- United Kingdom
More informationThe planet Mars boasts the most dramatic landscapes in our solar system. Kevin Fong embarks on a grand tour around the planet with scientists, artists and writers who know its special places intimately- through their probes, roving robots and imaginations.
As we roam Mars' top tourist spots, Kevin explores why the spell of the Red planet grips so many. Beyond its alien topographic beauty and its 'pornographic geology - Mars bares all' (as one woman scientist puts it), Mars inspires the bigger questions: are we alone in the cosmos, and what is the longer term destiny of humanity? Was there more than one life genesis? Will humans ever live on more than one planet?
The travel itinerary includes the solar system's greatest mountain - Olympus Mons, a volcano more than twice the height of Everest with a summit crater that could contain Greater Los Angeles.
Olympus Mons' lava flows helped to create Mars' grand canyon - Vallis Marineris - an almighty gash in the planet's crust 4000 kilometres long and 7 kilometres deep.
A little to the east lies an extraordinary region called Iani Chasma, a vast realm of closely spaced and towering rock stacks and mesas, several hundreds of metres high. This unearthly shattered terrain was created billions of years ago when immense volumes of water burst out from beneath the surface.
The catastrophically sculpted landscape is part of plentiful evidence that in its early days, Mars was awash with water and, in theory, environments in which life could evolve and survive. That is what the latest robot rover on Mars - Curiosity - is exploring at the dramatic Gale Crater with its central peak, Mount Sharp. Kevin meets some of the NASA scientists driving the robot up the mountain in search of signs that Mars was a cradle for life.
Other Mars guides in the programme include hard sci-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson whose rich invocations of Martian landscapes form a narrative bedrock of his Mars Trilogy. Kevin Fong also meets William Hartmann, a Mars scientist since 1971 and also an artist