I once heard a great quote that went something like this: “Humans are either alone in the universe, or we are not. Either way, it’s a wonderful thing.” Not everyone agrees.
Specifically, one of the headline articles – “Study: If We’re Not Alone, We Should Fear the Aliens” – at Space.com last week believes that unless humans are alone, we are should be afraid. Very, very afraid. Needless to say, I don’t agree with the sentiment. Continue reading
Today at work I listened to an older episode of the excellent podcast Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour: “Marsifest Destiny.” I stole that title for this post, obviously, because it’s awesome. And the podcast was pretty awesome as well, featuring guest Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Mars and founder of The Mars Society. In fact I had read parts of his book while doing research for Fugitives from Earth*, but I didn’t really know anything about him until I heard him speak.
Now he is my hero.
Mars gets all the love. When you hear somebody, whether a scientist or a civilian, talking about another planet in the Solar System, invariably they’re talking about Mars. Mars used to have water. Mars might have life. Mars Mars Mars. Enough, I say!
That probably needs some qualification. Obviously Mars is nearby, it has a 24-hour day, and it’s thoroughly habitable by the standards of, say, Mercury. It should hardly come as a surprise, then, that there have been a lot of scientific missions to Mars, and additional ones are being planned. It’ll be the first planet in the Solar System other than Earth to have a human presence.
However, that doesn’t excuse the favoritism that it gets in fiction. In fact, Mars has a lot of disadvantages for certain activities: it’s farther from the Earth than Venus (on average), it gets about a fifth of the solar energy that Venus does, and it would very likely require more energy to terraform, since it has no atmosphere or active geology. So really, where’ the love for Venus?
Obviously, it’s not easy to get around in space. There’s no air and everything’s a long ways away. This is why, for instance, we’re not living on Mars right now.*
One hopes that in the future we’ll find ways around these problems. And really, that future is closer than you might think. It’ll be awhile before we can travel to alien homeworlds at warp speed, but that’s most certainly not required to have relatively quick and most certainly interesting trips through space.
My novel will take place about 150 years in the future. I think this is the perfect time for near-future spaceflight, because it means that the technologies that you read about us having “someday” are thoroughly plausible. Gene therapy, mind-machine interface, and space colonies are all realities in the world of the early 2160s, but the most interesting to me right now is the propulsion technology they’ll have.