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Book Reviews

Martian Outpost
Author: Erik Seedhouse

Publisher: Springer-Praxis

ISBN: 978-0387-98190-1

Price: £24.50 (Pb), 292pp

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Predicting the future is always a gamble. With several of the previous incumbents of the White House stating the intent to return first to the Moon and then on to Mars, many would have hoped that the future would have happened by now. But rumblings of budget cut proposals make the prospects seem as distant as ever. With Erik Seedhouse’s book, the planning and requirements for such a complex and difficult mission are laid out for all to see.

Opening with a chapter entitled Why Go, Seedhouse expertly guides the reader through almost every possible aspect of what will be humankind’s greatest explorations. Whilst it dips into political discussions, Seedhouse’s conclusions are strikingly accurate: this has to be a joint endeavour, the scale would just be too immense for any current or future superpower alone.

This theme continues into the second chapter discussing the current and past planning by various space agencies, before diving headlong into the real science behind each mission. Just the telemetry considerations alone would fill a small library, and again, is split into the various different agency approaches as to how they will solve some of the big problems of weight, mass and entering a Mars orbit.

What’s wonderful is the role that industry, the private sector and non-governmental agencies are playing in these plans, with former NASA alumni as significant as Buzz Aldrin, now one of the most fervent supporters of a manned mission to the red planet, designing his own orbits for such a task. The book also covers the options for landing and ascent on Mars, and has quite detailed planning breakdowns for the mission timeline.

If you wanted to know why it will cost so much, just take a look at the decades of research, development, testing, planning, design and implementation that will be required to do this most wondrous voyage. Just the physiological constraints on the human body, and exposure to both deep space and the surface of another world, for a mission that will take the best part of two years will likely take years to fully understand.

The book is a really easy read and should be an immediate purchase for anyone interested in how man will get to Mars.

Nick Howes

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