Book 87: The Martian by Andy Weir

cover35512-mediumThe Martian by Andy Weir

Finished reading on November 19th, 2013

Rating: 10/10

“The Martian” is about a poor astronaut called Mark Watney who gets accidentally left on Mars after the rest of the crew evacuates back to Earth.

So the story goes like this – it’s some time in the future, when there have been two Ares missions to Mars, both with a crew of six astronauts. The story starts with the evacuation of the third crew with the Ares 3 mission, as the wind speed is getting too dangerous for the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), which is the only way back to Earth. While hurrying towards MAV one of the astronauts gets hit with an antenna from a flying communications system and is lost in the dust storm. Although the crew searches for him for a while, it seems as if he’s lost and dead.

But fortunately he is not, and after gaining consciousness he realizes that he has been left behind. And now starts his survival story – the lonely man’s struggle to stay alive on a lifeless red planet.

He has a lot of challenges on the way – he has no method of communications with the Earth for starters, only about after he’s been alone for two months do the satellites reveal that he might possibly be alive.

It’s a really action packed book, and would be great reading for anyone interested in space exploration.

In the beginning I was a little disturbed by the astronaut’s strong language, but as you get to know more about his situation, you can forgive him.

It seems that the author has done a lot of research for this book which made it so excellent.

I liked it because it showed the situation from the perspectives of many people – Mark’s to start off, and then Mission Control’s and from the perspective of the rest of the Ares 3 crew as well. Also I found it interesting how the author had put together so many accidents (which of-course all might occur if you have to stay on Mars for one and a half Earth years all alone) and it still ended happily. Well of-course it would have been sad if he’d just missed one necessary component of something or just didn’t know what to do or didn’t have enough food to last so long…. but as most of the book is in a log- book format, then naturally it couldn’t very well exist if he hadn’t survived for that long.

I hope this book will be made into a movie. It’s got excitement, romance, comedy, adventure and space exploration, so you can’t get much better than that! (plus there are no aliens here, and the only food that the astronaut is able to grow is potatoes, so not too far-fetched).

Read it!

Book 71: The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

PIMG_1396The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

Finished reading on September 3, 2013

Rating 9/10

This was the best book about a possible manned Mars mission I’ve read this far.

The Case for Mars tells about the Mars Direct mission, which would be able to send manned missions to Mars by 2025 and enable humans to stay there for up to a year and a half for exploration purposes.

The mission architecture and design is really interesting and one of the cheapest ones ever proposed.

Basically for that mission they’d need a rather heavyweight launch rocket to send first an Earth Return Vehicle to Mars that would there put up a chemical plant for supplying the ERV with rocket fuel for the trip back.

During the next launch window a manned crew with a habitation module would be sent off on a six month trip to Mars on a trajectory, which would enable them to get safely back to Earth if anything went wrong almost up to reaching Mars, since it could be launched on a free-return orbit.

Now that’s just one part of it. There are lots of details and possibilities and other interesting information of how a Mars mission could be conducted, what kind of technologies would have to be developed or what now existing technologies could be put into use in order to utilize a lot of resources already available on Mars. For example how to get water, how to get electrical power, what kind of building materials might be possible for the future colonizers. But it goes into even more interesting territory – namely terraforming – how to get the atmospheric pressure on Mars up to higher levels, how to get the surface temperature higher by using different methods to get the greenhouse effect going strong.

So all in all – it was a fabulous book for any space geek and I believe it would be interesting even for a common reader who knows next to nothing about space exploration and such.

As an added bonus one also gets a short overview of some of the other missions to Mars that have been proposed and the reasons why Mars Direct would be a better and more cost-efficient way to go. For example for some missions it would be necessary to have a manned base on the Moon or to assemble a huge interplanetary spaceship in Earth orbit (has to be done there because of it’s huge size). As another thing the heavier the spaceship itself, the more powerful the launch vehicle has to be. For example for the Mars Direct mission the requirements aren’t much higher than the former US Saturn V launcher or the Russian Energia rocket. Another point there is how long the mission would stay on Mars or whether there would be an orbiting module around Mars and just a part of the crew goes down to Mars and for how long.

In general just an excellent book.

If you want a good space exploration book, read this one!