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Beyond Earth
Cover of Beyond Earth
Beyond Earth
Our Path to a New Home in the Planets
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From a leading planetary scientist and an award-winning science writer, a propulsive account of the developments and initiatives that have transformed the dream of space colonization into something that may well be achievable.

We are at the cusp of a golden age in space science, as increasingly more entrepreneurs—Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos—are seduced by the commercial potential of human access to space. But Beyond Earth does not offer another wide-eyed technology fantasy: instead, it is grounded not only in the human capacity for invention and the appeal of adventure but also in the bureaucratic, political, and scientific realities that present obstacles to space travel—realities that have hampered NASA's efforts ever since the Challenger disaster.

In Beyond Earth, Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R.Hendrix offer groundbreaking research and argue persuasively that not Mars, but Titan—a moon of Saturn with a nitrogen atmosphere, a weather cycle, and an inexhaustible supply of cheap energy, where we will even be able to fly like birds in the minimal gravitational field—offers the most realistic and thrill­ing prospect of life without support from Earth.
(With 8 pages of color illustrations)
From the Hardcover edition.
From a leading planetary scientist and an award-winning science writer, a propulsive account of the developments and initiatives that have transformed the dream of space colonization into something that may well be achievable.

We are at the cusp of a golden age in space science, as increasingly more entrepreneurs—Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos—are seduced by the commercial potential of human access to space. But Beyond Earth does not offer another wide-eyed technology fantasy: instead, it is grounded not only in the human capacity for invention and the appeal of adventure but also in the bureaucratic, political, and scientific realities that present obstacles to space travel—realities that have hampered NASA's efforts ever since the Challenger disaster.

In Beyond Earth, Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R.Hendrix offer groundbreaking research and argue persuasively that not Mars, but Titan—a moon of Saturn with a nitrogen atmosphere, a weather cycle, and an inexhaustible supply of cheap energy, where we will even be able to fly like birds in the minimal gravitational field—offers the most realistic and thrill­ing prospect of life without support from Earth.
(With 8 pages of color illustrations)
From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Introduction
    THE WAY OFF THE EARTH


    Someday, people will live on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Their energy will come from burning the unlimited supply of fossil fuels on its surface and their oxygen from the water ice that forms much of Titan's mass. The nitrogen atmosphere, thicker than the Earth's, will protect them from space radiation and allow them to live in unpressurized buildings and travel without spacesuits, in very warm clothes with respirators. They will go boating on lakes of liquid methane and fly like birds in the cold, dense atmosphere, with wings on their backs.

    This will happen because, at a certain point, it will make sense. Today, the cold, gloomy Titan skies are unappealing and impossibly distant. We do not yet have the technology to put people on Titan. But the technology is coming at the same time the prospects for the Earth are getting worse. In earlier times, human beings struck out for strange and dangerous new places when their homes became intolerable. If humanity doesn't change course on this planet, a new world free from war and climate upheaval could someday draw colonists to Titan in the same way.

    The technology required for a space colony is already visible. The largest barriers are institutional. An indifferent political establishment. A space agency, NASA, with a culture that squelches dissent and that lacks a coherent goal for human spaceflight. News media that have sold the public a false understanding of the real challenges of space exploration. Going to another planet will be difficult and, without breakthroughs, unacceptably dangerous.

    But the ingredients for a space colony are coming together. Experience building space vehicles has spread to many countries and private industry. An Internet-spawned innovation culture that knows how to make new things fast has turned its attention to space. The concepts needed to get us there have been thought out already.

    When the moment comes, it won't be the first time human beings have embarked on a voyage that seemed impossibly difficult, expensive, and technically challenging. Our kind repeatedly built new societies in places so remote as to forbid return. When we do it again, we'll probably have reasons similar to those they had then.

    As authors, we have investigated science and technology as well as culture and the environment to construct our scenario about space colonization. We have pondered the fundamental issues facing humanity: our response to technology; our will to explore, expand, and consume; and how we treat one another and treat the world we already have. The most important ingredient for space colonization is the human animal: our cellular response to cosmic radiation, our psychological ability to travel for years through nothingness, and our ecological fitness for a new landscape where no organism has lived before (at least no organism we know of). What are we? How far can we go?

