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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.