Mars and Beyond

Celebrate the NASA Curiosity rover landing with some explorations in reading.

Packing for Mars

By Mary Roach

With NASA’s Curiosity rover beaming back images of Mars, earthbound eyes turn to the Red Planet and the possibilities it affords for future space travel. But first we have to get there. Mary Roach, who has previously written about the “life” of a cadaver (in Stiff) and how scientists study sexual intercourse (in Bonk), gets the scoop on how space explorers come up with the answers to questions like “What happens to your body when it’s trapped in a spacesuit for months?” The preparations for the next generation of space travel reveal how far we’ve come since Neil Armstrong first set foot on the lunar surface.

Space Chronicles

By Neil deGrasse Tyson

As Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, Neil deGrasse Tyson knows how to make the great complexities of astronomy surprisingly easy to understand — and unexpectedly humorous. With the future of manned American space travel hotly debated, the insights he offers in this new collection of essays are timelier than ever. Tyson assesses where the space program currently stands, traces the recent history of a NASA agency buffeted by partisan politics, and imagines how other intelligent life forms in the universe might go about discovering us.

The Case for Mars

By Robert Zubrin and Richard Wagner

Packed with illustrations, photographs, and illuminating anecdotes, this book by space exploration authority Dr. Robert Zubrin explains how we can use present-day technology to send humans to Mars within the next 10 years. His vision is backed by a marvelously detailed plan to build settlements on the planet’s surface, produce fuel and oxygen using Martian natural resources, and one day terraform the planet — a process that could pave the way for sustainable life.

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson

In this, the kickoff to one of the most celebrated of science-fiction trilogies, Robinson provides an intoxicating vision of how we might settle and transform our planetary neighbor. A cast of intrepid colonists are swept up in a truly epic-scale adventure, with a dash of utopian dreaming balanced by the author’s integration of deeply researched science about everything from how to thicken a world’s atmosphere to new drugs and treatments for aging. 

Rocket Men

By Craig Nelson

Long before astronauts set their sights on Mars, the frontier they were most concerned with pioneering was the lunar surface. Yet reaching the Moon required a multivalent leap: conceptual, technological, political, and even spiritual. Nelson touches all these dimensions in his deeply researched, dramatically taut account of the Apollo program, blending front-row realism with historical insights. The result makes one eager to see a similar rallying of resources and ambition in planning our next bold adventure.