Two new books explore Mars - and what it means to be human

I once lived on Mars and the sirens of Mars read war

Science journalist Kate Greene couldn’t have known that her memories of her time on what was supposed to be a mission to Mars would be released if millions of people around the world were separated from their homes for several months in the midst of a pandemic.
But his book is one of only two books on Mars released this month, oddly enough adapted to the present moment. I once lived on Mars, and Sarah Stewart Johnson’s Mars Sirens are both about exploration. But it’s also about the many types of separation and the human desire not to be alone.
Greene participated in a simulated mission to Mars called HI-SEAS for Hawaii’s Space Exploration Analog and Simulation in 2013. He and five others lived in a dome in a rugged and relentless patch on Mauna Loa volcano for four months without fresh food. No fresh air (all travel is in massive “spacesuits”) and no immediate contact with the outside world.

NASA and other space agencies are undertaking such missions to identify best practices for keeping astronauts healthy and productive in isolated and stressful environments. It is well documented that boredom can lead to mistakes or precautions. Other simulated missions to Mars suggest that alien astronauts may have us versus mentality that will cause the crew to stop listening to mission checks, which can be dangerous on a long mission.
With humor and sensitivity, Greene recounted how his collaborators got along (or not), what they read, what they ate, and delayed emails they exchanged with loved ones on “Earth.” In the essay series, he uses the mission as a lens to examine everything from the ethics and economics of space travel to the nature of time, love, and home.

His descriptions of boredom and isolation are most evident in an age of social travel: “The way certain aspects of your surroundings, daily routine and conversations go smoothly, their structure works. Greene recounted his experience of the days of astronaut Michael Collins orbiting alone on the Apollo 11 capsule while his crew walked on the moon. He combines these two experiences with his brother, who spent a year and a half of his life. life in a hospital room.

“In this oasis of a planet,” he writes, “there are many ways to feel isolated, each of us has the potential to sit with horror, life and perhaps alone in the cosmos.
The Mermaid of Mars begins with a broader view of the exploration of Mars. Stewart Johnson, a scientific scientist, wrote lyrical, focusing on writing how our perception of Mars went from a world full of life to definitely dead and boring and since the invention of the moving telescope to many times.
Stewart Johnson brings together a range of characters to tell this story, from Galileo to the team currently working on the Curiosity rover. These characters include astronomer Carl Sagan, whose Cosmos Stewart Johnson television series was considered to be a child. Sagan is disgusted with almost nothing in science because of his obsession with “exobiology”.

It also featured less famous but equally important people, such as Sagan’s colleague Wolf Vishniac, whose “Wolf Trap” life-tracking experience was cut short by NASA’s pursuit of Viking lands in the years. 1970. To overcome his frustration, Vishniac searches for germs in Antarctica and dies there in an accident before the start of the Viking missions (SN: 12/22/73).

Throughout the history of man’s attraction to the Red Planet, Stewart Johnson also tells a personal story of how he found his place in the world, from a curious child to an anonymous reporter is going through a wife and a mother and a member of a scientific team.

He said finding life on Mars is an effort not to be alone. In one of the most brutal scenes in his book, he travels to Mauna Kea – the volcano closest to Greene’s habitat in Martene – and finds a fern growing in the middle of a volcanic eruption.

“It was during this trip that the idea of ​​finding life in the universe began to take on meaning,” he writes. “Suddenly I saw something in which I could follow the start offer, something in which I would fall into the sea … a chance to discover the slightest breath in the dead of the night and thus overcome the void that exists between the existence of man and everything in the cosmos. ”

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