    Scientists we interviewed often asked if we were writing science fiction or journalism. We never intended to write a work of imagination, but a skeptic would never have predicted what has already happened. We visited a rocket factory floor where private space industry workers were sewing astronaut suits that Captain James T. Kirk would have been proud to wear. Our scenario is not based on a love of cool inventions and inspiring visions. It relies on our knowledge of people's tendency for dumb decisions, selfish drives, and messy politics. Recognizing these predictable truths makes it easier to see how technology could unfold, and more interesting and funnier, too.

    We've had tremendous fun thinking and arguing...
About the Author-
  • CHARLES WOHLFORTH is the author of more than ten previous books. He writes a column for Alaska Dispatch News, hosts a weekly interview program for public radio stations in Alaska (where he lives), and has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Sci­ence and Technology, among many other awards.

    AMANDA R. HENDRIX, Ph.D.,
    a planetary scientist, worked for twelve years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has been a scientific investigator on the Galileo and Lunar Reconnaissance missions, a principal investigator on NASA research and Hubble Space Telescope observing programs, and is the author of many scientific papers. As an investigator on the Cas­sini mission to Saturn, she has focused her research on the moons of Saturn.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 26, 2016
    Planetary scientist Hendrix and writer Wohlforth weave scientific research with fascinating speculation to paint a picture of how and why humankind might spread to other planets. They take into account technology, psychology, politics , and more, concluding that humans’ first colony will most likely be on Saturn’s moon Titan. Their arguments for Titan are simple: it offers radiation protection, lakes of hydrocarbons for fuel, and an atmosphere that eliminates the need for pressurized suits. In addition to basic survival requirements, the authors tackle the problems unique to prolonged human spaceflight and reasons for planetary colonization. They predict that something drastic would have to happen on Earth to motivate humans to seek another home. To that end, the book’s fictional sections become an account of global conflict, a fresh start on Titan, and eventual habitation among the stars. These future speculations read like a decades-spanning, dystopian sci-fi adventure. The authors’ unsophisticated takes on global conflict are somewhat disappointing, but they do raise important questions about support for biotech-based eugenics and how it may be employed in space colonization. On the whole, the fictional chapters are entertaining, chilling, and put the science in a more human context. The two halves work together to create a striking, reality-based possible future that’s seen through the lens of current knowledge.

  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2016
    An assessment of the prospects for establishing a future space colony.While this is not yet on the radar screen, Wohlforth (The Fate of Nature: Rediscovering Our Ability to Rescue the Earth, 2010, etc.) and Hendrix, a planetary scientist who worked at NASAs propulsion laboratory, believe that such a long-term goal is needed to provide a focus for NASA, which is currently massively underfunded. As they note, even an imaginary space colony decades off would provide a goal, a lodestar, to help align mission planners designs to the future. The authors also explore the commercial potential for financing such a mission, beginning with space tourism. Saturns moon Titan appears to be the best candidate for such a colony because of its Earth-like environment and available energy. Apart from Earth, it is unique in the solar system in having surface liquids. Venture capitalist Elon Musk, the founder and owner of SpaceX, is a central character in this story. The mission of the company is to mass-produce rockets fast, reliably, cheaply, and get them to space right now, following the model of car manufacturers. The authors admit that the company is attempting to implement technologies first developed by NASA but with major cost reductions. In their opinion, the difference is Musks entrepreneurial spirit, in contrast to NASAs bureaucracyalthough like NASA in the aftermath of the Challenger explosion, SpaceX is facing financial problems. Aside from technological issues that are still to be resolved, a more serious problem is the potential physical danger to astronautse.g., the effects of cosmic radiation and weightlessness over long time periods. The authors successfully combine a visionary approach to space colonization with the practicalities facing the program now. Their conclusion that NASA should focus on stretch technology, leaving the rest to the private sector, is controversial but worthy of serious consideration. A welcome contribution to the ongoing discussion of the future of Americas space program.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    June 15, 2016
    Los Angeles Book Prize winner Wohlforth and Hendrix, a planetary scientist who worked for 12 years at NASA's Propulsion Laboratory (and whose original research undergirds much of this book) join forces to describe the future of space travel. With a six-city tour.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Beyond Earth
Our Path to a New Home in the Planets
Charles Wohlforth
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