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Imagine trying to capture an icy block from Saturn's rings or drill on the disintegrating surface of a comet. This program reveals for the first time the danger and spectacle of what it would be like for astronauts to land on and explore the other planets in the solar system. Their mission lasts for six years, extending the boundaries of what has been achieved in space travel to date. Combining the latest scientific thinking and the real-life experiences of astronauts with drama and spectacular CGI, Voyage to the Planets and Beyond propels us into the not-too-distant future.
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Think of this BBC two-part TV special as Walking with Planets. One of the makers of the excellent Walking with... dinosaur programs looks forward--into the future--and upward--into space--for another presentation of story-driven science. This fake documentary follows an international crew of five on an extraordinary six-year spaceflight. We hear from Mission Control and view footage of the astronauts in training along with the flight photography and "TV broadcasts" (perfect for quickly explaining facts via Q&As). The flight is beyond ambitious: landing on Venus, Jupiter's volcanic moon Io, the rings of Saturn, an asteroid, and the far-off reaches of Pluto. Certainly, no real space agency would sign off on such a mission, but the dramatics work thanks to the deft handling by writer-director Joe Ahearne (Ultraviolet). Here's a fun way to learn about the crushing pressure of Venus or the risk/reward of slingshot-ing around the sun. With quick pacing (we are on Venus six minutes into the two-hour movie), smart choices (some of the astronauts' hardships are brutal), plus excellent special effects (the mile-long spacecraft Pegasus is a dandy), you have a program with which families can learn together and kids will want to watch more than once.
The DVD contains some great making-of features, plus a complete episode on the real-life space probes that have visited--and are still visiting--the planets. They are just as watchable as the main program. --Doug Thomas
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