Earlier this year, astronaut Scott Kelly blasted off into space, where he will spend the next year, attempting to set a single-mission record for a U.S. astronaut. Time Inc.'s nascent news documentary unit Red Border Films will be along for the ride with a new Web series A Year in Space.
The 10-episode series will follow Scott, his twin brother and fellow astronaut Mark and his family as he spends a year in space at the International Space Station; Mark will be on the ground while Scott will be in space. The mission began March 27. Time released the first two episodes this morning and will roll out the remaining eight over the span of the mission.
Jonathan Woods, Time's senior multimedia editor, explained to Adweek that the project was initially only supposed to be a print cover story—the publication had pegged Kelly for "The Year Ahead" issue.
"It really started off as a print story," said Woods. "We went down [in early December] to NASA and scrambled to get a space suit for our cover shoot." Woods explained that it wasn't until he was sitting in Kelly's living room that he realized there was a much larger story to tell.
Woods credited the collaboration between NASA, the Russians and Boeing (which is the series' launch sponsor) with making the project happen.
The first two episodes, which Adweek viewed, primarily focus on the time before the Kellys got to the ISS. The first episode deals with the families' reaction to the brothers going to space for a year, while the second details Scott training with Russian Cosmonauts in Star City, Russia. Kelly blasted off on March 27 on a Russian Soyuz rocket that docked with the ISS.
"I used to say that the best day of my life was the day that I climbed the World Trade Center spire," said Woods. "I had to replace that with 'the best day of my life was March 27 watching Scott strap himself to a rocket and shoot himself into low Earth orbit.'"
The project is also the biggest undertaking for Time's two-year-old news documentary unit, Red Border Films. The unit had previously done smaller projects on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and Iraq war veteran Bobby Henline.
"Expanding Red Border and telling stories in this way is really important," says J.R. McCabe, Time's svp of video. "Projects like this with so much gravity to them have unique ways to come to life and will be indicative of what we intend to do and how we intend to grow the shingle."
Time's A Year in Space project comes as space exploration seems to be regaining popularity. Following the successful reboot of Cosmos last year, the show's host, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (whose own popularity has been rising) kicked off a TV version on National Geographic of his podcast, StarTalk. NASA's Charles Bolden was even a featured interviewee during one of the episodes; another one featured Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Deep space exploration was a main theme of Christopher Nolan's 2014 sci-fi epic Interstellar, and Nolan was also the featured guest on an episode of Tyson's StarTalk.
"For us to be able to add another layer of interest to space is what was really the vibrant factor of this series," said McCabe.