Since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969, exploring and understanding Mars has been the next big landmark for mankind’s progress in space. Even today, the Red Planet captivates both the public and the scientific community, garnering more and more attention and research. However, the more scientists learned about Mars and space, the more they realized how difficult it was to reach. Nonetheless, considerable progress has been made since then, culminating in successfully landing machines on Mars’s surface.
The short film “Destination Mars: The New Frontier” sets up and tells the hypothetical narrative of an astronaut’s journey to Mars. The narrator uses rhetoric to present her story in an optimistic, hopeful, and seemingly logical manner, emphasizing the sentiment that colonizing Mars can be made possible through effort and cooperation.
From the very beginning, the narrator sets a hopeful and progressive tone, such as when she says “Today’s missions are laying the groundwork for future human missions to Mars… One day, we’ll get there.
” Many people today still view a manned Mars mission to be something that may or may not happen in their lifetimes, and those who do not pay close attention likely believe that efforts have been cast to the sidelines.
Through her rhetoric, the narrator replaces these uncertain feelings with a positive outlook, telling the audience that slowly, but surely, progress is being made towards the Mars mission everyone wishes to witness. Once the mood is established, the narrator brings up the International Space Station, a permanent outpost in Earth’s orbit made by a combined worldwide effort.
In “Destination Mars”, the ISS serves as an example of the seemingly impossible things humans can achieve through large scale cooperation. Keeping up the optimism, the narrator mentions “[Research on the ISS] Continues to break new ground in biotechnology and medicine… recycling water… extending the shelf life of food.” By connecting the ambition and scale of the ISS project to its success and contributions, she leads the audience to harbor similar hopes for the first manned mission to Mars. From here, the narrator seamlessly transitions to a realistically-fictional story of a journey to the Red Planet.
Though the film aims to be positive in tone, it still takes extra care to remain realistic, and in a sense, relatable. The narrator does so through pathos, seeking to evoke the emotions of the audience through rhetoric. Such a strategy is reminiscent of information presented during lecture in Rhetoric 103: that “rhetoric is tied up with emotion.” The course demonstrated that pathos is very effective in achieving the speaker’s goals. For instance, we read Paul Fussell’s article “Thank God For the Atom Bomb”, where he uses first hand accounts of soldiers suffering on the front lines to express his support for the nuclear weapons.
We also examined the play “An Enemy of the People”, in which the mayor of the town uses nothing but emotionally charged dialogue to garner support from nearly all the townspeople, despite the opposition having hard evidence against him. The segment of the film regarding the letters the narrator’s daughter sent, as well as the part about fixing the damaged radiation shield are prime examples of the narrator’s effort to use pathos to her advantage. Receiving encouragement from back home and overcoming obstacles along the way are both extremely relatable aspects of most peoples’ lives, and also serve the purpose of maintaining the movie’s mood.
Once the narrator reaches Mars, she goes into detail about the necessary steps to colonize the planet’s surface. However, contrary to the mood and theme of the film, colonization has historically come with heavy negative connotations. In fact, in the context of human civilization, colonization has a different meaning altogether. In SS 103, the professor taught us about the first civilizations and the empires that followed them. In class, colonization meant taking an area by force and settling on the land of the subjugated.
Almost every significant transfer of power was the result of violence and cruelty, like how Persia was colonized by Macedonia, which was in turn conquered by Rome, and so on. The film is easily able to avoid this pitfall by focusing on the fact that Mars is an uninhabited and untouched land. It avoids extrapolating too far into the future, where colonization on Mars could mean the same it does on Earth today. Instead of seeing her Mars mission as an expedition to conquer an unknown land, the narrator views it as an anticipated journey to a new land of opportunity.
At the same time, she describes many instances where collaborative effort is crucial to overcome obstacles that are easily achieved on Earth, such as agriculture, waterworks, and transportation. Along with the accompanying visuals of humans accomplishing said obstacles, and suspenseful background music, the filmmaker is once again able to uphold the theme and atmosphere of the movie.
Taking everything into account, the narrator and filmmakers are able to create and maintain an optimistic tone through rhetoric emphasizing past successes of human cooperation and describing the same success in context of the future. The presentation evokes emotion and imagery in the minds of the audience, leading them to improve their outlook on the first manned Mars mission.