The National Geographic has produced A Guide to Ham Radio to support its recently released digital short, Before MARS — a prequel to its upcoming MARS series. The 33-minute prequel, which has a heavy Amateur Radio theme, provides the back story of two principal characters in the upcoming MARS global event series.
In the prequel, twin teenaged sisters Hana and Joon Seung are the new kids in town, after their single mother relocates. In due course, they come across old ham radio transceivers — one in an attic, the other in a thrift shop — and use them to communicate with each other and with an older, local ham.
Tuning about, Hana — whose character gets most of the attention — hears an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) on her radio and eventually makes contact, as Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program participants do. In a touch of realism, the female astronaut uses the NA1SS call sign.
The Amateur Radio researcher on the film was veteran electrical engineer Michael Gilmer, N2MG, who said the producers contacted him through his connection with the eHam.net website. Patrick J. Kiger authored the guide.
Gilmer concedes that the depictions of Amateur Radio in the production take a few liberties, although he believes that non-hams will likely overlook these and focus instead on the story arc of self-discovery and relationships within a theme of young women becoming interested in science and scientific careers.
The sisters’ exposure to ham radio helps to inspire them to pursue careers in space exploration, become astronauts, and take part in a 2033 mission to Mars. MARS will combine documentary sequences about real-life efforts to travel to and colonize Mars.