- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (November 15, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804197970
- ISBN-13: 978-0804197977
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 39 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets First Edition Edition
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“Refreshing….delightfully different from any other book I’ve ever read by human-spaceflight cheerleaders. The authors have put their thinking caps on and broken out of the usual orthodoxy by presenting cogent ideas on why humans should go into space, including their lovely idea of going to and living on obscure (to most folks) Titan….Mr. Wohlforth and Ms. Hendrix gracefully outline not just the mechanics but the philosophy and morality of human spaceflight in their well-structured book….It is decidedly a book that should be read by anyone intrigued by the possibility and feasibility of a future ‘out there.’” —Homer Hickam, The Wall Street Journal
“Long ago I’d come to doubt that humans might ever leave this planet to homestead another. But this impeccably researched, imaginative, and gracefully written book seized me right from its introduction and kept me rapt to the end, rooting for our future. Beyond Earth is epic science writing, the rare kind that I can’t get out of my mind – or my dreams.” —Alan Weisman, author of Countdown and The World Without Us
“An engaging mind game. It’s hard not to get swept up in the authors’ wide-ranging enthusiasm for space exploration and settlement. They find optimism in some surprising places—even in the gloomy prospects for our current planetary home.” —Tom Kizzia, author of Pilgrim’s Wilderness
“This wonderful book imagines the future and, most of all, made me think—a rewarding journey even when I disagreed. As enjoyable as any science fiction, it isn’t fiction, but a fascinating extrapolation of facts leading to a possible future. Everyone should read it.”
—Julian Nott, space scientist, pilot, inventor, and holder of seventy-nine world aviation records in balloons
“Beyond Earth is an important contribution. It’s a thought-provoking introduction to our unlimited future in the outer solar system and beyond.” —S. Pete Worden, Executive Director, Breakthrough StarShot, and Former NASA Ames Center Director
“Beyond Earth goes beyond anything yet written on the subject of space colonization, making clear how what once seemed an adventure is now an urgent necessity. A future human settlement on Titan will keep this book in its library the way early American citizens preserved copies of Common Sense.” —Thomas Mallon, author of Finale
“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 America’s space program.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Promising not to offer another ‘wide-eyed technology fantasy,’ Hendrix and Wohlforth dive into the gritty bureaucratic, political, and scientific hoops humans will have to jump through to make life on other planets a reality. The book also delivers its own form of a mic drop with the argument that it is Titan, not Mars, that will eventually serve as Earth’s next frontier.” —Inverse, Science Books to Read this Fall
“Well researched, the volume takes the compelling approach of discussing current and planned explorations of the solar system, then projects this work into a future scenario narrative that plays out over segments in each chapter….Written in lay language with clear explanations of planetary research, this offering will appeal to readers of environmental or space topics.” —Library Journal
“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….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.” —Publishers Weekly
“Highly approachable and enlightening.” —Signature Reads
“Beyond Earth balances possible futures with a raft of facts on advances in spacecraft technology, robotics and space medicine. Crucially, [Wohlforth and Hendrix] parse the push and pull between cautious governments and gung-ho entrepreneurs, concluding that the two may ultimately add up to a propulsive combination.” —Nature
“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.” —The Gleaner
“A warning siren for global climate change. While telling a compelling tale about how a small cadre of brave and/or rich souls could colonize space, the real message here is that our best chance to preserve humanity requires facing up to the challenges here on Earth….Certainly worth a read.” —Cranereaction.com
“This back-and-forth between science and science fiction is nicely done…engaging.” —Hippopress.com
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.
