Safe but Boring: SpaceX Landing Sites

SpaceX appears to have narrowed its potential Mars landing sites to four. Unfortunately for purposes of scenic interest, they’re all pretty smooth and safe.

Which is perfectly understandable, but nonetheless a little disappointing. I guess the landings near Valles Marineris and Olympus will have to wait a bit.

SpaceX narrows Mars landing site for Starship to four prime locations

“Redlands” On Sale

For a short time, we’ve reduced the price on “Redlands” to only $0.99.

It’s hard to believe that this story takes place only 26 years from now. That would make Silas Hudson around ten years old today, and Susannah Caillouet around three.

When worlds-famous science popularizer Silas Hudson and his partner are brutally killed while visiting an isolated settlement on Mars, settlers take justice into their own hands. The justice they seek carries a greater danger than murder, however, and their actions threaten to conceal another crime with far-reaching consequences.

In this Dispatch, freelance journalist Calvin Lake investigates the truth behind the events of March 2047, and their long-term consequences for Mars.

Helluva Ride

I had the same reaction to this that I had when LM started putting cameras on the Shuttle External Tanks: “Why haven’t they been doing this cool thing all along?”

The departure of the heatshield was especially fun, as it’s exactly how I imagined the corresponding event in the prologue to “In the Shadow of Ares” (minus the unfortunate burn-through, obviously).

The rover’s first 360 pano is also out:

Note the similarity…
Day 14
Day 14
Mars on Earth

2020 Reading List

A probably-incomplete list of books and short stories I read in 2020. I’d have expected a longer list, given COVID lockdowns, but then I’ve also been working a lot more than usual over the past several months. Most of the fiction was re-reads, as I haven’t seen much lately that appeals to me. There are also several books not listed that I grew bored with and gave up on – something I normally don’t do, but in each case the reading was a slog and was keeping me from reading something more interesting and useful.

  • “Endurance”
  • “Alone on the Ice”
  • “Persuasion”
  • Giants Series: “Inherit the Stars”
  • Giants Series: “The Gentle Giants of Ganymede”
  • Giants Series: “Giants’ Star”
  • Frank Herbert, “Dune”
  • Walter Tevis, “Mockingbird”
  • Isaac Asimov, “Foundation”
  • Niven and Pournelle, “The Mote in God’s Eye”
  • H.P. Lovecraft, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”
  • H.G. Wells, “Anticipations”
  • Herodotus, “The Histories”
  • Lawrence A. Rubin, “Bridging the Straits”
  • “There Will Be War”, vol. 5
  • “There Will Be War”, vol. 7
  • “20 Master Plots and How to Build Them”
  • Nassim Taleb, “Antifragile”
  • “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk”
  • “Miss Manners Minds Your Business”
  • Harvard Classics: “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”
  • Harvard Classics: “Journal of John Woolman”
  • Harvard Classics: “William Penn: Fruits of Solitude”
  • Harvard Classics: Plato’s “The Apology,” “Crito,”  “Phaedo”
  • Dumitru Bacu, “The Anti-Humans”
  • Clark Ashton Smith, “The Tale of Satampra Zeiros”
  • “Collected Works of Robert E. Howard”, vol. 4:21
  • Balmer and Wylie, “When Worlds Collide”/”After Worlds Collide”

Looking Back from Mars

Netflix’s Mars series “Away”, starring Hilary Swank, debuts next month.  Check out the official trailer.  It appears to focus on the relationship of a mother leaving behind her daughter for a 3-year mission.

What caught my eye was the Earth-Moon-Mars bracelet Swank’s character gives her daughter prior to departure.  Not nearly as cool as Amber’s pendant in In the Shadow of Ares, but still an interesting parallel between the two stories.

Redlands

Lockdown has enabled us to put the finishing touches on the next Calvin Lake Dispatch: Redlands. I’m currently finishing preparations for publishing, so you can expect to see it available by Wednesday.

 

Redlands is a murder mystery in the form of a journalistic investigation into the deaths of beloved science popularizer Silas Hudson and his producer Carrie Altenham on March 5, 2047.  

 

When famed science presenter Silas Hudson and his companion are brutally murdered while visiting Redlands, an isolated settlement on Mars, settlers take the law into their own hands. The justice they seek carries greater danger than the crime, however, and their actions threaten to conceal another crime with far-reaching consequences.

Cover Art: "Redlands"
A double murder threatens the social cohesion of a remote Martian settlement, and in the process exposes a troubling secret.

It’s a pity about Hudson, though. The more we wrote about him, the more unfortunate it was that we had to kill him.

Silas Hudson on Utopias

From New Harmony to Ariadaeus Dome, utopias have been built on philosophical foundations by rational minds brandishing simple solutions to the eternal problems of human societies. The problem each has faced is that those eternal problems are the result of real people living in the real world and dealing with real circumstances.

Utopias fail not only because their philosophies are unrealistic or the rationality is unreasonable, but because they invariably deny the nature of the human material they have to work with. But we are human. Wherever we go, for good or ill, we take our humanity with us. How could it be otherwise?

Silas Hudson, Mars Ep. 1, “The Romance of New Horizons”

(Sometimes, I think Silas Hudson should set up a Twitter or Gab feed.)

Life Imitates Art: The Mars Rovers of Iceland

On my next to last day in Iceland, I drove the Kaldidalur route from Reykholt to Thingvellir, passing en route the Langjokull ice cap. Much to my surprise, there was a modestly-marked turnoff that led not merely close to the ice but out onto it (just left of the prominent hill in the center of the image): 

Between Iceland and Norway, I’ve been up close to a dozen or so glaciers but have only ever seen ice caps from a distance. I always pictured them as being bounded by ridges or mountains where they didn’t squeeze out through passes as outlet glaciers, and didn’t anticipate that the margin of the ice would simply taper off to nothing. Just look at this – is this what you would have expected? That such a huge mass of ice would just kinda…end?

I took some pictures and made some notes and filed it all away for when we eventually send characters to the North Cap. Expect to encounter this scene with a red tint at some point.

Another surprise, and the point of this post, was the tour vehicles used by Into the Glacier to ferry people to a man-made ice cave further out on the ice cap.

A little research turned up that they were custom made from MAN 8×8 military chassis by a British company, Army-UK. The things were huge – the pictures don’t convey just how large they seemed up close (but note the Ford Explorer for some sense of scale). I couldn’t see how many seats there were in the front cab, but it looked wide enough to seat four abreast. Army-UK gives a maximum cabin capacity of 38 passengers, which would work out to ten two-by-two rows (minus two seats for the entrance door and steps).

This one was even larger than the one above:

While these aren’t exactly how we pictured the rovers in the Ares Project universe (at least not the rovers sent to Mars as part of the titular Ares Project, which we describe as having cylindrical bodies with a single large front transparency akin to the submersibles from The Abyss), they are great analogues against which one can imagine what other sorts of rovers might look like. In particular, the rovers used by the ill-fated British Trans-Marineris Expedition of 2050…oh, wait, we haven’t talked about that story yet, have we…