The space race shifts to Mars in For All Mankind S3.
The fictional battle for space domination between the US and Russia shifts the focus from the moon to Mars for the third season of For All Mankind. Ars staff have dubbed this relatively underrated gem “Moon Show,” and Apple TV+ has now released the official trailer for the show’s third outing on the streaming platform.
(Some spoilers for the previous two seasons.)
Ars Senior Technology Reporter Andrew Cunningham chose the series for our 2021 TV Technica list, praising its “complex, likeable, memorable characters.” Series creator Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) has gone to great lengths to keep the show fairly close to reality despite its science fiction concept, often consulting original NASA plans for guidance and incorporating archival footage throughout the season. And as Cunningham wrote last year, “the reuse and deepfaking of historical footage is fascinating, both as a storytelling tool and as a technical feat.”
In S1, an astronaut named Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) became the Apollo 10 commander. His foil was fellow astronaut Gordo Stevens (Michael Dorman), a stereotypical, hard-drinking, womanizing pilot. Apollo 10 was the “dress rehearsal” for the historic Apollo 11 moon landing when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. But in this alternate timeline, the decision not to land on the moon with Apollo 10 meant that the USSR defeated America. Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history instead.
enlarge † An alternate timeline where humanity walks on Mars? Yes please!
During the first season, both countries found water on the moon, and America established the first lunar base in 1974, followed shortly after by a Soviet lunar base eight miles away. The first season ended with a complicated two-part episode featuring a desperate Apollo 25 launch to carry out an Apollo 24 relief and rescue mission. A post-credits scene set in 1983 featured a sea launch of a Sea Dragon rocket carrying a plutonium charge, en route to the American colony of Jamestown on the moon.
The second season was set during the same period of the 1980s during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In the show’s alternate timeline, the US and Soviet Union were now fighting over which country would control the rich resources on the moon. NASA became more militarized as a result, and Baldwin became commander of a new nuclear-powered space shuttle called Pathfinder.
During the season, the Jonestown moon colony struggled with massive solar flares, sabotage by Russian cosmonauts, and a damaged nuclear reactor, necessitating a daring repair mission in duct-taped spacesuits. (RIP the two astronauts who made the repairs and made sure the reactor didn’t melt but perished from exposure to vacuum.) Finally, the threat of all-out nuclear war was neutralized and the final scene showed a human in a spacesuit walking on the surface from Mars.
enlarge † Obviously, we’re getting more heart-pounding spacewalks.
And that’s where the third season begins. In the 1990s, the battle for space turned to Mars, and it’s not just a race between the US and Russia. Private industry has joined the fray in the form of a company called Helios. “Some say private individuals have nothing to do with space exploration,” we hear Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi) explain. “I strongly disagree with that.” (He appears to be the CEO of Helios.) But NASA is determined not to take second place — “to nobody.”
Scientists hope to find possible signs of life and sufficient resources (such as water) to support large-scale human colonization. But such an ambitious mission rarely runs smoothly. Most notably, a massive dust storm on Mars obscures both landing sites, forcing the astronauts to make a blind landing. Judging by the wild cheers of mission control in the trailer, NASA succeeds. But if previous seasons are any indication, that successful landing is just the beginning.
The third season of For All Mankind will premiere on Apple TV+ on June 10, 2022.
List image by YouTube/Apple TV+