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on March 2, 2004
Will the first Human mission to Mars be a historical fact in my liftime? This is the central question of the book and the answer from a technological standpoint is certainly positive. The book Expedition Mars covers all technological fields needed to make a manned mission to Mars happen. The orbital mechanics of such a trip described in this book are even for a non-expert easy to follow, while the section on launch mass makes clear that every kilogram of payload to be send to the Martian surface needs a major increase in the launch mass of the rocket lifting the mission of Earth's surface. In the chapter on possible propulsion systems the author takes into account the public distrust in nuclear propulsion and describes the necessary measures to be taken to test such an engine on Earth without the release of radioactive material. He also clearly explains that such a engine will only be used and activated in space, greatly diminishing the risks. Not only technical issues related to a mission to Mars are described in the book, but also the financial-economical and social part of such a mission are well covered, proving that scientists and engineers are able to explain their work to the man in the street. In the final chapters Martin Turner explains the NASA reference mission to Mars, greatly influenced by the work of Zubrin and coworkers, and shows that the improvement in the design of such a mission is ten fold in almost every aspect. The costs for a human mission to Mars is currently estimated at 55 billion dollars as much as the (ANNUAL agricultural subsidies of the European Union) to be spread over a period of 15-20 years, equalling 2 billion dollars a year. This fits in the American as the European space budget. It is even lower than the annual amount spend in the Space Shuttle programme. The last chapter is devoted to the social-economic arguments for and against a human mission to Mars and should be a must-read for every one in the space business. In a realistic way the pros and cons of a manned mission are explained with even new arguments, such that the money spend on space missions is mostly covered by the man hours in such a project. This refutes the statement by antagonists of the Mars programme that all money is launched into space instead it is launched into the local economy by the people who work in the space industry.
All in all this book should be on the list of all space enthousiasts and space professionals and can well be used in science classes to get students back to studying natural sciences and engineering.
Arno Wielders
Chairman Mars Society Nederland
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