Monday, October 31, 2016

MARS: Our Future on the Red Planet


MARS: Our Future on the Red Planet by Leonard David, narrated by Andrew Reilly. This is a National Geographic miniseries made into an official companion audiobook, three and a half hours on audio describing NASA’s plans and considerations in undertaking a mission to our nearest possibly habitable world (although Matt Damon didn’t have much luck.) While some scientists argue that we aren’t “there yet” in terms of technology (to be planning a Mars mission), others do want to go sooner rather than later (who knows when funding to NASA may dry up.) In an anti-science political environment it is difficult to imagine it would even happen, which is why NASA has gone on the offensive in capturing the public’s imagination with documentaries and pop science shows. This companion book describes the difficulties being encountered by scientists in fighting radiation, weightlessness, medical and psychological factors, equipment for life support, physics, food, and the scientific experiments they hope to conduct. Many robot missions have been to Mars, even from India and (soon) Dubai. Why go there with humans, other than for bragging purposes? “Hands” say the authors. Human hands operated by human minds actually working on the planet are the most needed tools. This is particularly useful for drilling operations, which robots have not done well. Surface water is nearly non-existent on Mars, and life improbable on the surface due to harsh conditions, but subsurface water is suspected for several reasons. And there is an abundant mineral that could be heated to release water. NASA is hoping to reach Mars with astronauts sometime in the next 25 years, if current technology improvements continue on track. Narrator Reilly is a skilled and listenable reader, a multilingual drama teacher who has traveled widely. Author David is an award-winning contributor to space related sites, and co-authored Buzz Aldrin’s biography.

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