Variety show goes to next level by exploring Mars(like) environment
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By Woo Jae-yeon
SEOUL, July 12 (Yonhap) -- After SBS' reality-travel show "Law of Jungle" explored the Antarctic, one of the harshest living environments on earth, in April, cable channel tvN is taking its cast members to an even more extreme, unknown territory -- Mars.
Not the real red planet, of course, where Matt Damon's character set foot in the 2015 hit movie "The Martian," inspiring many aspiring astronauts and space exploration fans.
The reality show "Galileo: Awakened Universe" sent a team of Korean celebrities -- headed by comedian Kim Byung-man, who is well-known for his survival skills as demonstrated in the SBS show -- to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah.
Built in early 2000s by non-profit group Mars Society, the place, with similar terrain and appearance to that of Mars, is meant to be a forum for conducting various scientific experiments in preparation for human exploration of the planet in the future.
A poster for "Galileo: Awakened Universe" in this image provided by tvN (Yonhap)
The show's producer, Lee Young-joon, said during a media promotional event on Thursday in Seoul that he had wanted to combine a reality show with science and that Mars grabbed his attention as it is currently one of the most interesting subjects in the global space science industry.
"I want to pique people's interest in Mars and show how the world has been preparing for Mars exploration," Lee said.
To make the show more realistic, the production team minimized intervention and replaced filming staff with some 140 cameras to naturally capture the members: Actor Ha Ji-won, boy band 2PM's Nichkhun and girl band gugudan's Kim Se-jeong. Three foreign scientists join the team to guide their research and experiments.
The members stayed for seven days at the MDRS, where they conducted various scientific research. The channel is said to have had a hard time persuading the center to permit the filming of an entertainment show there.
Comedian Kim Byung-man poses for photos during a press event for "Galileo: Awakened Universe" in Seoul on July 12, 2018. (Yonhap)
Comedian Kim said the experience was beyond description and that he faced so many unexpected factors while living there, which often caught him off guard.
"It was the most amazing and nerve-racking experience in my life ... I took great comfort that it wasn't real Mars and I wouldn't die even if I took off the spacesuit and helmet," he said. "I wouldn't go (to Mars) even if I had a chance."
Having dreamed as a kid of becoming an astronaut, actor Ha described the center as a very "mysterious and interesting" place. Among many impressive experiences there, she said, the most interesting was the roller coaster of emotions that came from being confined in the unique and unfamiliar surroundings.
Citing scientific data that on July 31, Mars will come the closest to Earth that it has been since 2003, the producer said, "The program airs when the planet moves closer to Earth. It is the first time a reality show with a science topic will be broadcast. We hope TV viewers get more curious about science after watching the show."
The show will premiere at 4:40 p.m. on Sunday.
Actor Ha Ji-won talks during a press event for "Galileo: Awakened Universe" in Seoul on July 12, 2018. (Yonhap)