MARS: OUR FUTURE ON THE RED PLANET

PrintE-mail Written by Nigel Watson

Space exploration by governments and commercial enterprises is going through an exciting period. Nearly every day there are plans, proposals and tests for vehicles that will take people into sub-orbital flights, or trips to the Moon or more ambitiously to the planet Mars.

Elon Musk the founder of SpaceX, thinks he can get a manned mission to Mars by 2022 and he dreams of colonising it so that we can become a spacefaring civilisation. Less optimistic experts state that the first mission could get there by 2033, which is the date used in the National Geographic channel’s six-part Mars TV docudrama series.

In this companion book to the series, Leonard David looks at the many technological and physiological obstacles we have to overcome to make such a mission viable. Each of the book’s six chapters relates to an episode of the series, with a brief plot summary accompanying interviews with space scientists and engineers who provide insights into how we can get there and how we can colonise it.

This large format hardback contains stunning images of Mars, the hardware to get us there and the experts and people behind these projects. There is a foreword by executive producer Ron Howard who notes that they strived for authenticity and scientific accuracy when creating the TV series and hopes it, along with this book, will fire people’s imaginations.

Mars continues the tradition of Martain movies, since Rocketship X-M directed by Kurt Neumann in 1950, which have made us wonder how we might explore Mars and whether there is life lurking there. Like viewing Rocketship X-M today, it is equally quaint to see this book begins with a painting of a rocketship being prepared for lift-off from the Martian surface produced by space artist Chesley Bonestell in 1956. Only the future will tell us if the possibilities outlined by Leonard and the TV series will look as quaint and old-fashioned when the first spacecraft eventually touches down on its surface.

Given the fact it has taken so long for Virgin Galactic to produce a viable spaceplane for sub-orbital tourism, and the fact that the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli Mars lander crashed on the very night of the UK press launch of Mars, 2033 seems a wildly optimistic target for a human Martian expedition. But this is rocket science, and you can never underestimate its ability to achieve the ‘impossible’.

This is a fascinating and beautiful book for any armchair astronaut.

MARS: OUR FUTURE ON THE RED PLANET / AUTHOR: LEONARD DAVID / PUBLISHER: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 17TH

 


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