If you happened to be at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on the night of August 5 for the Curiosity rover landing on Mars, it might have felt like a Hollywood event. That's because numerous celebrities who happen to be geeks at large for science and space were there to watch history unfold. Even if some retro stars were in attendance as allegorical representatives (Nichelle Nichols from the original "Star Trek"), you also had the unexpected visitations from Seth Green and Morgan Freeman.
Then again, let's not count Morgan Freeman as unusual when you consider he's a worthy ambassador of science with his brilliant Science Channel show "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman." But when you analyze that statement, you realize that he's just that: an ambassador and not necessarily understanding everything he narrates on "Wormhole" in his omniscient manner. While perhaps these notables showed up unexpectedly, you have to assume that NASA contacted them first with an invite to arrange some sense of celebrity glamor to the Mars event.
That seemed to be the frame of mind when will.i.am was invited by NASA to the landing party as representative for science programs in our public schools. If you happened to tune in to NASA TV the night of the landing, you saw will.i.am talking, talking, and talking (however eloquently). A musician/music producer isn't one you'd expect to see in the forefront for a scientific fireworks show, despite NASA making it clear they need help in scientific recruitment.
Now that it's obvious Hollywood has been tapped by NASA to make science more applicable to all of our lives, how will they continue to be representatives? You could argue that with overexposure of celebrity involvement in every major event, it could ultimately be more detrimental than helpful. Or, it could lead to more Hollywood films that employ real life science into the plot to be assimilated by our next generations.
Doing so might be a challenge right now when superhero movies are taking over the mainstream movie landscape ahead of sci-fi. And the mini renaissance in sci-fi movies hasn't necessarily employed science that's within the realms of the real or theoretical as we used to see. It's one thing to show science that's theoretically possible from Philip K. Dick adaptations to just making things up to the point of being picked apart by astute viewers.
Any movies about space travel now fall under the phony science banner as we saw in "Prometheus." Going to Mars, also, is now the Hollywood curse no one dares mention at an executive's meeting without thinking of a character named Carter. It may only leave one area that still somewhat thrives: the IMAX documentary showcasing the scientific and natural world.
You can be sure that an IMAX documentary will be made about the Mars rover, Curiosity, no doubt narrated by Morgan Freeman. Assuming Curiosity works correctly and sends back hi-definition video of the surface of Mars, seeing that footage on an IMAX screen would likely inspire enough science recruits to fill a gymnasium.
In that regard, it may be the voice of celebrities in compelling, real-life scientific documentaries that becomes the real Hollywood recruitment payback. It may trump the physical presence of an actor trying to convince us he understands a physics equation on a chalkboard.