Category Archives: Books

How We’ll Live on Mars – a love-letter to mars colonisation by S. Patranek

how-well-live-on-mars-9781471138898_hrA new book available now, How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Patranek is the latest addition to the greatly increasing debate about Mars. Not that this is a new topic, the father of the US space missions, Werner Von Braun wrote about getting to Mars Das Marsprojekt probing people were thinking of this since the 1940’s, however Patranek is one of an increasing number of voices decrying the failure to use current technology to do the job now.

The book isn’t long, just less than 100 pages, but it may be an effective motivating call for space enthusiasts everywhere to begin to make this hot topic more mainstream. Like the Mar’s Society’s Robert Zubrin, Patranek argues that we’ve had the technology for the job for some time, and it’s been the lack of political will where the failure lies. Also, like other Mars enthusiasts, Patranek see this topic in the broader narrative of a destiny for mankind to be an interplanetary species in order to survive further into the future beyond the life-span of our own planet.

Patranek is clearly a fan of Space X and Elon Musk, and the book contains much praise of Space X’s efforts and advancements with reusable rockets, and the Dragon spacecraft. Of course Musk’s efforts have always been with the declared purpose of going to Mars, and so it’s perhaps natural that this is a feature in this book too, but Patranek is capable of putting this into context with changing opinions more widely, at NASA and elsewhere.

Patranek makes comparisons between the first Mars settlers and the early settlers in North America. It’s one that is often used, but it’s fertile ground for the imagination. Many settlers in New England were wiped out by the first winter there because they had no idea how brutal it would be compared to the milder (but admittedly damp) climate they had come from in Britain. There will be many pitfalls for the early Mars settlers, and it strikes me that this is at the heart of an interesting element in this topic – the need for government agencies and others to ‘sanitise’ colonisation of Mars; for it to only be acceptable once we have mitigated every imaginable risk. While this is an impossible task anyway, it’s flatly against the pioneering spirit in any adventure, and certainly had nothing in common with the settlers in North America. People dies on voyages that lasted months, perished in harsh winters, starved to death: most of the early settlers to New England failed. This is history not much talked about perhaps in a modern nation that is now the richest in the world, but the fundamental nature of being pioneers maybe isn’t for national agencies, and as ever, it can only be down to the tenacity of individuals and risk-takers. This is the world of the private companies and individuals such as Space X and Elon Musk, so it probably is hard to overestimate the impact such people are having on this possible future for mankind.

A broad array of topics are covered in this brief book, for example the import aspect of the economic feature of a Mars settlement-rush, from mining to reality TV, and of course touching on terraforming, but Patranek is clearly an optimist and see the endeavor of settling Mars and something that can and should inspire us, not as an escape from problems on earth, but as part of the solution. Well worth a read for anyone with an interest in Mars, or even environmental and social issues here on Earth. Find it at the usual places, on Amazon here, and Google play books here.

Review by R. Adlard

How We'll Live on MarsStephen Patranek
Get started with model rockets

Get started with model rockets

Model rockets are a great way to learn about maths, physics, the basics of how space rockets work – and of course incredibly fun! A great way to get started is our recommendation of this great little book by Mike Westerfield


The book contains step by step guides of how to make increasingly large rockets, using widely commercially available solid motors from Estes, in addition to water rockets and a whole variety of projects, for the beginner through to someone looking to improve their skills.

The book can be found here below

Mike Westerfieldmodel rockets

20 Facts About Rosetta and the Philae Lander

picture credit, ESA
picture credit, ESA


1. Gets its name from the famous Rosetta stone that led to the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics almost 200 years ago

2. Will help scientists unlock the mysteries of the oldest building blocks of our Solar System – the comets

3. Changed target: its original target was comet 46P/Wirtanen, but after postponement of the initial launch a new one was found: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

4. Was launched on 2 March 2004 and travelled 10 years to reach its rendezvous point Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

5. Has a mass of around three tonnes and carries 11 scientific instruments

6. Is the first solar-powered probe to fly beyond the orbit of Jupiter thanks to its two giant solar panels equipped with advanced solar-cell technology that allows it to operate over 800 million kilometres from the Sun, where sunlight levels are only 4% of those on Earth

7. Will fly an artificial tri-angle orbit around the comet and follow it closely as it approaches the Sun

8. Passed by the asteroid belt and imaged two asteroids on its journey to intercept the comet: 2867 Steins on 5 September 2008 and 21 Lutetia on 10 July 2010

9. Was put into a hibernation mode for two and a half years to travel in energy-saving mode, using the equivalent power of six light bulbs. The three-axis stabilisation attitude controlled spacecraft changed into a spin stabilised mode pointing to the Sun. During this period, Rosetta had to fend for itself and survive without any assistance from ground

10. Has to withstand temperature variations of -270°C to +100°C, surviving close to the Sun, at the distance of Venus, and in deep space

11. Will use optical navigation techniques when nearing its target, so it will autonomously keep the comet always in focus of the instruments

12. Will be the first spacecraft to examine from close proximity how a frozen comet is activated and transformed by the warmth of the Sun

13. Will obtain the first detailed images from a comet’s surface in close orbit

14. Will analyse and map the comet and determine the best place for its Philae lander to touch down

15. Will be the first spacecraft to deliver a lander to the Surface of a comet



16. Is named for the island in the river Nile on which an obelisk was found that had a bilingual inscription that helped to translate the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta stone

17. Weighs 100 kg and carries ten scientific instruments, including a drill to sample subsurface material

18. Will be released from a height of about one kilometre. Touchdown will take place at walking speed – less than one metre per second

19. Will be anchored by a harpoon to the surface once it touches down; the self-adjusting landing gear will ensure that it stays upright, even on a slope and its feet will drill into the ground to secure it to the comet’s surface in the low gravity environment

20. Will obtain the first images from a comet’s surface and make the first in situ analysis to learn what a comet is made from 10679tl

Text and featured image courtesy of Airbus Space and Defence