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Mission to Mars (2000) is a science fiction film directed by Brian De Palma from an original screenplay written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and Graham Yost. In 2020, a manned Mars exploration mission goes awry. American astronaut Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise) coordinates a rescue mission for a colleague. Principal support actors were Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O'Connell, and Kim Delaney. Film inspiration was partly from the Disney attraction of the same name, to be the second Disney film based on a theme park attraction, following the 1997 made-for-TV movie Tower of Terror.
In 2020, the first manned mission to Mars is launched. The Mars I spacecraft is commanded by Luke Graham (Don Cheadle) with fellow astronauts Nicholas Willis (Kavan Smith), Sergei Kirov (Peter Outerbridge), and Renée Coté (Jill Teed). Upon arrival, the team discover a crystalline formation within a mountain in the Cydonia region. After transmitting their finding back to the World Space Station orbiting Earth, they head for the site to do further analysis. Once there, they hear a strange sound on their communications system, which they assume to be interference from their planetary rover. While they scan the formation with radar, a large whirlwind springs up and kills Nicholas, Sergei, and Renée. Only Luke survives after being buried alive in the rocky debris. After the vortex subsides, a large humanoid face is exposed within the mountain. Later, Luke manages to upload an emergency transmission to the R.E.M.O. (REsupply MOdule) orbiting the planet. After receiving Luke's garbled message, a second ship is hastily readied for a rescue mission.
The crew of the Mars II recovery craft includes Commander Woody Blake (Tim Robbins), Co-Commander Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise), and mission specialists Terri Fisher (Connie Nielsen) and Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O'Connell). They are sent to investigate the tragedy and rescue Luke. As the ship enters Mars orbit, a swarm of meteors collides with it, breaching the hull. The crew works quickly to repair the damage, but the external fuel tanks are overlooked, causing a large leak and later, an explosion. They quickly put on pressure suits and maneuver their way to the R.E.M.O. module orbiting the planet. Woody concludes that the only hope of a successful rendezvous with the R.E.M.O. is for him to launch himself directly at it using the remainder of his jet pack fuel, carrying a tether from the others. He successfully attaches the cord to the R.E.M.O., but is unable to properly land on it, floating helplessly away toward the planet. Terri tries to rescue Woody, but knowing she would run out of fuel before reaching him, Woody removes his helmet and dies to save her.
When the remaining group arrives on the surface from the R.E.M.O., they find Luke still alive. He has built a greenhouse and is living on its produce. He tells the rescuers about his crew's find, and that the crystalline structure looks humanoid. He's also discovered that the noise they recorded actually represents a map of human DNA in XYZ coordinates, but missing a pair of chromosomes. They suspect that the signal must be a test, inviting them to complete the human genome by adding the missing nucleotide sequence for the missing chromosomes. The earlier team had used radar to scan the crystalline formation, but without providing the right data they had failed the test, triggering the tornado.
Wanting to complete the sequence, but worried about the earlier radar scan, the crew dispatches a robot rover to reproduce the completed signal. Following the transmission, an opening appears in the side of the mountain. Jim, Terri and Luke head towards it, while Phil remains at the repaired emergency return vehicle with orders to launch, with or without them, at the agreed time. The trio ventures inside and the opening seals them in, disrupting radio communication with Phil. Soon, a three-dimensional projection of the solar system appears. They see the planet Mars, covered with water, being struck by a large asteroid, the surface subsequently ruined. A Martian then appears before the group.
It reveals that the Martians evacuated their world in spacecraft following the collision. All the vehicles headed out of the solar system except one, which went to a lifeless Earth first, leaving something behind in the ocean. The display then fast forwards through millions of years, showing the evolution of fish, land mammals and eventually humans, who could one day land on Mars and be recognized as descendants.
An invitation is offered for one astronaut to follow them to their new home planet. Jim decides to accept the invitation himself. After their farewells, the rest of the crew head back to the ship as Phil calls for them one last time before he is to take off. Still inside the alien structure, Jim steps into a cylinder which starts to fill with liquid. Fearing drowning, he initially holds his breath but soon discovers that the liquid is highly oxygenated, allowing him to breathe normally. The rest of the crew reach Phil in time and the three successfully lift off from Mars. As Jim is being prepared for what awaits him, he has a flashback of the important memories of his life. Jim's Martian ship blasts away and as it passes by his friends' earthbound capsule, they wish him luck on his voyage.