Dr. Linda Billings has published an article entitled “The Inexcusable Jingoism of American Spaceflight Rhetoric” in Scientific American’s Forum. I read the article with great interest, because I find myself on both sides of her argument. On the one hand, human expansion into space is happening, whether we like it or not, and regardless of any government program’s mission statement. Where previous generations perhaps imagined the push into space driven by big national programs, we are seeing now that it is likely to be corporations or private interests staking claims out there at least as much as governments. In fact, multiple companies have already declared near-term space intentions such as orbital tourism, mining lucrative asteroids, extracting fresh water and hydrocarbons, and settling on the Moon and Mars.
But here is where Dr. Billings is absolutely correct: We need to make sure our expansion into space results in an equitable, sustainable, and responsible distribution of the truly staggering amount of resources right here in our own solar system. And that will definitely require a cultural shift in how we talk about spaceflight.
Map of the Hellas-Dao colony from my upcoming novel, Red Soil Through Our Fingers.
During the world-building process for Red Soil Through Our Fingers, I spent a lot of time on Google Mars exploring the surface of the red planet for possible settings. I settled (no pun intended) on a region just northeast of the Hellas Planitia, a large depression in the southern hemisphere. Hellas is the lowest altitude point on Mars’ surface, and hence the highest ambient pressure and temperature. It is one of the areas with the highest probability of liquid or near-liquid water on the planet.
Below are some excepts from the novel, currently approaching Draft Alpha (first complete revision).
I saw on the Mars Society’s webpage that the Mars One colonization program will debate their MIT critics at the society’s upcoming convention next month. I have a triple interest in the debate. My novel-in-progress, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, a Mars colonization novel. Secondly, as a former aerospace engineer, I have experience and a huge personal stake in the design and outcome of space exploration missions. And further, one of the listed critics of Mars One, Andrew Owens, is a friend and writing group member!
Needless to say, I have a few thoughts on the matter.
My novel-in-progress, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, takes place in a farming settlement that is part of a Mars colony. As I wrote Draft Zero, there was a lot of handwavium going on with respect to various technical details — the focus on just finishing the story. Now that I’ve progressed about a quarter of the way into Draft Alpha, I’m needing to clean up some inconsistencies and gaps. Today I figured out a piece of the story world that is good for me to know as I construct the novel, but probably won’t make it explicitly into the next of the work: how various molecules necessary for both human life and agriculture are going to be circulated on this Mars colony.