Humankind’s greatest adventure is but mere decades away. In this century, unmanned space probes equipped with artificial intelligence will be sent to search for life on planets beyond our solar system. But what happens when we find it?
Darwin IV, located 6.5 light years from Earth, has two suns and 60 percent of Earth’s gravity. Having identified Darwin IV as an environment that may support life, Earth sends an unmanned pilot mission consisting of a “mother ship” – dubbed the Von Braun – and three probes, the Balboa, the da Vinci and the Newton. Their goal is to find, and assess any life forms on Darwin IV. “We will be the bystanders much more so than we are today with our robotic emissaries,” notes Dr. James Garvin, Chief Scientist, NASA. “But that’s okay… they’ll act more like us in the sense that they’ll observe, mine the data, understand the anomalies and find the sweet spots.”
Darwin IV is experienced through the "eyes" of the probes Newton (also known as Ike) and da Vinci (nicknamed Leo), whose biological and atmospheric data are relayed back to Von Braun and then communicated back to Earth through computer voice simulation and on-screen readouts.
Initially, the expectation is to find evidence of microscopic life. However, the probes soon find themselves in the middle of a developed ecosystem teeming with diversity of life of all sizes – just like Earth. “If you look at the diversity of what species look like on this planet, nature has come up with better things than our best science fiction,” comments J. Craig Venter, of the J. Craig Venter Institute, who was responsible for successfully mapping the human genome.
The life on Darwin IV will test the limits of technology and the intellect of the greatest minds of our time. It appears that life on the strange planet is bigger, faster and even more dangerous than we ever imagined.
ALIEN PLANET takes viewers on a dramatic virtual mission of the future – a trip to a fictional planet known as Darwin IV – in the premiere two-hour special ALIEN PLANET.
Rooted in the latest scientific research from the NASA Origins Program, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Planet-Finder Mission and European Space Agency’s Darwin Project, this computer-animated program features some of the world’s most renowned scientists, including Stephen W. Hawking, Michio Kaku and J. Craig Venter, as well as celebrated Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas. They will discuss the possibilities of life outside our solar system and deconstruct the animals on Darwin IV based on the laws of evolution and physics.