adventure Mission To Mars, but a less-than-6-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon look at De Palma's links to the film's subject matter suggests a potentially very deep, personal connection. It seems that De Palma's older brother, Dr. Bruce De Palma, who passed away in 1997, had worked with Richard Hoagland, the author of The Monuments Of Mars who has been involved in a struggle with NASA over the images taken of Cydonia for over two decades.|
NASA, of course, gave its full cooperation to Disney during the making of the film. In a recent post on Hoagland's official web site, The Enterprise Mission, it is sensationally suggested that Disney suddenly turned its back on NASA with a TV trailer (one of several different ones running in the week prior to the film's release) that posits a government coverup about the real secrets of Mars: "For 25 years," the voiceover states at the start of the trailer, "the government has concealed evidence of a life-like formation on Mars..." As the images move toward a close-up of the Face on Mars, the voiceover continues, "On March 10, the conspiracy will be exposed." This does raise a rather interesting question: was this simply a clever marketing ploy, or did the filmmakers pull a fast one on NASA? Or, since NASA did apparently approve the script, perhaps the agency has softened its stance on The Face, which is, via De Palma's own suggestion to production designer Ed Verreaux, more goddess than the famed photos would seem to reveal. (Hoagland will offer his views on the film Tuesday night on Art Bell's Coast To Coast radio show.)
FACE TO FACE
Within these contexts then, it is hard not to see Mission To Mars as De Palma's attempt to make peace with his now departed brother, an unorthodox scientist who lived his last days in New Zealand. It is difficult not to see Woody, who "aims to overshoot" in this tragic cosmic comedy of impotence, as a surrogate for Bruce De Palma. --SPOILERS-- When Jim McConnell says at the end that he wishes Woody was there, he is told that Woody is there with them. The line that everyone seems to think is so corny at the end of the film now takes on a breezy poignancy: "Have a great ride, Jim."
|DE PALMA's INTERPLANETARY TOUR GUIDE|
|Brian De Palma explained to USA Today that Mission To Mars features a life force that acts as a "tour guide to an interplanetary show." De Palma says, "Why not have some kind of poetic, beautiful form that guides them on their trip?" This is in keeping with the filmmakers' vision of the story as a spiritual quest, rather than a violent colonial rampage. De Palma also explains the film's realistic approach to space travel: "There's nothing in the movie that's unfeasible. All the space vehicles are either on the drawing board or ones whose designs have been approved by NASA, so there's not much science fantasy to this." The article goes on to point out that the filmmakers' quest for realism was so high that they had planned to use actual sounds from the planet Mars, but of course the Mars Polar Lander expedition was sadly lost. This would have given the film an almost travelogue documentary effect. In any case, De Palma expressed hope that his new film would make people curious about Mars, so that the exploration efforts may receive more funding. "I remember very clearly when we took the first steps on the moon," says De Palma. " No one seems to care about exploration anymore, and it's such a tragedy. If we can just bring it back into the consciousness, it makes us feel so good about ourselves."|
|JACOBSON ON DE PALMA|
|Mission To Mars producer Tom Jacobson tells Starlog magazine that he proposed the film to Brian De Palma after hearing that the director was interested in such a story. "Brian read it overnight and called to say he wanted to direct it," Jacobson says. "He said, 'I'll commit to it right now.'" Jacobson explains that De Palma, who was taken with the "uncertain" twists that take place in the story, is interested in space in general, and especially Mars, citing his scientific background. "He started as a physics major way back when in college and moved over to film, had an interest in the space program as a fan," Jacobson continues, "and also, because he had never done anything like this, it was another perk for him, a challenge. He brought a real strong visual sense to the story." Jacobson explains that De Palma introduced unique ways of filming environments that aren't exactly found on our own planet, and that he added a certain "magic" to the film. "Brian also came up with the idea of using the space station. His challenge to himself, and then to us, was to show things that haven't been seen before. He said, 'We've seen a lot of space movies, so there are certain images that are necessarily going to be part of this medium, but wherever possible I want to try and push it.'"|
|NASA SPACECRAFT TO FLY OVER CYDONIA MARCH 22nd|
|CHANCE TO IMAGE THOLUS URGED BY RESEARCHERS|
The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) will pass directly over Cydonia on March 22nd, according to the calculations of Peter Nerbun, orbit analyst for an independent scientific research group called the Society for Planetary SETI Research (SPSR). The SPSR had previously announced that Nerbun's calculations of the MGS predicted the spacecraft would be flying directly over the "Face" that rests in Cydonia, but as the time comes nearer, Nerbun now claims that the MGS will in fact be flying straight over the Tholus, a rounded feature about 30KM south and west of the "Face" that was discovered by Richard C. Hoagland while seeking additional objects from which to derive spatial and angular relationships in his study of Cydonia. The group is urging people to fax NASA at 202-358-2810 to encourage them to take photos of the Tholus. Hoagland made a similar appeal on Art Bell's radio show last week.
ARTIFICIAL COMPLEX OF CYDONIA