Sean Penn will play the lead role in the new science-fiction TV series The First, marking the Academy Award-winner's first major recurring role on television.

Set in the near future, The First follows the first human mission to Mars and explores the challenges of taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization.

The eight episodes of the series will focus not only on the astronauts, but also on their families and loved ones and the ground team on earth.

The original drama for streaming service Hula is written by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon was given a straight-to-series order in May.

Details about Penn's characters have not yet been revealed.

Kevin Spacey is among the stars of The First

Willimon said of Penn's involvement: "I have such deep admiration for Sean's immense talent and extraordinary body of work. I feel very lucky to be collaborating with an artist of his calibre."

The 57-year-old actor has won two Oscars, one for his role in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River in 2003 and another for the biopic Milk in 2009. He has also been nominated for his roles in Dead Man Walking, I Am Sam and Sweet and Lowdown.

His notable TV roles include playing Eric on Friends, Ellen and appearances on Two and a Half Men and The Larry Sanders Show.

Production on The First is scheduled to begin this year and will air on Hulu in the US and Channel 4 in Ireland and the UK in 2018.

The news comes after Hulu picked up 10 awards at this year's Emmys, with The Handmaid's Tale winning eight gongs including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Elisabeth Moss and Outstanding Drama Series.

The news comes after Hulu original drama The Handmaid's Tale triumphed at the Emmys