Saturday, February 6, 2016

MARS ONE - A Review

MARS ONE: Humanity's Next Great Adventure: Inside The First Human Settlement On Mars
 -- Norbert Kraft, James Kass, Raye Kass

Science fiction or fact?

I've never been one to dwell on mortality but I must say this book got me thinking it would be nice to live well into the future in order to see what we do and where we go as a species. And if the Mars One Project has things their way, we'll be colonizing Mars in short order.

Imagine . . . what it would be like to live on another planet, millions of miles from Earth, and look up into the night sky, knowing that one of the 'stars' is actually the planet on which you were born.”

Really. Imagine it.

We are told that in 2013, nearly 250,000 people applied to the Mars One Project to make the one-way trip to become Mars colonizers. In the back of the book, however, we're told, “the total number of fully and correctly completed applications was 4,227.”

The Mars One Selection Committee whittled that number down to just 100. In 2016, the pool will be further reduced to 24 participants (12 women and 12 men). It is members of that selection committee who provided the essays in this enthralling anthology. 

Interspersed throughout are quotes from Mars One applicants offering tidbits of insights into what those potential pioneers are thinking. One applicant said, “for the longest time, all I ever wanted to be was an astronaut. I wanted to sail through the inky black unknown and land, explore, and survive on a place like Mars.”

This collection of essays covers a wide range of topics, beginning with the need for skills. The plan is to send four people to Mars and then four more, every 26 months. It's pretty obvious that those people will need to have a wide range of skills but one of the most important traits will be the ability to innovate. To hack what you have. To think creatively. “Your instinct for innovation will settle the solar system.”

The essays address sociological and psychological issues such as personal differences (age, race, ethnicity, religion), leaving everything and everyone behind, group dynamics, building a society, and even the potential legal issues with colonizing another planet.

The essays also deal with the impact of being under constant surveillance by the world – because The Mars One Project includes plans for reality television that will document the rest of the selection process, with the remaining candidates being recorded throughout their training (presumably, the next ten years). It's even possible that those trainees will have their gall bladders and appendixes removed prophylactic-ally sometime in the next ten years to lessen the possibility of needing acute surgery on Mars (all astronauts will be trained in basic medical and dental procedures but they'd like to avoid major surgery).

The authors say that their program won't be the typical reality television show. Since I've never really watched much reality television, I won't be able to judge that. But the authors add, “participants will rank the order, at the end of each selection day, of the three teammates with whom they want to continue.”
And, “the reward for the winners will not be money, but further education and training . . .”

There are also two pieces of short fiction based on the Mars One Project long-term plans, as well as details about the 100 current trainees – demographic statistics and professions.

The book doesn't cover any hard science. Yes, the authors tell us that water will be pull out of the soil and that the settlers will grow their own food and create their own fuels by splitting molecules of water. (As a gardener, I find it difficult to believe they will get enough calories for four people out of 861 square feet of garden space.)

But what about getting there? So far, there is no rocket capable of flying to Mars. And there are plenty of naysayers (including a group at M.I.T.) when it comes to this project. So is it science fiction or fact? Time will tell. As one Mars One applicant said, “whether or not this project succeeds, it has done so much already in sparking interest.”

One very telling line of the book to me is this, “enabling the ability to imagine life on Mars, so as to properly prepare for it, is the most important project the Mars One organization is currently engaged in.” You have to first imagine it. I recommend you start with this book.

I wish to thank BenBella Books,Inc. for the electronic Advance Reader's Copy of Mars One:Humanity's Next Great Adventure.

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