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Sundance Kids: The Mars Generation
by Karen Pecota

Written and directed by Michael Barnett and Michael Mahaffie their feature documentary spotlights a group of teenagers training at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center to become the engineers and astronauts of tomorrow. These teenagers carry the hope and passion to lead mankind's journey to Mars.

The Apollo Era inspired generations to dream big and act big. The Space Shuttle Era developed a massive orbiting research laboratory as well as, to maintain a constant human presence in space. Currently, the Orion Era is working to inspire today's youth to venture further into space through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The next major goal in space travel is to the red planet of Mars. The youth of today in the NASA Space Camps are described as The Mars Generation. They are developing the process to renew the importance of and the investment to further space exploration.

Barnett and Mahaffie powerfully present the process that a mighty force of self-professed teenage "space nerds," while attending the annual NASA Space Camp display an ever growing spirit of Carpe diem (seize-the-day) for space exploration. The film audience observes an enlightening documentary about how some very fortunate teens are allowed to express their passion and chase their dreams of traveling to Mars, while notable experts in the space program reflect on NASA's history and future.

Noting that the U.S. space program today would not be in its maturity, if it were not for the vision of Adolf Hitler's weapons master and former SS Nazi, Dr. Wernher Von Braun. He and his team were the founding fathers of programs in space. They gave the U.S. the best designs for space travel beginning with the Nazi V2 Rocket and wanted desperately to figure-out how to get to Mars. In the '50s Walt Disney featured Von Braun on the Disney educational TV series explaining space age projections. This was the beginning of Walt Disney's idea for his amusement parks featuring a Tomorrowland.

Similar to the questions Dr. Wernher Von Braun asked, so does our own famous scientist, Bill Nye (the science guy), says, "Let's go out there and change the world. There are two questions that everybody asks: Where did we come from? (How did we get here on earth?) and, Are we alone in the universe?" The Mars Generation has the potential to answer the latter.

Bill says that one can only go to Mars once every 26 months due to the orbit around the Earth and once you are there you have to be prepared to stay for an extended period of time. More than a few days. One has to be prepared to live off the land, a natural deduction which The Mars Generation is currently at work trying to figure out the details of such a life.

"A lot of things are alarming with climate changes. We are finding a lot of things are not reversible. We can either find somewhere to go (like to Mars), or we can develop technologies that will help us repair what damage we've done," Rachel, age 16 notes.

The NASA Space Camp is the closest in which youth today can get to space. These teens ranging from ages 14 - 18 years old are the first ever to test out the simulation for a Mars mission: RAJ, Kyle, Josh, Victoria,Tegan, Jace, Patrick, Colin, Aurora, Ian, Alyssa, Rachel, Zoe, Kyle and Abby Harrison, age 18, says, "I hope my generation will be defined by Mars." I guarantee you that we will see these names again.

The Space Camp attendees or "space nerds" as they choose to call themselves, have no experience but have a longing to learn how to be an influential generation through the STEM fields and propel the future on Mars. They will become our future astronauts. Some will be the engineers, others the scientists, techies and mathematicians. All occupations necessary to form a viable working team for exploration. The work they are doing now in their teens will make a difference when all of them will be in their 30s. They will be ready to step foot on Mars and SPACE CAMP will have prepared them to discover more of our galaxy.

Currently, Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and his SpaceX interplanetary transport system SpaceX Simulation has already successfully taken off and landed on these dates: SpaceX Flight 20 experimental landing, December 22, 2015; SpaceX flight 23 experimental landing, April 8, 2016; and SpaceX flight 25, experimental landing, May 27, 2016. Elon believes he can get people to Mars by the mid-2020s.

Elon is trying to ignited a series of options for success but does not want to do it alone. He sees that the private industry is willing to take risks right now that NASA isn't able simply due to money. So for now his investments are making way for The Mars Generation to take the baton when handed to them and step foot on Mars or beyond. (Karen Pecota)