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Discovery premieres of “Race to Mars”

Toronto, Ontario – Discovery Channel’s most ambitious project ever is ready for lift off. As the scientific and space communities mark the 50th anniversary of the Space Age initiated by Sputnik, Discovery Channel blasts into Fall with an unprecedented and daring multi-platform exploration of the Red Planet: Mars. Experts suggest we could see a successful human voyage to Mars in our lifetime, and when it happens, it will be the most ambitious, complex and dangerous expedition ever undertaken.

The cornerstone of Discovery Channel’s 2007-2008 Season, this landmark television event – featuring the World Premieres of “Race to Mars” (Sept. 23 premiere) and “Mars Rising”(Oct. 7 premiere) – celebrates the innovation, technology and passion that will bring the voyage to fruition.

This 10-hour television event will be complemented by a fully immersive online experience at RaceToMars.ca, a companion book also titled Race to Mars; a touring exhibition with the Ontario Science Centre and a full slate of complementary programming to be unveiled soon. Discovery Channel has also tapped key experts from the documentary series as panellists for a complementary special, “Earth to Mars: The Great Space Debate,” a live public event to be held in Toronto where the audience can ask the experts about future missions to Mars.

The debate will stream live at DiscoveryChannel.ca and be broadcast as a one-hour special wrapping up the Channel’s additional Mars-themed programming later this fall. All told, this is the boldest and biggest undertaking devoted to a single subject in Discovery Channel Canada’s history.

Complete descriptions and broadcast schedules for “Race to Mars”; “Mars Rising”; and “Earth to Mars: The Great Space Debate” are below as well as complete information about the Public Debate; the RaceToMars.ca Interactive and Educational Elements; About the Book Race to Mars; and About the Exhibit The Challenge of Mars for full details.

Premiering with back-to-back episodes on Sun., Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT on Discovery Channel and Discovery HD, “Race to Mars” is a stunning 4×1hour expedition series that imagines and simulates the first manned mission to the Red Planet. Shot in High Definition and born out of the exhaustive scientific research being done today at international space agencies and laboratories, this gripping miniseries captures every exhilarating moment and draws viewers into the heart of the mission – from leaving Earth’s orbit to the return voyage home. Award-winning actor Michael Riley leads the “Race to Mars” mission as Commander Rick Erwin.

Following the conclusion of the expedition series, Discovery will premiere “Mars Rising”, a six-hour companion documentary series that explores the science and technology being developed and tested today that will make a future mission to Mars a reality. “Mars Rising,” narrated by space icon and actor William Shatner (‘How William Shatner Changed the World’) and premiering with back-to-back episodes on Sun., Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT on Discovery Channel and Discovery HD details the significant challenges facing a mission to Mars.

This future mission will require multiple spacecraft, unparalleled ingenuity and a completely new breed of astronaut. Drawing upon thousands of hours of research, interviews with top scientists and experts around the world, and employing cutting edge CGI, “Mars Rising” will explain the science behind this complex and perilous undertaking, the reasons why we will go and the physical and psychological challenges of the mission.

“This will be the definitive story of the human mission to Mars,” said Paul Lewis, President and General Manager of Discovery Channel. “With this unprecedented multi-platform event, our mission is to reignite excitement in the Space Age and inspire a whole new generation to look outward towards the planets.”

“We went to the four corners of our own planet to present the most exhaustive examination of the Red Planet,” said Executive Producer and Galafilm CEO Arnie Gelbart. “With exclusive access to all ‘the right stuff,’ we consulted with over 300 experts in every space-related field and shot in excess of 90 locations around the world. These 10 hours will take viewers on an unforgettable ride more thrilling than any Hollywood blockbuster because it’s firmly based on real science and represents a glimpse of our own future.”

Developed and commissioned by Discovery Channel Canada and produced by Montreal’s award-winning Galafilm Inc., this combined, original 10-hour Canadian endeavour is the most expensive science television project in production this year worldwide (with a combined budget of approximately CDN $20-million). “Race to Mars” and “Mars Rising” will bring this monumental journey to worldwide audiences when international broadcast partners Discovery Networks International, The Science Channel (U.S.), ARTE (France) and NHK (Japan’s public broadcaster) debut the series in the coming months.

About “Race to Mars”In the year 2030, the race to be the first to reach the Red Planet is on – and China is leading the way. China has stunned the world by leapfrogging over America’s long-term plans and has landed a series of advanced rovers and robotic landers in their quest to make the most important discovery in history – extraterrestrial life. Once again, America and its partners, including Canada, are thrust into a winner-take-all space race – but this time the stakes are even higher than the race to the Moon nearly seven decades earlier.

The international team accelerates its plans to launch a human mission, drawing together astronauts from Canada, the United States, Russia, France and Japan for a gruelling assignment. In a capsule the size of just two school buses, these four men and two women must work together as a team and struggle with the sacrifice of leaving friends and family behind. This elite crew – after years of training and psychological evaluations – band together for the ultimate career-making mission. This journey will last for nearly 600 days and will take them 56-million kilometres away from their lives on Earth – and the physical and psychological isolation they experience will be unlike anything these astronauts have ever known.

