Tag Archives: Mars

The Martian

Far and away the best self-published book I’ve read. The Martian by Andy Weir started out as a 99 cent indy ebook and didn’t get its current name brand publisher and hard- and softback editions until after it became an Amazon hit.

The story of an astronaut mistakenly left for dead on Mars and how he deals with it does a great job of puffing NASA, Weir obviously being a NASA fanboy. A private space consortium behind the protagonist would have been more logical than a bloated government bureaucracy. SpaceX or one of its progeny. But never mind.

I got a little tired of the technical stuff at several points but it seemed that whenever I did, the author took the narrative in a more interesting direction. Mercifully the story has almost no politics in it nor any of contemporary science fiction’s usual dystopian babble. It was also a pleasure to meet some unadulterated heroes in science fiction again. Hopefully that will become a trend.

It was amusing to see Weir pick CNN and NBC as NASA’s chief media conduits to the public. Perhaps he doesn’t know those two have been dead last in the audience ratings for more than a decade. No mention at all is made of Fox, which is number one, and whose audience is vastly larger than CNN’s or NBC’s combined.

Nevertheless, Weir’s story is an immensely enjoyable testament to the value of the individual. It’s optimistic about humanity in general and human space exploration in particular. Can we get back to it now, all these years after Apollo and the space shuttles endlessly going nowhere?

Mars we’re onto you, again!

And how. Lots of fun watching NASA-TV on the Web via C/Net as the new robot Curiosity—about the size of an Austin Mini Cooper automobile—touched down on the Red Planet thirty-nine minutes after midnight Sunday here, or about 3 p.m. Martian time.

A gentle touchdown, apparently, as Curiosity quickly sent back the first photos of one of its wheels and the distant Martian horizon. They were relayed to Earth through Odyssey, another NASA robot in orbit—since 2001.

Curiosity is a one ton, mobile chemistry lab and it landed in a basin crater called Gale which is believed to contain sediments washed downhill a long, long time ago that may contain… Who knows? We’ll be finding out in the next two years and, probably, even longer.

To boldly wish

I think it was science fiction writer Charlie Stross who said that anyone wishing to settle Mars should first try settling the Gobi Desert in the winter while wearing a fireman’s respirator.

Somehow I doubt these folks would want to do that, but at least they have more imagination than the wretched politicians who have grounded the idea for so long. Meanwhile, we can hope the intrepid don’t go entirely alone either.


“…observed features of the [Martian] Melas Chasma look remarkably like Blaenau-Ffycin-Ffestiniog when viewed from the heavens.”

But it’s too late, Mrs. Charm’s beloved Wales and its ridiculous spelling have lost out in the Mars-comparison sweepstakes.

Still, there’s always Qwghlm. Minus the reefs, of course

Poor Spirit

It’s been an amazing six years for the Martian rover Spirit. But the little robot may finally be dying in winter temps of almost seventy degrees below zero F. It hasn’t been heard from since March 22:

“The earliest date the rover could generate enough power to send a beep to Earth was calculated to be around July 23. However, mission managers don’t anticipate the batteries will charge adequately until late September to mid-October. It may be even later if the rover is in a mission-clock fault mode. If Spirit does wake up, mission managers will do a complete health check on the rover’s instruments and electronics.”

Hang in there, Spirit. Spring’s coming.

Cold As Ice



I enjoyed this 1992 scifi novel of physicist Charles Sheffield’s, though it seemed unnecessarily complicated in the beginning. A little more action before establishing the seven main characters would have prevented me from putting it down so often. Sheffield died of brain cancer in 2002, which resonates because a good friend of Mrs. Charm’s is struggling with it. Seems to have it licked for the moment, though the odds of that lasting are very low.

I bring up Sheffield to point out how easy it is to fall into these stories of ordinary life in the solar system, as if we had gotten off the engineering dime and were actually living in/on Luna, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt. A lot of Cold As Ice occurs on (actually, under the surface of) Ganymede, which recalls Heinlein’s impossible young adult novel, Farmer In The Sky, which Mr. B. and I started as a bedtime story but never finished.

We had the space probe pictures and details of Jupiter’s radiation to consult, as Heinlein did not. Also life on (under, actually) Europa, which seems plausible, despite Sheffield’s scientific realism of the dangers of Jovian radiation. I hope all this verisimilitude means humanity really will do these things and not just wallow forever in political corruption and the threat of war. But a posed result of the latter is limned chillingly in Cold As Ice as one of the spurs for continued colonization.

Mars as you’ve never seen it

abalos-undae_dune field.jpg

Amazing what a high-resolution satellite camera can do. These are some details of the Abalos Undae sand dunes. Meanwhile, a permanent moon base gets another boost.

Via Simply Jews.