How We’ll Live on Mars
by Stephen L. Petranek. Simon & Schuster, 2015. 77 pp., $16.99.
THE BOOK A smartly written examination of the path humans must follow if they are to settle the Red Planet.
WHY THE AUTHOR DECIDED TO WRITE IT
I could see that the most extraordinary and most disruptive event in human history—the colonization of Mars—was about to occur far sooner than anyone could guess. I felt a journalistic urgency to start the discussion of what that will mean—as soon as possible.
A CHAT WITH STEPHEN PETRANEK
Do you think a televised Mars landing would be as watched as the Apollo 11 moon landing?
It would likely be the largest TV audience in the history of broadcasting, if only because access to TVS is so much greater now than in 1969. Imagine the sense of pride in everyone on the home p planet when they realize that hum humans can actually do this— s settle on another planet in our solar system.
A Are there any physical traits th that would be favorable to living on Mars?
Humans seem remarkably adaptable to cold climates, which will be useful on Mars, and we now know that some humans can withstand radiation exposure, both solar and cosmic rays, far better than others. Radiation exposure is the most difficult problem we face on Mars. Anyone choosing to go there will also choose a shorter lifespan due to radiation.
How quickly would adaptive Martian characteristics emerge in the descendants of the first settlers?
I don’t think we’ll wait around for accidental mutations in our genes. I think we’ll begin editing the genes of our Martian offspring long before we naturally evolve to live on Mars.
When will the American public grasp the need for establishing a permanent presence on Mars?
When they begin to understand how threatened we are by the whims of the universe. A giant solar flare or an allout nuclear war between Pakistan and India could wipe us out. If nothing else gets us, we will become extinct when our aging sun begins to enlarge. We cannot survive without becoming a spacefaring species.
Someone drilling for water cannot discover halfway through that they have failed to anticipate a specific problem—a mineral deposit that requires a special drill bit, for instance. For survival to be a reasonable expectation, every circumstance must be anticipated.