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Ron Howard on the importance of space travel

National Geographic logo National Geographic 11/7/2018 Brooke Sabin
Earth's oceans and landmasses form an elegant picture when seen from space. © Photograph by NASA/NOAA Earth's oceans and landmasses form an elegant picture when seen from space.

In his long showbiz career, Ron Howard seems to have done it all, from playing beloved TV characters such as tousle-headed tyke Opie Taylor and ’50s high schooler Richie Cunningham to directing blockbuster films like A Beautiful Mind.

Ron Howard wearing a blue hat: For many years, Academy Award winner Ron Howard has focused a lens on space. © Photograph by Mike Parmalee, Nat Geo Image Collection For many years, Academy Award winner Ron Howard has focused a lens on space.

And for many years, the Academy Award winner has focused a lens on space. (Think Apollo 13 and Solo: A Star Wars Story.) This curiosity about the cosmos fuels his work as an executive producer of National Geographic’s hit docudrama series Mars, whose second season debuts November 12.

As National Geographic launches Starstruck, a yearlong celebration of space, Howard shares his thoughts on rocketing into new realms, seeing Earth from a distance, and addressing one moon-landing skeptic.

What do you think the future of space travel holds?

I share most space futurists’ belief that colonizing Mars is both a threshold-smashing idea for humankind and an important practical base for the truly grand adventure of deep-space Star Trek-type exploration of the universe. I think it’s probably our destiny.

If you were to look at Earth from space, what would your thoughts be?

When I was directing Apollo 13, several astronauts, including Jim Lovell, described the feeling of looking back at Earth and finding all our societal differences and conflicts to be so ludicrous and small-minded when the planet was viewed as a single entity alone in space. I bet I’d feel the same.

Let’s say you could send a postcard to Mars from anywhere on Earth. Where would it come from?

I’d send it from Cedar Vale, Kansas, because that’s where I heard my late paternal grandfather say that he didn’t believe astronauts ever went to the moon. He figured it was impossible and that it was a televised hoax! I’d enjoy the irony of mailing a postcard to Mars from that town. Sorry, Granddad!

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