The best sci-fi thriller on HBO Max reveals a brutal truth about life on Mars

Mars is a hellish landscape. Step onto the planet without a protective spacesuit and your eyes will jump out of their caves when your blood vessels rupture and your whole body gets cramps. At least that is the premise of one of the most successful science fiction films that has ever set foot on the red planet.

Fortunately, Mars colonizes in Total recall‘s imagined future do not go so much outside, stay in large domes filled with breathable air instead. But these domes are a different kind of hell. For many, the conditions are terrible. People are being charged for significant resources, and poor radiation protection has led to genetic mutations.

There’s a lot of wild and escapist sci-fi in there Total recall. Talking taxis, a three-breasted lady, flashing memory implantation machines, a was-it-all a dream? end, and a psychic rebel leader joined his brother George’s belly.

But the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle from director Paul Verhoven also forces us to consider the harsh realities of life on Mars – and how those in power may one day control the planet’s precious resources. Is Total Recall a vision of humanity’s future life on Mars? Let’s take a closer look.

Reel Science is a Vise versa series that reveals the true (and fake) science behind your favorite movies and TV shows.

Can you go for a walk on Mars?

Visit Mars!Pictures of Carolco

To determine how hostile conditions are on Mars in the first scene of Total recall is crucial from a storytelling perspective. It sets the tone for the film and provides a stark contrast to the uplifting ending of the film. According to Dr. Nicholas Heavens, who works at the research non-profit organization Space Science Institute and specializes in Mars’ weather and climate, is also very accurate.

“It may not be as visually impressive as in Total recallbut leaving the pressured environment on your Mars base would have fatal consequences, ”says Heavens Vise versa.

This is because the atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide and the air is very thin.

“Atmospheric pressure is about 150 times less than on Earth,” Heavens adds.

Dr. Erin McDonald, an astrophysicist, author, producer and science consultant at Star Trek, says it helps to think of Mars as a vacuum. “Do you know those science museum experiments with bell glasses where you suck all the air out to see what happens in a vacuum? When these perform their best, the ‘atmosphere’ inside is comparable to Mars.”

“Your eyes would not pop out. “

But the pressure problem is one of many.

“Mars is much more exposed to solar wind and radiation than Earth is because Mars does not have a magnetic field,” McDonald says. “So even though it may not be immediate, you would also get a damn sunburn.”

So what would it look like if we stepped outside on Mars? Would death be inevitable? Would our eyes bulge out of their sockets like Schwarzennagers at the end of the movie?

“As soon as he was pushed out, he would have been beaten in a loop by the ruptured eardrums and some blood vessels in his face, suffocated in about a minute and found frozen with a terrible case of sunburn on bare skin.” Dr. Heavens says. “An analogy with what divers experience during rapid pressure drop suggests that there may be some eye damage, but your eyes would not ‘jump out’ in the same way.”

Could we cultivate our own atmosphere on Mars

Could we use Mars’ resources to create a habitable atmosphere on the planet?Pictures of Carolco

Total recalls mining on Mars reveals a big, million-year-old secret: ancient alien technology that can terraform the planet. As Arnold’s character explains: “The whole of Mars’ core is ice, the reactor melts it and it releases the oxygen […] Enough for the whole planet. “

Assuming there is no alien technology hidden on Mars in real life, then is there at least some truth in the idea that we could use the planet’s interior to make it more hospitable on the surface?

“Mars does not have a glacier. The core of each planet is hot; heat is back from formation,” said Sara Seager OC, an astronomer, planetary scientist and professor at MIT. is made of carbon dioxide but also of water. “

Could these glaciers be used to give Mars a breathable atmosphere?

“People are definitely wondering about terraforming Mars,” Seager says. “Melting the polar ice caps would release these potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thus warming the planet by creating a greenhouse atmosphere.” But we still have to find a way to generate oxygen.

“We have to rebuild the atmosphere faster than it is lost. “

Dr. Tanya Harrison, a geoscientist who has worked on several NASA missions and is now director of strategic science initiatives at Planet Labs, says one way to produce breathable oxygen would be to extract it from the atmosphere.

“Thanks to science, we can tear oxygen from carbon dioxide,” Harrison says, “and NASA’s Perseverance rover actually has an instrument on board called MOXIE that does this while we talk!”

Larger versions of MOXIE – which stands for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – could generate enough oxygen for human bases. But the lack of a magnetic field on Mars means that all long-term plans would be a challenge.

“Without the protection of a magnetic field, the solar wind slowly removes the atmosphere,” Harrison says. “We’ll have to rebuild the atmosphere faster than it’s lost, and we would create that atmosphere from limited resources.”

Are we heading for a Mars dystopia?

Limited access to oxygen among the working class on Mars leads to ugly mutations in the film.Pictures of Carolco

At the core of Total recall lies a destructive and all too familiar story of gross inequality. The rulers of Mars control its resources and treat their citizens badly. They have the means to make Mars lively for all, but choose to keep it quiet.

We may not have established our own presence on Mars yet, but many people are concerned that this is exactly how those with power, money, and resources will treat the Red Planet and its future human inhabitants.

“It stinks and I hate it.”

“Right now we’re in a capitalism – driven space race,” says astrophysicist Erin McDonald. “So if companies establish a presence outside the world, I can see them using basic resources to generate profit. Any space development effort with a profit-driven mindset will benefit from this. It stinks, and I hate it.”

Although all Vise versa spoke to this article had a similar meaning, there was hope for a future that was brighter than the one we so often see in dystopian fiction.

“Early on, people will be in an environment where everyone has to play a role in keeping the base running in order to survive. This naturally means that we need to take better care of each other and create a sense of collective community. ” says geoscientist Tanya Harrison. “As someone who idealistically dreams of a Star Trek-like future, I hope we learn from our mistakes on Earth.”

Vilos Cohaagen is the cruel, capitalist ruler of Mars in Total recall.Pictures of Carolco

But Total recall is not just a warning about our future on Mars. During its sci-fi set dressing, there’s a much more urgent lesson where many people currently in power do not have to become administrators on Mars to behave like a dystopian villain – they already do.

They have the means to drastically improve the lives of millions, but either they choose not to do so or have turned their attention to something else. Think of Elon Musk’s focus on Mars, which he has justified by saying, “Life can not just be about solving problems.” (Sounds just about right when you’re one of the few privileged to have none.)

We need to think more like Total recall‘s psychic rebel leader Kuato., we need to open our minds and unlock ways to take better care of the Earth and life for all on it Before we go out into the stars. Otherwise, our home planet may soon come to look much closer to Paul Verhoven’s Martian hell landscape.

Total recall now streamed on HBO Max.

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