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CBS gives 'go' for 'Mission Control' TV pilot from author of 'The Martian'

"The Martian" author Andy Weir, seen at NASA's Mission Control in Houston in May 2015, is writing the script for "Mission Control," a new TV series for CBS. (NASA/James Blair and Lauren Harnett)
January 18, 2017

— The author of "The Martian" just got the "go" to launch a pilot of a different type.

Andy Weir, who penned the bestselling book that was the basis for the 2015 feature film "The Martian," which starred Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars, has written the script for a new space adventure headed for television.

"For the past several months, I have been working on a TV show pilot and I'm happy to announce that CBS is going to make it!" Weir announced Tuesday (Jan. 17) on Facebook.

"It's called 'Mission Control' and it's a drama set at NASA," he described. "The main characters are flight controllers at the Mission Control Center in Houston and the astronauts aboard the space station that they take care of."

CBS Television Studios announced it had ordered the pilot episode for "Mission Control" on Tuesday.

Click to enlarge video and view in a new, pop-up window. (NASA)

"We're about to begin casting it," said Weir. "And we have an impressive group of behind-the-camera people already involved. Notably Aditya Sood, whom I worked with before on 'The Martian.'"

Simon Kinberg, who with Sood was also a producer on the "The Martian," will executive produce the new series.

Weir, who was a computer programmer and amateur writer until his early serialized version of "The Martian" attracted the attention of a publisher and later, director Ridley Scott, toured NASA's real Mission Control Center during a visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in May 2015.

Named after NASA's first flight director, the Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center (MCC) was established in Houston for the Gemini program in 1965. The facility was subsequently used to manage all of the Apollo missions to the moon, the expeditions to the Skylab orbital workshop, the joint U.S. and Russian Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, 135 space shuttle flights and more than 16 years of continuous crewed operations aboard the International Space Station.

"When I was a kid, [while] all the other kids pretended to be astronauts, I pretended to be a flight controller," replied Weir in response to his announcement on Facebook.

The original art for NASA's Mission Control emblem, as suggested by flight director Gene Kranz in 1972. (McCall Studios)

In Houston, Weir said he was impressed with the amount of integration and teamwork that was required to operate the space station. The fact that flight controllers have call signs, he said, is "narrative gold" in terms of storytelling.

Even before his visit to NASA, Weir demonstrated that he understood and appreciated the work of mission control in writing "The Martian."

"The focus on [stranded astronaut Mark] Watney and what was happening on the ground in Houston is a very realistic scenario of what we go through [here] when we train crew members and flight controllers who must quickly analyze a situation and prioritize tasks," said Ellen Ochoa, director of Johnson Space Center and a former shuttle astronaut.

On Tuesday, Weir said he wanted "Mission Control" to also be faithful to NASA's reality.

"Of course, I am all about scientific accuracy and this show will be no exception," Weir said of the CBS series. "Should be a hell of a show!"

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