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Will the first living Martians be Earthlings??
on August 22, 2011
"In this book...I will lay out in detail a plan for a near-term human Mars exploration...
It is my firm belief that we now possess the technology that could allow a human landing on Mars within ten years of any time a decision is made to launch the program. As I write this, it's 2011, and if we launch in October 2022, the first human crew will arrive April 9, 2023. On Mars [this will be] the height of the northern Martian spring. The weather will be at its best, with clear skies and low winds, and a landing will be called for...
The human exploration of Mars is not a task for some future generation. It is a task for ours.
We hold it in our power to begin the world anew.
Let's do it."
The above is found in this fascinating, detailed, and accessible book by Dr. Robert Zubrin with Richard Wagner. Zubrin is an aerospace engineer, president of the aerospace R&D company "Pioneer Astronautics," and the founder and president of the "Mars Society." Wagner is the former editor of "Ad Astra," the journal of the National Space Society.
When this book was first published in 1996, the late, great Dr. Carl Sagan called Zubrin the man who "nearly alone, changed our thinking on this issue." And I can see why! In this spectacular revised and up-to-date book we are shown how a manned flight to Mars can be achieved.
Zubrin's master plan for getting to Mars is called "Mars Direct." It is "the quickest, safest, most practical, and least expensive way" to do so using present-day technology. He explains this plan in detail.
Getting to the "red planet" is only the first step though. There then must be exploration and settlement of Mars. The key to doing these things, as Zubrin explains, is to produce fuel and oxygen on the planet's surface with its own natural resources.
The "ultimate challenge" that Mars presents to humanity is terraforming. Terraforming (meaning "Earth-shaping") of a planet, moon or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, and surface topology to be similar to Earth to make it habitable by terrestrial organisms.
The two biggest factors to consider for terraforming Mars is atmosphere and temperature:
(1) Its atmosphere currently consists of 95% carbon dioxide*, 3% nitrogen, 1.5% argon, and traces of oxygen, water vapour, and methane. Contrast this with Earth's atmosphere which is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon, and traces of carbon dioxide* and methane. Water vapour is 1% (varies with climate).
(2) Its mean surface temperature in Celsius is -65. Earth's mean is 14.
So, can we transform Mars to make it fully habitable? Zubrin says "we can" and he shows us how it can be done.
A chapter I found most interesting is entitled "Killing the dragons, avoiding the sirens." It deals with the possible hazards of space flight (like radiation hazards and zero gravity). Zubrin explains in convincing detail how these should not limit our dreams of going to and eventually inhabiting Mars.
All of the above is presented in this book's initial chapters. To summarize, these chapters were concerned with sketching out the technical possibilities and the vision of what can be accomplished by launching a human-to-Mars program. For the last chapter, the reader has to "come back to Earth" and consider those obstacles on Earth preventing a human Mars mission. Presented are three different models on how a human Mars mission might be accomplished.
At the end, there's a addendum on the Mars' meteorite discoveries of 1996. The first of two appendices is especially interesting since it outlines seven reasons why we must go to Mars.
Finally, throughout the book are helpful diagrams, informative tables, and black and white photographs. Also, there is a section near the end that has just over 25 black and white glossy photographs of mainly artwork.
In conclusion, this book dramatically shows how a flight by humans to Mars and settling humans on Mars is no longer a...fantasy!!
(revised and updated edition published 2009; map of Mars (colour); preface to revised edition; forward; preface; 10 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 335 pages; addendum; 2 appendices; glossary; notes; references; index; about the authors)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>