Channel 4 bosses have promised their Live from Space season will provide viewers with a brand new look at space exploration.
The broadcaster has teamed up with NASA to screen a “groundbreaking” strand of space related programming, concluding with a live two-hour broadcast from the International Space Station and Mission Control in Houston.
Dermot O’Leary will host a trio of “hi-spec shows” which Channel 4 promises will allow audiences to “get up close and personal with astronauts like never before”.
On Thursday channel bosses told journalists that both they and NASA were keen to offer a fresh take on the subject, including by having astronauts film part of the season’s opening programme.
Unlike the highly polished PR appearances already familiar to audiences, embers of the International Space Station crew were asked to film their daily life aboard the station ‘warts and all’.
Producers revealed how NASA was keen to use the groundbreaking season to dispel popular myths about astronauts, including that many were loners without families.
The agency also opened up its vast archives to provide programme makers with never before seen footage from its history of space exploration.
Journalists at Thursday’s press preview were shown harrowing footage taken by ISS crew member Frank Culbertson which shows how smoke from the World Trade Centre towers was visible even 250 miles above the Earth.
O’Leary will be joined for the programmes by NASA astronaut Mike Massimino.
Live from Space starts Wednesday March 12th
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.