NGC looks to score touchdown with 'Mission Mars'

MUMBAI: Last year, National Geographic Channel's (NGC) Mission involved Mount Everest. The six month long initiative saw the channel make substantial gains in viewership and ad revenue. This year, the broadcaster is hoping that the Red Planet - Mars will be able to repeat the feat for the channel.

NGC will air the global 12 part special Mission Mars from 11 January every Sunday at 8 pm. The show has also been dubbed in Hindi.

Speaking on the initiative at a media conference in Mumbai this afternoon, NGC's senior VP, content and communication, Dilshad Master said," The Mission property will be an annual initiative. The property came about as we were looking for content that would cut through Indians across the board. We are looking at expanding the infotainment genre and Mission Mars will do just that. The Mission formula is topical, inspirational, broad based and showcases our unique access in terms of photography and footage."

Mission Everest contributed 17 per cent to last year's ad revenues, according to Master.

Master added that Mission Mars was the result of a four-year collaboration between the broadcaster and Nasa. Around $820 million was invested for Nasa's Rover missions which are currently in progress. The first Rover Spirit landed successfully on Mars on 4 January. The second one, Opportunity, will land on 25 January. They will further explore the planet's rocky landscape. The show will go behind the scenes and provide viewers with knowledge of how Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California operates.

Pictures of both the flights will be aired on the show as well the effort that went into making the two Rovers. The show also takes viewers through the excitement of the launch including a last minute hold, which happened due to a fuel system glitch. The show will also examine the nature of space exploration and what advances have been made.

NGC is running a media campaign covering print, radio, outdoors and online. A microsite has been created where visitors will find detailed information on the planet. A contest will be run from 9-23 January. Viewers have to name the two mobile laboratories that have reached Mars and play the contest online or via SMS. Hoardings have been placed at strategic locations in the metro cities exhorting people to watch out for the show. Sponsors lined up include Hutch, LG CDMA and Parle.

To create the important local connect, NGC says it searched the Internet for an Indian who was involved with Nasa's Mars missions. Planetary Geologist Dr Amitabha Ghosh had studied Martian rocks in 1997 during the pathfinder mission. He was present at the briefing today. He said, " An understanding into Nasa's programme is important as the journey to Mars is fraught with failures.

"Out of the four Nasa Mars missions, two have failed. That is because landing is very difficult. There are several processes that have to work together in the space of the final six minutes. 17 scientists were involved with the mission." For rock examination instruments that are being used include a rock abrasion tool which scrapes off the rocks weathered surface. A panoramic infrared camera is used to survey the landscape.

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