Channel 4 today announces details of its groundbreaking new Live from Space Season airing March 2014 which will culminate with a major interactive TV event featuring a live two-hour broadcast from the International Space Station (ISS) and Mission Control in Houston as the ISS completes an entire orbit of the Earth.
Head of Specialist Factual at Channel 4, David Glover, has ordered a trio of hi-spec shows, presented by Dermot O'Leary, from Arrow Media which will deliver unprecedented access to NASA and get up close and personal with astronauts like never before. In addition to the centrepiece live programme "Live from Space: Lap of the Planet," Arrow Media will produce "Astronauts: Living in Space" and "Astronauts: Houston We Have a Problem". These two other shows will transmit on the channel during the same week and will set the backdrop and build huge anticipation leading up to main event.
David Glover says: "The ISS is a incredible example of humans working together. To have been granted this access by NASA to the ISS and Mission Control is a true British TV first. We hope to show what life on board is really like, what happens when things go wrong and then finally giving viewers a live lap of planet Earth."
Tom Brisley, Creative Director, Arrow Media says: "Live from Space Season takes live event television to a new dimension. Travelling at nearly 300 miles a minute or 17,500 miles per hour, the International Space Station (ISS) makes a complete orbit of the Earth every 90 minutes. In our live two-hour special we will literally take viewers around the world. The live visuals, as we look back down to Earth from 250 miles above, will be breathtaking, but these shows will be much more than that. The ISS is the most dangerous place inhabited by mankind, as seen in the fictional Hollywood blockbuster 'Gravity'. However the 'Live from Space Season' will reveal the truth of daily life on a space station, as well as showcasing the cutting-edge science that takes place there every day. Arrow Media is delighted to be making such an ambitious live event for both Channel 4 and National Geographic Channel. The scope of the project is unprecedented and pushes boundaries, to expose what has so far been off-limits to the general viewing public, making 'Live from Space Season' a must-see TV event."
Dermot O'Leary says: "It's a big deal for me to be asked to host 'Live from Space Season'. When David (Glover) first told me about the show I had to try hard not to revert back to being the eight-year-old kid and the excitement I felt watching the first space shuttle take off in '81. Since then, like most of my Star Wars/Trekkie generation, space has always held a fascination. It's already been an education to research this project and so I can't wait to join the viewers in finding out both the spectacular (and what the astronauts would consider mundane, but most of us will find fascinating) workings of the ISS. I simply can't wait."
Live from Space: Lap of the Planet
This is a pioneering live broadcast from the International Space Station and Mission Control in Houston presented by Dermot O'Leary. The programme will interact with the astronauts onboard the ISS as they travel around the world in 90 minutes. The astronauts will share their breath-taking views of planet Earth which will be beamed to TV screens in stunning HD.
Onboard the ISS, live links will be to English speaking astronauts Rick Mastracchio (American) and Koichi Wakata (Japanese). Whilst on the ground Dermot O'Leary and space veteran Mike Massimino – one of the astronauts who helped repair and upgrade the Hubble Telescope – will be at the heart of Mission Control with the team who literally hold Rick and Koichi's lives in their hands. Also taking part are Professor Stephen Hawking and British astronaut Tim Peake, who is himself set to join the crew onboard the ISS in 2015. Over the course of two hours the programme will be onboard the ISS, 250 miles above Earth, travelling at 17,500 mph.
Astronauts: Living in Space
This programme documents what it is really like to live and work in space for months at a time, through the eyes of astronauts Rick and Koichi and their families, with additional material from Mike Hopkins and other astronauts. It will include behind-the-scenes footage from their lift-off in Baikonur, Kazakhstan – including pre-launch and launch, then their arrival on the ISS, both from Rick and Koichi's perspective and those of their families. Viewers will hear Rick and Koichi's dreams of becoming astronauts and what it means to them to do a job which is literally out of this world.
The programme will explain that the main function of the ISS is to carry out research experiments for a wide range of scientists around the world and how this fits into Rick and Koichi's daily life. The programme will include day-to-day tasks which have to be approached in completely different ways such as eating, sleeping and washing. Viewers will be able to examine, in detail, the effects of microgravity on the astronauts' bodies and how this is being tackled thanks to pioneering science and medicine. This is done by Rick and Koichi becoming human guinea pigs to help in the quest to extend the human body's ability to spend longer periods in microgravity.
There will be interviews with flight surgeon Dr. Shannan Moynihan and Dr. Mike Barratt to discuss how space is an alien environment for humans and there are myriad conditions to be aware of. Most notably radiation, deterioration of sight and the loss of bone density which is tackled by a treadmill and gym on the ISS – which was a massive technical challenge to ensure it doesn't put a strain on the structure.
The psychological effects of being in space and how NASA works to support the crews and families before during and after their missions will also be examined. The amount of rigour and care given is extremely impressive. We'll have unprecedented access to the homes of Rick and Koichi's wives, Candi, Stephi and Mike's wife Julie Hopkins, and will see their heart-warming conversations with their husbands. Finally we'll learn about returning home with a bump, via a Russian Soyuz, and how astronauts adjust back to life on Earth.
Astronauts: Houston We Have a Problem
In this programme Mission Control opens its doors to allow cameras to follow the crucial work of the flight controllers, scientists, engineers, medics who support the crew in space. These specialists in their respective fields work tirelessly to anticipate and deal with every potential incident or emergency. With unique access, this programme reveals how any problems are dealt with in real-time. It will examine challenges faced by the astronauts and ground controllers when crises occur in space such as Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano's near drowning due to a recent helmet leak during a spacewalk and how the ground crew supported astronaut Chris Hadfield during another spacewalk.
The programme will follow Mike Massimino and the mission to fix the Hubble and the work that TOPO (Trajectory operations Officer) does to make sure the ISS and its crews stay safe from flying debris – showing how reality differs from the recent Hollywood depiction in 'Gravity'. The TOPO flight controller is responsible for planning and tracking the current location and destination of the ISS and its supporting vehicles. By planning all station orbital manoeuvres, the TOPO flight controller can ensure the ISS is not impacted by space debris that orbits the Earth. These stories give a real insight to the teamwork that goes into problem solving at NASA and how different disciplines combine to come up with a solution. This is encapsulated by the team effort required to successfully carry out two emergency spacewalks during the current mission this Christmas. Experienced astronaut Rick Mastracchio and first timer Mike Hopkins made two trips out of the ISS to replace a broken cooling system which temporarily impaired half of the station and halted vital scientific experiments.
Arrow Media will also produce 'Live from Space' which will air on National Geographic Channel in 170 countries (excluding the UK). It will also simulcast on NGC's Spanish-language network in the US, Nat Geo MUNDO.