The four-hour mini-series begins in the year 2026, with a test lander exploding on landing. Jumping to 2029, the narrator explains the mission, 'Project Olympus' and shows the four NTR spacecraft: Cargo lander Shirase, Mars Surface Habitat Atlantis, Mars lander Gagarin, and Crew Transfer Vehicle Terra Nova. In early 2030, the international crew of six astronauts from the United States, Russia, France, Canada and Japan board Terra Nova to begin their 582 day-month journey to Mars and back. They suffer numerous equipment failures along the way, eventually traced back to fraud on the part of a subcontractor. The international team is racing against China, who have already landed a robot on Mars. The astronauts successfully land on Mars, but astrobiologist Hiromi's arm is broken by a faulty landing gear. Later, the Chinese robot finds water, but it contains too much calcium chloride for it to contain life. Meanwhile, the crew's drilling equipment is irreparably damaged by a Martian dust devil. The crew sends an impassioned plea back to Earth, asking to allow them to cannibalize the Chinese robot lander, saying that the exploration of Mars should be for humankind and not be limited by politics.