This mission asks for extraordinary human sacrifice, but the payoff – being the first to discover potential life on another planet – is irresistible to an astronaut with just “the right stuff.” Among them, the driven mission commander who’s never known failure – until he loses one of his own to the unforgiving environment on Mars; the rational flight surgeon who discovers a new spirituality as she grapples with the magnitude of her journey; the veteran cosmonaut who knows just how many rules can be broken; the brilliant French nuclear physicist; and the Canadian astronaut who will play a key role before the end of the journey.

Training and determination will get them only so far, and when this crew sets out on humanity’s first expedition to another world, nothing can prepare them for the unexpected danger and staggering wonder of what they will experience.

Bringing this landmark television event to life, Michael Riley (‘Supervolcano,’ ‘This is Wonderland’) stars as astronaut Captain Rick Erwin. He is joined by joined by Pascale Bussières (‘When Night is Falling’) as Jackie Decelles; Lothaire Bluteau (‘Jèsus de Montrèal,’ ‘Black Robe’) as Antoine Hebert; Claudia Ferri (‘Mambo Italiano,’ ‘Hunt for Justice’) as Lucia Alarcon; Frank Schorpion (‘One Dead Indian,’ ‘Human Trafficking’) as Mikhail Cerenkov and Kevan Ohtsji (‘Stargate SG-1’) as Hiromi Okuda.

"Race to Mars” (Part 1)

Sun., Sept 23 at 8 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT on Discovery Channel and Discovery HD

As the Terra Nova begins its 583-day trip to Mars, the mission led by American Commander Rick Erwin (Michael Riley) is plagued by electrical power system malfunctions. Canadian flight engineer (Pascale Bussières) is forced to jettison one of the Canadarms. Tension mounts between the Russian co-pilot (Frank Schorpion) and the French flight engineer (Lothaire Bluteau). A Chinese craft with a robotics crew lands on Mars. Mission Control advises that Terra Nova’s electrical system is compromised and suggests aborting the mission.

“Race to Mars” (Part 2)

Sun., Sept 23 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT on Discovery Channel and Discovery HD

The crew ignores Mission Control’s advice and lands safely on Mars but Japanese astronaut Hiromi (Kevan Ohtsji) is injured. The Chinese mission finds water but it is too salty to support life. The Terra Nova’s equipment is wearing out faster than anticipated. The crew seeks international permission to use the abandoned Chinese drill to complete their work.

“Race to Mars” (Part 3)

Sun., Sept 30 at 8 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT on Discovery Channel and Discovery HD

The crew hits water but the drill explodes killing Hiromi. The entire crew is ill. The flight surgeon (Claudia Ferri) suggests they break the seal on one of the Mars samples and test for alien contamination. It’s a moral quandary: do they accept possible death from this undiagnosed disease or face a possible lifetime of quarantine on Earth if they are contagious?

“Race to Mars” (Part 4)

Sun., Sept 30 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT on Discovery Channel and Discovery HD

Mission Control has detected the system flaw: the master clock has been resetting to its default pre-launch position – giving no indication of any malfunctions. The crew is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. It is not Mars but faulty technology which is killing the astronauts. Rick and Antoine exit the craft to repair and replace the faulty electrical boards. After 583 days, the mission is complete.

Discovery HD “Shark Week” returns

Scaring swimmers and fascinating viewers for over a decade, Discovery Channel’s favourite summer theme week returns! Discovery Channel’s 12th annual Shark Week – airing Sun., July 29 to Fri., Aug 3 – offers six days of fascinating facts about sharks and the latest in shark behaviour, survivor stories and stunning underwater cinematography. And for wider jaws and even sharper teeth, dare to experience Shark Week in High Definition on Discovery HD! Discovery HD offers its own Shark Week lineup, Mon., July 30 to Fri., Aug. 3

Discovery Channel’s full Shark Week 2007 lineup follows:

“MythBusters: Jaws Special”

Sun., July 29 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT (Encore Presentation)

Will punching a shark deter it? Can you use sharkskin as sandpaper? Are sharks really scared of their own image? Hosted by the mad scientists of “MythBusters,” Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, this two-hour special sees the myth-busting duo planning, building and conducting experiments – with the help of respected shark experts – designed to determine the truth behind the public’s “accepted wisdom” about sharks.

“Ocean of Fear: Worst Shark Attack Ever”

Sun., July 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT (Discovery Channel Premiere – repeats Wed., Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT)

During the Second World War, the USS Indianapolis was struck by a torpedo which sunk the massive ship. In just 12 minutes, some 900 of the 1,200 crew were forced into the sea. Wounded and thirsty, the crew would endure the blazing heat of day and the frigid temperatures of night adrift in the Pacific. Many succumbed to exposure, but in the end, sharks claimed the lives of over 600 men.

"Maneating Sharks: The Truth”

Mon., July 30 at 8 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT (Discovery Channel Premiere)

Are sharks really pack hunters like lions or wolves? Are they acquiring a taste for human flesh? Are attacks on the rise? In this one-hour special, discover the truth about so called man-eating sharks.

