Thursday, May 24, 2012

I See Red

I've been watching lots of Mars related videos as of late. These have included Mars Rising, Mars Dead or Alive, and numerous others. Mars Rising is a six-part series narrated by William Shatner that covers the technology, research, and problems with making a journey to the red planet. The series is well done, and covers such aspects as rocket technology, human psychology over long voyages (imagine living in a small enclosed space with several other astronauts for six way), to the potential issues with landing on the planet itself.

One of the other topics cover was terraforming, or the process of "converting" a planet from an unliveable place to one more like Earth. One of the intriguing ideas mentioned in the series was the idea of building hundreds of factories on Mars that would produce greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) for decades on end in order to trigger a planetwide greenhouse effect.

There's a couple of issues with doing that, however. First, you'd have to transport all the factory material to the planet, land it all on the surface, and then set it up. Second, Mars' atmosphere is already full of carbon dioxide. Hmmm.

Whatever the case, it has been interesting to see where the research has been, where it is going, and all the throught going into the process. I'm starting to think, too, about setting some stories on the red planet, after having written a short story that will be likely be included in my next short story collection, Corridors (coming later this summer). The story is tenatively titled, "The Mines of Mars", and deals with a pirate who comes across some unusual cargo being transported via rail. What's been unusual, though, is that the story seems to want to mushroom into a full-blown novel, or at least several interlinked short stories.

It's also been instructive to now go back and look at some other Mars-related fiction I read years ago, such as Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Ray has admitted in an interview that it wasn't so much meant to be a series of science fiction stories, but rather fantasy. This makes sense, given that Mars' daytime temperatures may never get above zero, and if the cold doesn't cause problems, there's always the dust storms or radiation from the sun.

Then there are the tornadoes. Narrow, towering, whirling columns of dust that grow to be as tall as Mt. Everest and as wide as a city block. The dust is finer than talcum powder and can build up huge electrical charges that could easily fry electronic equipment. Sometimes the storms have been beneficial, such as when they've cleaned the dust off the solar panels of the Mars rovers.

There are also signs of a great deal of water just below the surface of the planet. In addition, there are also exploratory discussions occuring about setting up settlements above and/or below the surface. Hopefully, we'll see some of these become reality in the coming years, but until then, it opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of fiction writing.


  1. If you haven't yet read the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson ("Red Mars," etc.), it's worth a look. I hate to admit that I finally gave up on it, despite the very intriguing ideas about settling Mars. The social/political aspect and "cast of thousands" was just not to my taste. Anyway, I'm very intrigued by the idea of manned exploration, and possible eventual colonization, of Mars, and in space travel in general. That goes back to being inspired at a very young age by watching the Moon landings. Sparking that same kind of interest was a key motivation for writing my (first, and probably only) children's book ("Two Boys, Two Planets"), which I hope will spark a Mars interest in impressionable young minds. :)

  2. I haven't read the Mars trilogy, although it sounds like it could be interesting. I'll have to check it out. I still have some more books I'm checking out, too...both fiction and non-fiction. I've noticed there have also been a lot of advancements made of rocket engines, which could potentially shorten the time to travel to any given planet and maybe even cut down on some of the hazards due to the reduced travel time.

    Thanks for stopping by!