The goal of humankind making a trip to our neighboring planet, Mars, has been capturing the hearts and minds of countless souls for years.  Recently, we’ve seen increased public awareness of the subject with important steps being made by scientists from around the world to make this dream a reality.  With advancements from collaborative space agencies, such as NASA and the diverse crews aboard the International Space Station (ISS), as well as through independent organizations such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the question of Martian exploration at this point is simply a matter of when.

One big step in the process has been through the HI-SEAS program based out of Hawaii on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano.  HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) utilizes the volcano as it has Mars-like features and elevation, and primarily serves to simulate a Martian habitat and explore how to keep a space flight crew happy and healthy during an extended mission on the Martian surface.  The simulated habitat has seen three full test missions and is currently wrapping up a fourth with continued support from NASA’s Human Research Program.

The aforementioned fourth mission began in August of 2015 and, upon completion, will see its crew live out a full year on this simulated Mars.  As of this month (August, 2016) the time for the six crew members to rejoin society and complete their mission in the habitat is fast approaching.  Documentary filmmakers Lauren DeFilippo & Katherine Gorringe (a fellow Minnesotan!) aim to tell their story through the upcoming film, Red Heaven (view the trailer for the film here).

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From the the film’s press release:

On August 28, six scientists will emerge from a 1000 square foot dome where they have spent the past year simulating the first human habitat on Mars.

The crew members – with backgrounds ranging from astrobiology to medicine and even space architecture – have not breathed fresh air in a year, as they only leave the dome wearing full spacesuits. All of their communications were on a 20-minute delay, making email the only viable means to communicate with the rest of the world. They relied on solar power, ate only shelf-stable food, and had a limited water supply.

Throughout the yearlong mission, the six crew members have captured their daily experiences on camera for the documentary Red Heaven. The film will tell the story of the challenges and changes they’ve endured living life on simulate Mars, and ask deeper questions about humanity’s future and what it would mean to be a multiplanetary species.

In creating this documentary, DeFilippo and Gorringe hope to shed light on this ongoing program by giving viewers a close look of what life on Mars might realistically look like, as well as to inspire continued conversation and discourse about humanity’s future among the stars.

On top of learning about this incredible project, I got the chance to ask director, Katherine Gorringe, if there has been a particular science-fiction film or book that inspired her passion for not only this project, but adding to the discussion of our overall future as well.

“A huge inspiration for Red Heaven was an incredibly prescient film from 1936 called Things to Come,” Gorringe explained, “In this film’s future vision, global war led to a period of barbarism, out of which rose a superior civilization called “the brotherhood of efficiency” that lives in technologically-advanced underground bunkers.”


If you haven’t seen Things to Come, it’s a British film from 1936, written by H.G. Wells., which has been recognized as a “landmark in cinematic design,” by cultural historian, Christopher Frayling.  If you can track down a copy, definitely give it a watch.

“What impressed me is how much this vision of the future says about the cultural moment in which it was made,” Gorringe continues on to say, “The idea that out of human barbarism and suffering would arise human perfection made possible by technological advancement – that is so clearly indicative of what people conceived was possible in the future at that time.”

Gorringe first encountered the film as a graduate student at Stanford while living in Silicon Valley, and ultimately became interested in the future that our own society seems to be chasing as well the idea that now, we seem to “live in the future.”  From the ashes of these wonderings and fascinations bred the spark that would eventually bring us Red Heaven.

“I wanted to make a film that told a ‘science nonfiction’ story, where we could look deeply into how we envision the future today, how we conceive of what’s possible, and what that says about how we see ourselves at present.”

Gorringe and her Red Heaven co-director, Lauren DeFilippo, will be heading to Hawaii on August 28th to record the HI-SEAS crew as they exit the habitat after their year-long stay.  From there, they hope to document the crew as they re-acclimate to their lives back on “Earth,” and then hire a post-production team to ready the final product to be viewed by all of us.  If you’d like to support this project, consider donating to their Kickstarter fund here, and be sure to stay updated on the project by following Red Heaven on Twitter and Facebook as well!