Martian Mega Rover (Full Version)

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2012 – This documentary tells the gripping, inside story of how those ambitious plans collided with enormous technical challenges and setbacks that doubled the budget and forced the launch date to slip more than two years. Veteran writer/producer/director Mark Davis, whose Emmy winning 2008 NGC production Five Years on Mars told the story of the Spirit and Opportunity mission, spent years embedded with the engineers and scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, capturing the dramatic mix of anxiety, despair, and elation that played out over the long struggle to get the Curiosity rover to the launch pad and on its way to Mars. He describes the experience: “The work these people do and the way they handle pressure is the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. It’s been a privilege to watch it happen it from the inside.” Along with the human drama, Davis also brings the rover to life, visualizing the challenges it will face landing and operating on Mars with vivid, photorealistic CGI by Mars visual effects specialist Dan Maas.

The $2.5 billion mega rover boasts a nuclear power supply, is equipped with a full laboratory that can test samples for organic building blocks of life, and can trek across miles of rugged terrain while beaming back to Earth images in high-definition 3-D. Weighing in at nearly a ton, five times heavier than its predecessors, Curiosity challenged its creators every step of the way, forcing a radical new approach to landing. When Curiosity approached Mars traveling 14,000 miles per hour, the spacecraft flawlessly executed a complex series of pre-programmed events leading up to the moment when a radical new touch-down system called the sky crane, hovering on a set of rockets, lowered the rover to the surface of Mars directly on its wheels.

After years of testing, re-testing and even more testing, the hard work of thousands of people culminated during seven short minutes on August 6, 2012. Davis and NGC were at JPL’s headquarters during the rover landing, documenting the sheer excitement of a monumental success. Footage shot by Davis, combined with control room footage from JPL and NASA-TV, will be inserted into the final minutes of the Martian Mega Rover special, offering viewers a complete perspective of every phase of the project.

With original, high-fidelity CGI and unparalleled access behind the scenes, Martian Mega Rover offers a rare insight into the stomach-churning emotions involved in delivering a $2.5 billion robot to another planet.

 

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Frontline: Secret History of the Credit Card , 4.4 out of 5 based on 7 ratings
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Frontline: Secret History of the Credit Card

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In “Secret History of the Credit Card,” FRONTLINE® and The New York Times join forces to investigate an industry few Americans fully understand. In this one-hour report, correspondent Lowell Bergman uncovers the techniques used by the industry to earn record profits and get consumers to take on more debt.

“The almost magical convenience of plastic money is critical to our famously compulsive consumer economy,” Bergman says. “With more than 641 million credit cards in circulation and accounting for an estimated $1.5 trillion of consumer spending, the U.S. economy has clearly gone plastic.”

Millions of American families use their personal, general-purpose credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover to make ends meet; credit cards have been a discreet lifeline for families in financial straits.

But other consumers, like actor and author Ben Stein, use plastic purely for convenience. While it would appear that Stein — who says he charges a small fortune every month on his credit cards — is the ideal customer, in reality, he is what some in the industry call a “deadbeat.” That’s because he pays his balance in full every month.

The industry’s most profitable customers, the ones being sought by creative marketing tactics, are the “revolvers:” the estimated 115 million Americans who carry monthly credit card debt.
 

Watch The Secret History of the Credit Card on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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Frontline: Secret History of the Credit Card , 4.4 out of 5 based on 7 ratings
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