Just as a manned mission to Mars is about to take off the launch pad, government officials open the hatch of the capsule and tell the three astronauts (James Brolin, Sam Waterston, O.J. Simpson) that they have to leave immediately. They do and the ship takes off without them.After they are taken to a secluded hangar out in the desert, it's explained to them (by Hal Holbrook) that if they would have died within two weeks, due to a faulty life support system. He convinces them that in order to save the space program they have to fake the Mars landing-and the astronauts reluctantly agree to go along with it.Everything goes as planned until the returning Mars capsule burns up in Earth's orbit. The astronauts realize that they'll be killed to maintain the façade so they escape into the desert, each man travelling in a different direction. But in the end only one of them makes it, partly due to the help of an investigative reporter (Elliott Gould).It's an interesting movie, perhaps more relevant now than it was in the 70's, with the recent robotic landings on the Red Planet and all. And it's probably right up those peoples' alleys who believe that all those Moon landings were faked by the government (I think the same people who belong to the flat Earth society).