PBS and Time Inc. Partner on Two-Part Series A Year in Space
President and CEO Paula A. Kerger announced at the Television Critics Association Press Tour that PBS has commissioned the two-part series A YEAR IN SPACE, adapted from TIME’s original digital video series about astronaut Scott Kelly, whose current 12-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS) is testing human limits for space travel and laying the groundwork for a manned mission to Mars. The first installment of A YEAR IN SPACE, which tracks Scott Kelly’s mission from training and launch, through his 12 months aboard the International Space Station, right up through his descent and landing is scheduled to air on PBS on Wednesday, March 2 from 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings), timed within a day of Scott’s planned return to Earth. The second installment is scheduled to air in 2017.
Despite the technological “comforts” of the ISS, a year in space – the longest space mission in American history – has been described as the epitome of extreme, with extraordinarily high physical stakes. Following Scott in space and his identical twin Mark Kelly at home on Earth, the specials will tell the story of what it takes, mentally and physically, to spend a year in space and then, using what NASA has learned from the Kelly brothers, what it means for humanity as we journey to Mars and beyond.
In the Kelly brothers, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a near-perfect, two-person sample group for biomedical research. NASA is closely tracking Scott’s physical and emotional changes, and his biological functions, down to the molecular level while he is in orbit. The agency hopes to identify precisely what changes happened to Scott as a result of 12 months in space by comparing him to his identical twin, Mark, on Earth. What NASA learns about how Scott withstands the physical and psychological difficulties will provide scientists with key data to develop methods of overcoming the challenges of human interplanetary travel.
Viewers will witness the rigors of Scott’s training to live in space for an entire year and will get to know his family and their dreams, stresses, fears and loves. Interwoven into the series’ compelling personal story, A YEAR IN SPACE will also delve into the broader historical context of the mission, including the history of space exploration, the political background of the Russian-US relationship – Scott’s compatriot at the start of the mission is Russian astronaut Mikhail Korniyenk – and the science/engineering conundrums posed by interplanetary space travel.
The second episode of A YEAR IN SPACE – scheduled to air in 2017 – will follow what happens to Scott Kelly as he returns to life on Earth. Once back on the ground, NASA will study what happens to the mind and body during and after long-duration space travel. Part two of A YEAR IN SPACE also will explore the future of humanity’s attempts to live beyond Earth. What will it take – technically and socially – to travel to and establish outposts on other planets, moons and asteroids?
“A YEAR IN SPACE is an incredible opportunity to immerse audiences into an exciting current event, nearly in real-time. However, it is also a compelling human drama exploring the potential tragedies or triumphs of exploration. It is as close to a feature film as any documentary can get,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS.
TIME, owned by Time Inc., created A YEAR IN SPACE in 2015 as a yearlong, 11-part digital video series, produced by TIME’s Supervising Producer Jonathan Woods and directed by Shaul Schwarz. The episodes can be found on Time.com/space.
“The series represents one of Time Inc.'s most ambitious projects to date. It's an example of the high-quality programming that we are producing across our brands that audiences can access on any platform,” said Ian Orefice, Senior Executive Producer of Time Inc. Video. “We are thrilled to be working with PBS on this monumental program and look forward to a collaborative partnership.”
The series is being filmed to feature standards with unprecedented original assets and access for a series about space exploration.A YEAR IN SPACE is produced by TIME’s Red Border Films, with Jonathan Halperin, Mark Mannucci and Jonathan Woods serving as the producers.
“The production process on this project is truly exceptional, and the collaboration among partners to bring this story to life and to the airwaves within a day of Scott Kelly’s return is unparalleled,” added Halperin. “This series offers one scenario for the potential future of human existence and begins to pose difficult questions about what that future might look like, such as will we be able to establish the human race on other worlds, will we want to, and what will we do with this world?”
Launching prior to premiere, the A YEAR IN SPACE website on www.pbs.org/ will feature a suite of exclusive short-form videos detailing aspects of life on the International Space Station, as well as photos and videos shot during the mission. A live simul-stream of the landing will coincide with the television broadcast. Additionally, the website will host a countdown clock to mark Scott Kelly’s return. Conversation about #YearInSpace on social media will be reflected through a social hub on the site, to be updated as the mission progresses. Users will also have the opportunity to see PBS archival materials about space exploration and enjoy the landing all over again with full-episode streaming after the broadcast.
A YEAR IN SPACE airs during “PBS SPACE WEEK,” a programming block devoted to aspects of space exploration that will air on PBS beginning on March 1, 2016. “PBS Space Week” will include AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “Space Men” (March 1, 9:00 p.m. and re-airing March 2, 10:00 p.m.), which highlights forgotten heroes and amazing aeronautical feats – including the daring pre-astronauts who laid groundwork that led to the modern-day space program. On March 2 at 9:00 p.m. PBS will re-air NOVA’s “First Man on the Moon,” which follows Neil Armstrong’s incredible life story from his time as pioneer of high-speed flight to that first legendary step on the moon through never-before heard interviews from his friends and family. READY JET GO!, a new earth science and astronomy series from PBS KIDS that builds on children’s curiosity about science, technology and astronomy, also will premiere new episodes February 29 – March 3.