So you’re packing for a trip to Mars. You know it’s going to be a Hohmann transfer that will take half a year to get there. This will make those long family road trips with four or five people in a too-small car, half of whom can’t sit still without judicious use of rope and duct tape, look like a pleasant week-long jaunt. There’s not going to be room for a lot of bulky physical reading material, so you want to load up your favorite E-reader with all the right books. Which ones should you pick? Well, here’s a few of my picks to help you get ready for actually standing on the Red Planet.
A humorous look at a potential future Martian society, in which the quasi-legal is represented by ruthless Sisterhoods that can provide just about any product for a price if you don’t ask many questions about the source and pioneering spirits can stake a claim in a still mostly-uncivilized frontier. Earn the fame and fortune you always knew you deserved, survive being stranded in the Martian outback and keep the busybody bureaucrats of the Martian Authority off your back by following the advice in this book.
Rod Pyle uses his contacts within NASA to get an inside track on the past and future of Martian exploration as planned by NASA and its partnership with the ESA. He gives success its due and also does not cover up past failures. Reaching Mars is not going to be easy for the foreseeable future. His enthusiasm for the topic is obvious to readers and he also describes a possible future manned Martian expedition as seen through the eyes of NASA.
Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin describes his vision for Mars that includes Cyclers that can endlessly loop between Earth and Mars and the idea of homesteading on Mars. He makes the case that NASA should focus its efforts on establishing a permanent presence on the Red Planet by the mid-2030s and considers ways to solve obstacles such as funding and technology.
“I’m pretty much fucked.” Watney has been left for dead when Ares 3 aborted during an especially vicious dust storm, and you know it’s not a good situation when his diary starts with that line. He’s on Mars, a planet that has about 10,000 ways it could kill him if he makes one careless move. This is a novel that makes Jack London’s “To Build A Fire” look wimpy and shows the power of human toughness and ingenuity when faced with the worst that can happen to a guy.
Mary Roach brings her own brand of quirkiness to the space world while covering some of the weirdest elements of the space world. She starts out describing how aspiring astronauts in Japan have to create one thousand origami cranes and wanders her way through the unusual elements that astronauts have to put up with, like learning how to use the toilet in microgravity.
This highly detailed account of the first several years of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers reveals much of the excitement around Martian scientists when they can do remote-controlled “field work” on Mars. Every sol’s work must be carefully planned out for maximum scientific output. Although the geologists involved can’t actually go out and get their hands dirty in the Martian regolith, they feel as if they were riding along with their rovers as they collect and analyze samples.
This is one of Kim Stanley Robinson’s most ambitious works and the first of a trilogy describing the terraforming of Mars. If you’re looking for sheer sci-fi action, you are very likely to be disappointed. However, this is a good hard science fiction tale describing the struggle between the people who want to terraform Mars and the ones who want to study the native Martian environment more before they do anything. Of course, Earth-bound politics and corporate interests make matters complicated, and the first hundred settlers have to dig in for survival and preparation for the inevitable Martian revolution.
This is a look at the politics behind NASA’s Mars exploration efforts with a description of how “big science” is a factor in decision-making and how advocates for exploring the Red Planet have formed a coalition to keep the importance of their efforts in front of high-level decision-makers.
What can the software designed for Mars rovers teach us about successful enterprise systems right here on Earth? Ronald Mak shares the lessons learned from his experience from working on software for Martian exploration can be used in the “real world” where the decisions made by software developers have an impact on products that most people use in their daily lives.
While it doesn’t account for recent work done by Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, this is a decent look at the actual scientific discoveries that we’ve gotten from sending probes to Mars. A long time ago, Mars was once a lot like Earth with a thick atmosphere and possible bodies of water. Then it lost most of its atmosphere and appeared to dry up, though there is still water frozen into the Martian surface.
What would a mission to Mars have looked like if we had kept going after the Apollo missions? Famed and occasionally infamous rocket engineer Wernher von Braun imagines a world in which an international consortium stages a large multi-ship expedition to make contact with what is left of a Martian civilization. This book is packed with technical details though the story itself is a bit thin.
This is typically seen as the origin of every single “alien invasion” story you’ll ever read on your Kindle or see in the movies. When the Martians invade, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for the Earthlings until we get an assist from a very tiny ally.