The story of Andy Weir is a strange mix of fact and fiction. There’s the fairy tale success of his book, The Martian, which he self-published on his blog for free, intended for the few thousand fans he’d accumulated over years of hobby writing. Some of those fans wanted an electronic book version, which he made, and then a Kindle version, which he made too, charging the minimum price allowable by Amazon: $0.99. “That’s when I learned how deep Amazon’s reach is,” Weir would later tell an audience. Within four months, The Martian had risen to the top spot on Amazon’s sci-fi best-seller list, and two months later he had signed both a book deal with Random House’s Crown Publishing imprint and a movie deal with 20th Century Fox. The book is currently number 10 on The New York Times’ fiction best-seller list. The motion picture, which stars Matt Damon and is directed by Ridley Scott, is due to come out this year.
Then there’s the story inside the book itself: An astronaut gets left behind on Mars in a near-future NASA mission, and has to survive until help comes. This he does through physics and chemistry, algebra and pipe fitting, botany and celestial navigation, all described in meticulous detail, some of it even simulated with software that Weir wrote himself. The lesson to writers is clear: Details give you authenticity, and authenticity gives you the reader. Having a great protagonist helps too: Mark Watney is casual, funny, thoughtful, and self-effacing—much like Weir, as I discovered in conversation.
Will Interstellar inspire a new space race?
Stanley Kubrick was right about most things but when it came to 2001: A Space Odyssey, he got it hopelessly wrong. We’re now 13 years on from that particular date, so where’s our future? Instead of Pan Am flights to the moon we’ve got the faltering efforts of Virgin Galactic, which suffered another setback with the crash of its test plane last week. Instead of elegant space stations resembling modernist furniture showrooms, we have got the cramped tin cans of the International Space Station. And forget survey missions to Jupiter, Nasa doesn’t even have a space shuttle any more. As it is, we are not even on track for the dystopian future of Blade Runner, unless we can knock together some off-world colonies in the next five years. Charlton Heston’s Soylent Green is definitely still on, however, being set in 2022 (spoiler alert: we end up having to eat each other).
From a space enthusiast’s point of view, there is nothing more depressing than the fact that 2001 does not look particularly dated. If you had told those 1960s star children we would be no further out of Earth’s orbit nearly half a century later you’d have been laughed out of the cinema, and many of those people, Americans in particular, have never forgiven their governments for not fulfilling their promises. Political and economic pressures and conspicuous accidents, such as the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters, have clipped NASA’s wings considerably, and the multitude of Earthbound problems have put interplanetary exploration on the back burner. But in terms of a big, public plea for rebooting space travel, Interstellar is the answer to space camp’s prayers.
An Insider's Biography of a Celebrity Mars Rover
The chief engineer for Curiosity offers a peek at the NASA rover’s tumultuous rise to stardom in a new tell-all book. Back in 2008, Curiosity—technically called the Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL—was being heavily derided for getting behind schedule and going over budget. The mission was originally pitched to NASA as a $1.6-billion spacecraft, and it was supposed to launch in 2009. But a variety of technical hurdles caused the launch schedule to slip to 2011, and costs ballooned to $2.5 billion. According to Rob Manning, the mission’s chief engineer, young Curiosity’s troubles can be traced back to its most celebrated feature: the sky crane landing system.
Kim Stanley Robinson's acclaimed Mars Trilogy is colonizing TV
One of the most acclaimed science fiction sagas of the last 25 years is headed for adaptation.
The Wrap reports that producer Vince Gerardis (Game of Thrones, FlashForward) has just landed a development deal at Spike TV for Red Mars, a drama series adapted from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, made up of 1993's Red Mars, 1994's Green Mars, and 1996's Blue Mars. The series is considered a modern science fiction classic and garnered a combined two Hugo Awards, two Locus Awards, a Nebula Award and a British Science Fiction Association Award. Robinson will serve as a consultant on the project. Featuring dozens of characters and decades of story, The Mars Trilogy is the story of humanity's efforts to colonize and terraform Mars as the Earth suffers from overpopulation. The series explores not only the struggle to make the Red Planet habitable but also the effects that corporations as large as governments, genetic engineering, extended lifespans, further human space exploration and more have on civilization. There's a lot to unpack in these books, so exploring the story via long-form television seems like a good fit, if Spike (a network not known for scripted dramas) can deliver the production value.
Emily Calandrelli, a 27-year-old astronautics expert, has been named host of “Xploration Outer Space,” a new syndicated series set to air on FOX-owned stations beginning in September. Its goal is to show off the coolest aspects of space and science to high school aged teens.
