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Published on December 2nd, 2018 | by Tina Casey


Going To Mars For The Holidays? Take These Books & One Game Along

December 2nd, 2018 by  

They’re already talking about getaway excursions to the Moon, right? Yes, they are. Before you know it, the idea of vacationing on Mars will not seem so crazy either. Of course, you’ll need something to keep you busy during the long trip out there. CleanTechnica recently received some suggestions from National Geographic that fit the bill and we’re happy to pass them along: two big books and a super fun board game.

And yes, we are anticipating that books and board games will make the cut for the space travel baggage limit.

1. Space Atlas, Second Edition

First up is Nat Geo’s lavishly illustrated Space Atlas. It’s a handy reference companion for NASA fans who are following along with the space agency’s latest high profile project, the Mars InSight.

If you missed all the excitement over InSight, just last week the cheeky little robotic probe entered the Martian atmosphere, survived the notorious “seven minutes of terror,” and touched down safely on the surface accompanied by much jubilation in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory control room.

Mars once had a lot in common with the Earth. It probably never had things like K-Pop and it probably never will, but up until a few years ago (make that a few billions), the Red Planet shared all the fundamental features one associates with the Blue Planet. Here’s the explainer from NASA:

This dynamic planet has seasons, polar ice caps, extinct volcanoes, canyons and weather. Scientists have found lots of evidence that Mars was much wetter and warmer, with a thicker atmosphere, billions of years ago.

Dude, what happened? That’s what InSight (aka the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport robot) is hoping to find out.

For the next two years InSight will be relaying back all kinds of information about the innards of Mars, and it’s a good bet that some of those findings will relate to other planets in our solar system and beyond, so a space atlas will sure come in handy if you or somebody in your household wants to get a visual on Mars and all the other planets when they pop up in conversation.

What does the Space Atlas say about Pluto? We’re not telling! Get the book!

And yes, InSight has its own Twitter account — @NASAInSight — with 617,000 followers and counting.

2. The 2019 Almanac

Next up is the 2019 Almanac. This book is a lot of things, and one of those things is the answer to the question, how did we land a robotic probe on Mars?

The answer is: science! And where does the science come from! Errr…we’re not telling, but the Almanac drops a couple of hints right on the front cover:

Epic Adventures!

Fearless Explorers!

Yes, the Almanac is a tasty brew of what happens when little kids ask why the sky is blue and never get a satisfactory answer. Here, we’ll let Nat Geo tell it (breaks added for readability):

An almanac like you’ve never seen before [!]

This arresting volume features key information on science, nature, history, and geography [!]

…exquisite photography, explanatory infographics, illustrated timelines, and maps created by expert cartographers [!]

…featured topics range from the polar jet stream and how chameleons change colors to the world’s biggest cities and the science of addiction [!]

…includes top travel trends, new explorations, and recent discoveries, as well as fascinating trivia [!]

After scrolling through this book you get the feeling that landing people on Mars is quite within the realm of possibility.

On the other hand, there’s always the human factor to muck things up…

3. Terraforming Mars: The Game

Getting people to Mars is the easy part. Keeping people to keep from acting like people — making bad decisions, taking things that don’t belong to them, getting into fights and mucking up the environment — is the hard part.

Another one of the hard parts is figuring out who’s gonna pay for all this, which basically comes down to how science and exploration interact with exploration and exploitation.

That’s a super complicated issue and that’s where the new board game Terraforming Mars comes in. It gives players a chance to exercise their choices in all different directions, as the heroes of science and commercial enterprise struggle to survive on the thin edge of a life-sustaining environment on Mars.

Don’t trust us, trust our friends over at Board Game Geek. Apparently Terraforming Mars has been generating some good buzz in the board game community, and it’s living up to the hype. Here’s a representative sample of the comments logged on Game Board Geek:

I wanted so much to fight the hype. I adore this game. It is fantastic. I don’t even care if I win or how long the game runs (not usually very long, unless we’re having such a blast that we neglect to actually… terraform Mars…). Wonderful wonderful game.

The game also gets a seal of approval from the National Geographic Channel, which is producing a TV series under the self explanatory title Mars, which deals with — you guessed it — the scientific and humantific challenges of sustaining a permanent colony on Mars.

What About Clean Tech?

In case you’re wondering what the clean tech connection is for space exploration, well for one thing there’s solar power. Back in the day, the US dominated the global solar industry through its connection with taxpayer-backed space exploration, and look where we are today.

With that in mind, check out NASA’s 100 Year Starship project. Spearheaded by former NASA astronaut an entrepreneur Dr. Mae Jemison, the project aims far beyond Mars and lays plans for venturing into the interstellar zone.

That’s going to take a whole new approach to energy, as the folks at 100 Year Starship explain:

Energy and propulsion, while closely linked, are not the same things. Energy in some form is required to propel or move the vehicle. And energy is also needed to power the spacecraft’s systems, like computers, lights, environmental controls, navigation, scientific sensing equipment, agriculture, etc. There are many ways to generate energy, but most of the methods that we use on Earth today—for example, burning fossil fuels or even rocket propellants—on a pound for pound (or kilo for kilo) basis produce such small amounts of energy, that we could not collect and store enough material on Earth to power the trip!

Solar energy is less practical at great distances from the nearest star, so all options are on the table. They’re talking about nuclear energy, chemical rockets, ion propulsion engines, solar sails, and yes even warp drive and worm holes.

Keep up with the action — and add your 2 cents — by joining 100 Year Starship as a member (yes, anybody can join).

Follow me on Twitter.

Image: via National Geographic. 



About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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