Going to Mars--a dream as old as Galileo and now within our technological grasp--is an exciting idea that is virtually inevitable.
For America to spacecraft-pool to the Red Planet with the Soviet Union or, better yet, with an international consortium, is also a provocative thought. It's also eminently sensible and practical.
"Together to Mars?" tonight on PBS (9 p.m. Channel 50, 10 p.m. Channels 28, 15, 24) addresses the idea of a joint U.S.-Soviet Mars mission and questions what its goals should be and whether it should be manned or unmanned.
The program contains highlights of a 3 1/2-hour "Spacebridge" held in July between U.S. space scientists, engineers and astronauts in Boulder, Colo., and their Soviet counterparts in Moscow.
Linked by satellites, the scientists admit that the costs of going to Mars would be huge. But they generally agree that in addition to any scientific benefits, a long-term, cooperative U.S.-Soviet exploration of Mars would have priceless advantages in terms of advancing world peace and preserving life on Earth.
Despite the high-tech trickery, all those brilliant minds and the praiseworthy intentions of Carl Sagan and his sponsoring Planetary Society, however, "Spacebridge" can't overcome the fact that it is just two groups of scientists sitting around tables talking, which makes for some pretty ponderous watching.
A sprinkling of film and animated segments offers some help by showing such things as the giant Soviet Energia booster and planned Mars colonies and exploratory vehicles.
And it's interesting to know that even though most U.S. scientists think the mid-1970s Viking missions proved there is no life on Mars, the Soviets' ambitious Mars missions of the 1990s will still be concentrating on the search for life.
Mars may indeed be "the greatest adventure of man in the 21st Century," as one scientist puts it. But "Together to Mars?" (produced by Geoff Haines-Stiles in association with KCET) never quite reaches escape velocity.