As the show’s host, Emily will take viewers on a fascinating journey to the outer reaches of the universe. Segment themes include why we explore Mars, robots in space, training to be an astronaut, extraterrestrial life on other planets and the future of private space travel.
Bell’s Planet Series, inspired by music of Gustav Holst, will debut in August
In the same tradition as our Batch and Wheat Series,’ we are proud to announce The Planet Series.
It will feature seven different beers each inspired by a different piece of music from the composer Gustav Holst. Each beer will be limited and released both in six-packs and on draft according to the arrangement of Holst’s composition across all areas we distribute to.
The first Planet beer will be released this August with each successive entry debuting about every two months after. The final beer is scheduled for release in July 2015.
Beam a Message to Mars and Support Space Research and Exploration
Beam Me celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first mission to Mars—NASA’s Mariner 4 launched on 28 November 1964. All Beam Me messages will be sent together by radio—at the speed of light—as a global shout-out from Earth to Mars on 28 November 2014.
Send as many messages as you like. With each message sent, you’ll receive a beautiful, downloadable certificate authenticating your participation in this historic event.
Thingiverse | Mars Base Challenge Winners
We were pleased to receive a good number of #MakerBotMars challenge entries almost as soon as we announced it. But then, on the last day of the challenge, we were completely blown away as we watched the number of entries double, leaving us with loads of fascinating text to read, diagrams to analyze, and creative designs to print. Many entries went above and beyond the stated scope of the challenge, expanding into small worlds with many individual pieces. It was an embarrassment of 3D printed riches. The enthusiasm behind the contributions was palpable, and inspiring. Once we finished our test prints, we sent the results to our friends at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who used their expert knowledge and experience to help choose the winners. We’re happy to say that we fully agree with their input and we’re excited to award all of our winners with spools of MakerBot Filament and to give our first place winner a brand new MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer!
Book review: The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The year is 2040. America is enshrouded with a “searing blanket” of dust and “ash like diabolic snow” after a cataclysmic event – the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano in the Yellowstone National Park.
Communities and landscapes are ripped apart and the devastating effects are not just witnessed in America – they are evident across Earth.
In an ordinary world, the survivors would flee from the immediate danger to neighbouring communities which were not as struck by the disaster, where they would attempt to reassemble their lives.
But these people, who live on our Earth (“Datum Earth”), exist in a world which has a key difference to ours – it contains the Long Earths, a string of Earths which number in the millions. Some are akin to Datum Earth, while others formed in vastly different circumstances.
Private Mars One Colony Project Signs Deal with TV Production Company
The next big reality-TV star may be an aspiring Mars colonist.
The Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One, which aims to land four settlers on the Red Planet in 2025, announced today (June 2) that it has signed a deal with Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP), an Endemol-owned company, to film its astronaut selection and training process.
"Our team felt all along that we needed a partner whose strength lies in factual storytelling to an international audience," Mars One co-founder and CEOBas Lansdorp said in a statement. "DSP will provide that to Mars One, while allowing our selection committee to maintain control of the applicant selection process. This really is a perfect fit for both of us."
The adventurous primate Curious George is heading to Mars for the first time in a special TV episode of the cartoon airing Monday (May 19).
While Curious George has been to space before, this is the first time he is exploring the Red Planet. In the episode, "Red Planet Monkey," George needs to help engineers on Earth figure out what is making the rover's controls stick. The primate finds himself on an amazing adventure to Mars with his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat.
Thinkfactory Media Shopping Mars Exploration Reality Series
There is a second reality series project devoted to chronicling a mission to the Red Planet. Leslie Greif’s Thinkfactory Media (Hatfields & McCoys, Gene Simmons: Family Jewels) has partnered with The Mars Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, on an unscripted TV project that would document Mars Society’s year-long Mars simulation in the Canadian Arctic. Thinkfactory had been working with the Mars Society on the project for the past four months. It took the series out to networks last week, with two outlets interested and currently in discussion with the production company. Tentatively titled Mission To Mars, the series is one of two Mars colonization reality projects in the marketplace, along with Lionsgate TV’s untitled series done in collaboration with Lansdorp’s Mars One, the international Mars mission backed by Dutch billionaire entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp.
Kerbal Space Program to get children as well as Kerbals into space
More details have been announced for KerbalEdu, the educational version of Kerbal Space Program's sandbox space flight sim.
The game sees players constructing spacecraft to launch the little green Kerbals into space as part of the titular Kerbal Space Program.
Propulsion systems, thrusters, aerodynamic design, power generation and docking capabilities, return trips and so on all need to be considered by the player otherwise you have to go through the hearbreak of stranding your Kerbals in space (telling yourself you will one day return to rescue them) or seeing them consumed in a catastrophic rocket malfunction.