A City On Mars

Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, And Have We Really Thought This Through?

eBook, 448 pages

Published Nov. 7, 2023 by Penguin Press.

ISBN:
978-1-9848-8173-1
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4 stars (10 reviews)

Earth is not well. The promise of starting life anew somewhere far, far away—no climate change, no war, no Twitter—beckons, and settling the stars finally seems within our grasp. Or is it? Critically acclaimed, bestselling authors Kelly and Zach Weinersmith set out to write the essential guide to a glorious future of space settlements, but after years of research, they aren’t so sure it’s a good idea. Space technologies and space business are progressing fast, but we lack the knowledge needed to have space kids, build space farms, and create space nations in a way that doesn’t spark conflict back home. In a world hurtling toward human expansion into space, A City on Mars investigates whether the dream of new worlds won’t create nightmares, both for settlers and the people they leave behind. In the process, the Weinersmiths answer every question about space you’ve ever wondered about, and many you’ve …

6 editions

Accessible and intricately researched

5 stars

Accessible and intricately researched, with scattered humor to keep the reader's interest.

Getting to space is the easy part. Staying there is going to be a lot more complicated than anyone wants to believe. There are plenty of established tropes in science-fiction and among serious space enthusiasts, but a lot of them have major gaps in them when you start pressing for details. What happens to a fetus in microgravity? Can you scrape together enough soil nutrients to supply agriculture for a whole Mars city, or do you need to constantly import fertilizer from Earth? How do you make sure you have enough medical supplies on-hand?

The authors wanted to write about what we know about space settlement. But it turns out it's a really good primer for what we don't know and need to research before we can get serious.

It's also an interesting companion to Under Alien Skies …

Clear-eyed, humane, and deeply considered overview of space settlement science and fantasy, from Kelly and @ZachWeinersmith@mastodon.social

5 stars

This is a careful, immensely well-informed, and persuasively comprehensive examination of the domain of settlements in space.

Kind of spoiler alert (but not really): They are not optimistic, certainly not in the short- or even medium-term. What the book does is share the reasons for their stance. And while there is a certain accuracy to the term 'disillusionment' here, in that they started the project optimistic and wanted to provide a popular introduction to how it will all be achieved, the end result is not a 'downer'.

What the authors get across - I think implicitly, but they also take time at various points to be very explicit about it - is that they love the science. They enjoy not the power fantasies of "Wild West in Spaaaaaaace!!" but the complexity, intricacies and crazy dynamics of life, and just as importantly living; being human in space, and on other …

A skeptical dive into space settlement

4 stars

If you've looked askance at Elon Musk's claim/plan to settle Mars this century, this book will validate your priors in a most entertaining way. The first 3 parts cover the physical & mental aspects of space settlement. As someone who works on satellites, none of this is surprising to me. At least a couple times a week, someone in the office will exclaim "space is hard!" as we try to solve a problem. Additionally, the book spends 2 parts of the legal and geopolitical environment of settling space. The authors' position is that space settlement nerds don't really spend enough time thinking through the ramifications. In particular, while there are better frameworks for space settlement than what we have, there's not a clean path to get there and space settlement nerds aren't really moving society in a real way to get there. There's an extended discussion of an attempt to …

A City on Mars

4 stars

A City on Mars is an enjoyable and easy to read non-fiction book about the (non)feasibility of space habitation. It's got a comedic-but-serious tone, which is not unexpected as half of the authors are responsible for the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic strip. Lots of digressions and breadth, but all enjoyable and accessible.

Despite space being really cool, I am personally went into this (and left!) with extreme skepticism about the feasibility of humans living in space any time soon. (It just feels like billionaire escapism from real problems that they are disproportionately responsible for causing!) There's probably some confirmation bias in my enjoyment here, as a warning. This book also treats several billionaires with much more respect than they deserve, although it's not fawning over them either.

We're pretty good at shooting things into space at this point (even if it's expensive) but largely past that I think I …

reviewed A City on Mars by Zach Weinersmith

Ligero pero profundo, entretenido pero riguroso

4 stars

Recuerdo de pequeño tener libros de ciencia para niños profusamente ilustrados con visiones tremendamente optimistas de un futuro que nunca fue, lleno de hábitats espaciales y colonias en diferentes lugares del sistema solar. Esos libros aunque a mí me llegaron en los 80 seguramente estuviesen concebidos en los 70, una década en la que todavía llegaban misiones a la Luna y en la que vistos los avances exponenciales que se consiguieron en tan pocos años el cielo ya no era el límite. A nuestra generación se le prometió un programa espacial apasionante y al final, además del trauma colectivo al ver explotar el Challenger en el 86, nos tuvimos que conformar con ser testigos de logros como el amartizaje de Curiosity o el fly-by a Plutón que, aunque excepcionales, palidecen cuando los comparas con lo que me habían prometido aquellos viejos libros. En estos últimos tiempos de turbocapitalismo las grandes …

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