Last week marked the anniversaries of the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia accidents. Those old enough to remember one or more of those tragedies recall the feelings of shock and sadness. Eventually we moved on, however, recommitting ourselves to the noble endeavor of manned space exploration.
But what if a spacecraft vanished without a trace? And what if, decades later, you had the chance to solve a mystery that most had given up on, even if they hadn’t forgotten? That’s the challenge facing 14-year-old Amber Jacobsen:
There was an ocean of data from the Ares missions and the subsequent exploration and settlement of the planet…surely there was some clue, something that had been missed. She looked up at the portraits again. What if it was right in front of everyone, and they couldn’t see it, because they were still thinking like Earthers?
But shewasn’t an Earther. She looked around the cabin at the memorials to the Ares III crew. Mars was her world, the only one she’d ever known. If something had been missed, maybe she could see it. Why shouldn’t she be the one to find the truth? “I’ll do it.”
“What’s that?” Aaron had drifted over to the other side of the cabin.
“Find out what happened. You know, figure it out. I’m gonna do it.”
Patrick Richardson asks that question over at Pajamas Media, and triggers a lively discussion. It’s a thought-provoking piece that includes insights from four authors, including Monster Hunter International author Larry Correia, whom Tom references in the comments to the On E-Publishing post below.
Politics aside, I feel a bigger shortcoming of today’s Science Fiction is a lack of hope and wonder, traits that once defined the genre. It’s our hope that In the Shadow of Ares fills part of that void.
The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are nearing another impressive milestone: Martian Odyssey: Rovers Set to Celebrate 7 Years on Red Planet.
Spirit got stuck in sand and hasn’t communicated since March of last year, but there’s hope that the arrival of Spring may provide a revival of sorts. Opportunity, however, is still going strong–not bad for being over 1300 “sols past warranty”. Better yet, we can hope for even more from the next generation rover scheduled to launch later this year, nicknamed Curiosity.
While robotic craft continue to play an important part in space exploration, hopefully their most important role will be paving the way for human exploration and permanent settlement.
A driving force behind In the Shadow of Ares, going back to our 2001 decision to write the novel, was a desire for more optimism in science fiction. We wanted to provide a vision of a hopeful future, as a counterbalance to all the negative, anti-human, post-apocalyptic stories that seem to dominate the genre today.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of outstanding stories that include some of those elements. Still, a hallmark of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” was certainly the bright, shiny future that was ours to grasp. I for one miss that hopeful optimism. Not only does the current wave of negativism drive away younger fans, but it’s unhealthy for society at large to fear technology and lack hope for the future.
There are a few others who see the same deficiency and are trying to fill it with the occasional positive novel or anthology. I recently came across an interesting, if dated, discussion thread on Asimov’s Science Fiction, appropriately titled “Canon of Optimistic Science Fiction“. One comment included the following observation:
A good deal of “Libertarian Science Fiction” is optimistic though and so is some Young-Adult SF.
Hey, we’re both!
As we portray in “In the Shadow of Ares”, mining will certainly be a crucial part of the economic development of any off-Earth settlements.
“Hispanically Speaking News” ran this story yesterday: Scientists Will Simulate a Space Colony in Chile to Study Life In Mars:
Chilean scientists along with scientists from several other countries will construct a base in the most-arid desert in the world, Chile’s Atacama (where the 33 miners got trapped) aiming to simulate life in a space colony on the planet Mars, which shares a lot of characteristics with Atacama.
While the tie-in to the Chilean mine rescue is interesting, it is not clear if mining will play a significant role in any simulations. It would certainly seem to be relevant. As we portray in “In the Shadow of Ares”, mining will certainly be a crucial part of the economic development of any off-Earth settlements.
At least the Chinese seem to think so:
In March 2011, a delegation from the Chinese space agency will visit the Chilean desert project. The Chinese are projecting that by 2020 they will have below-ground bases on the Moon to extract minerals and are eager to research and test their cutting edge space technology.
Where can we expect the United States to be in 2020? Will the recent shift to private enterprise see the economic and regulatory incentives necessary for this fledgling industry to survive and thrive?