How We'll Live on Mars, by Stephen L. Petranek
I want humanity to spread to the cosmos, to colonize the Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt or anything other than Earth in whatever order possible. Personally, I think asteroids are our best first bet, but it doesn't matter as long as I am presented with a well crafted argument and solution plan. Unfortunately, How We'll Live on Mars is not that.
Stephen Petranek starts with the old idea that colonizing Mars will be a human endeavor that will bring glory and scientific evolution and the betterment of humanity. It well may be, but as history demonstrated no one cares about anyone else and certainly not for "the world"; they care for wealth. Until the ninth chapter, the author fails to provide any inkling on how a colony on Mars would generate wealth and even there he sees it as a port and manufacturing place for resources extracted from asteroids and nothing more.
I was curious on how Petranek will solve some thorny issues like the chemical composition of the soil, cosmic radiation, medical emergencies and so on. Don't get me wrong, I think with 8 billion people to spare we can afford to lose as many as they are needed as long as they volunteer. I am a strong proponent of individual will and agency and so I despise people who stop progress for fear of losing a few lives. But the author provides nothing but wishful thinking and, when faced with a problem he cannot fix with a simplistic solution, he pivots to another, bigger yet unrelated, problem to which he finds even bigger solutions.
In fact, without solving the basics, like how to get there in one piece and how to support life once we get there, chapters about terraforming Mars (in centuries!!) are completely useless.
I like Stephen Petranek's optimism. It inspires me to want to look at space colonization more carefully, find solutions and finally do it. However, when that scrutiny is turned on the book itself, only dust remains. This book is more like a science fiction story from a guy who didn't know how to write fiction and not a realistic manual on how to achieve human expansion on Mars.
Bottom line: I want us to get to Mars, and quick, but this book is nothing but day dreaming.
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