“Shark Family”

Tues., July 31 at 8 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT (Discovery Channel Premiere)

This special follows three generations of the Ferreira family as they travel from their home in Cape Town and pitch camp on rugged Dyer Island – surrounded by Great Whites. Here, shark explorer Craig Ferreira puts his family through its paces with a series of shark experiments and personal challenges. Craig is joined by his father, Theo; his wife, Jytte; and their three sons, Storm, Cruise and Wilder – an untamed trio who love nothing better than exploring the natural world around them.

“Bull Shark: World’s Deadliest Shark”

Thurs., Aug 2 at 8 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT (Encore Presentation)

The bull shark, at 2.5 metres of brawn and muscle, is one of the most aggressive animals on Earth. This one-hour special follows zoologist Nigel Marven on a journey across the globe to learn more about these incredible predators. Starting in the Bahamas, Marven meets shark scientist Erich Ritter waist-deep bull shark-infested waters. Ritter has stood among the sharks hundreds of times before, but on this day he is attacked and bitten on the leg as Marven stands next to him. Marvin sets out to investigate the bulls in the U.S., Australia, Cuba and finally back in Florida where he shares his research with his recovering colleague Ritter.

“I Shouldn’t Be Alive: Shark Survivor”

Fri., Aug 3 at 8 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT (Encore Presentation)

This special shark-themed episode of “I Shouldn’t Be Alive,” grapples with a horrifying moral dilemma: Would you leave a crewmember to die to save yourself? A five-member crew – most of them strangers – set sail from Maine to deliver a luxury yacht in Florida. When a violent storm hits the expedition, the crew must take refuge in a life raft. Set adrift, bickering, injured and with no food or water, their ordeal is made even worse by the sharks, including Great Whites, who continue to circle their raft… Who among the five will survive, and who among them is the strongest to make fateful choices?

And for a lineup with even more bite, Discovery HD’s full Shark Week 2007 programming is as follows:

“Great White Shark: Uncaged”

Mon., July 30 at 7 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT (Encore Presentation)

In the world’s most shark-infested waters, an extreme team of divers attempts to swim with and photograph massive great white sharks without the protection of a cage. Marooned together for nine days off a remote island in Mexico, the divers must band together if they are to survive an open-water encounter with the great white. Led by Andre Hartman, a diver who admits he’s scared to death of the sharks; John McKenney, a cameraman who worries he may not return to his family; and Cat Gennaro, a feisty ex-model turned diver who won’t admit fear; the divers take turns in the water with up to six great white sharks at a time! This is shark programming as you’ve never seen, with no safety nets, no cages and real danger.

“The Blue Realm: Shark Business”

Tues., July 31 at 7 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT (Encore Presentation)

From South Africa to the Pacific coast of Canada, sharks are big business in a new “adrenaline” eco-tourism industry. This story explores many of the myths surrounding dangerous sharks and reveals how scuba divers have become unlikely allies in efforts to conserve the animals. “The Blue Realm: Shark Business” explores the opportunities and consequences of “shark tourism,” meets the advocates and conservationists that are working to preserve one of the oceans’ oldest species. This special also chronicles exciting new research into some of the sea’s most fascinating and maligned creatures – with some species in serious decline. Ancient and vital predators, sharks serve a crucial role in the ocean realm – and scuba divers have become an integral voice in efforts to conserve many of these endangered species.

“Catching a Killer: The Mystery of Sable Island”

Wed., Aug 1 at 7 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT (Encore Presentation)

Like every good mystery, this story starts with a body. In this case, hundreds of mutilated bodies washed up on the sandy shores of Sable Island, a tiny spit of land in the North Atlantic. A mysterious killer is lurking in the steely waters off the east coast of Canada. The corpses belong to grey seals, which gather by the thousands on the shores of Sable Island twice a year. The seals bear bizarre spiral wounds which have led to one theory that one of the most elusive of all sharks is responsible – the Greenland shark. With the help of scientists from the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory and the Apex Predator Program in the United States, “Catching A Killer: The Mystery Of Sable Island” tries to solve the puzzle of the dead seals once and for all. But it won’t be easy.

“Crocodile Hunter 5: Whale Sharks of the Wild West”

Thurs., Aug 2 at 7 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT (Discovery HD premiere)

Steve Irwin, his wife Terri and daughter Bindi set out on a luxury cruiser – to navigate the rugged coast of Western Australia. At the very start of their journey, the Irwin family has the unbelievable experience of swimming in the ocean with a wild pod of dolphins, as well as seals and sharks. Steve ventures ashore on an island known to be covered with venomous black tiger snakes. As their voyage continues, Steve dives on the ancient wreck of the Batavia and explores the island where her mutinous crew callously murdered their fellow sailors. After investigating the eerie weathered ruins of an old whaling station, Steve has the ultimate experience of swimming with the largest fish in the world – the whale shark.

“Sharks Under Glass”

Fri., Aug 3 at 7 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT (Discovery HD premiere)

Explore the latest shark programs at aquariums across the country. From the Shark Bay exhibit in Tampa, Florida, to the great white shark exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, research is yielding exciting information about these fearsome predators.