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I really wanted to like this book because there is a dearth of literature on settlement of the Solar system's periphery. But Beyond Earth has too many science problems, the biggest one having to do with the idea of burning Titan's atmospheric methane (5% CH4) for power production. (since Dr. Hendrix provides the scientific expertise for the book, I will address her contributions to it directly). It should be obvious that without free oxygen available, it will be rather difficult to combust methane. Dr. Hendrix suggests that electricity supplied by a nuclear fission reactor can be used to crack water to supply the oxygen. Well, yes, this will work, BUT seems a needlessly complex way to supply power when it can be tapped directly from the fission reactor. Keep in mind that at each step (electrolyzing water and burning methane) there will be losses and inefficiencies that the Titan colony can hardly afford. And burning methane will produce CO2, not a good thing unless one needs to make dry ice bricks.
The entire idea of relying on nuclear fission to power the colony itself needs to be thought out better. In my reading experience, all authors fail to emphasize that at Saturn's distance, if the heat supply gives out, then the colonists will FREEZE SOLID. I'm talking meat popsicles! This is something that must always be kept in mind when considering the reliability of the colony's heat supply. The authors cite the experience of the US Navy's nuclear submarine fleet to support their contention that nuclear fission plants can be relied on. But these vessels go out on patrols only for a duration of 6-9 months at a time, get depot-level maintenance when in port between patrols, and rely on a vast infrastructure of supporting industry. The Titan colony needs power continuously, in perpetuity. Then there is the little problem of obtaining fission fuel (uranium or plutonium). Obviously this will have to be imported because it is practically nonexistent at Saturn. Lastly, in order to expand the colony on a permanent basis, nuclear reactors will need to be imported from Earth for a very long time. Without that vast industrial infrastructure, nuclear just does not scale easily.
The book fails to mention solar power as a viable alternative or supplement. This is probably because of the thick haze that blankets Titan. Solar power could be gathered by orbital powersats and beamed down (Dr. Hendrix mentions that there are some radiofrequencies that will penetrate the atmosphere down to the surface). For those who doubt that solar is a workable option at Saturn's distance from the sun, I would refer them to Dyson's Infinite in All Directions in which he describes a civilization in the Kuiper Belt that gathers the faint sunlight with arrays of metal mirrors many miles long. Keep in mind that a mirror deployed in space can be foil-thin (even atoms-thin). The gathered sunlight can be focused on a turbogenerator for electricity production, or the mirrors can be used to concentrate sunlight on photovoltaic cells. Gathering sunlight at Saturn is much more expensive than at Earth (Saturn's sunlight is 1.35 percent the intensity of Earth's sunlight, or 18.36 watts per square meter averaged over the Saturian year) but it can work, and it is dependable and easily scalable. The only question is how electricity can be transported to Titan's surface. If microwave beams cannot be used then the energy would have to be transported down to Titan via a chemical intermediary.
Then there's the so-called Q-Drive which Dr. Hendrix proposes to use for propulsion to Titan. Her description is lacking in technical detail, only that "quantum particles" are produced somehow from the quantum vacuum, and ejected as reaction mass. This supposedly permits the spacecraft to accelerate without propellant -- the reaction mass is "manufactured" in flight. I did some research on this and I was led to the Wikipedia article titled "Quantum Vacuum Thruster". It seems there is some controversy if this concept is for real or not. I've studied a little physics and my opinion is the Q-Drive resembles the fabled "perpetual motion devices" that patent examiners sometimes let slip through their approval process. Seems like the authors are trying to get something for nothing, and the beginner student of physics learns very quickly that never happens. You can't even break even. Little things like "entropy" and "conservation laws" always get in the way. The author Mauldin of the book I mentioned at the start Prospects for Interstellar Travel) laments that it seems so unfair we have to work so hard building up a decent speed and then have to expend more time and energy braking at the destination, and then the spacecraft winds up with the same momentum state that it started with! Bummer but that's reality, folks! Strange, I recall reading in Beyond Earth that the authors said they were going to limit their technical discussions to established science. I'll just finish by remarking that I believe that the "Q" in Q-Drive really stands for "quack".
What's really galling is that there are so many other valid ideas for fast space propulsion that they could have put in the book. Maybe they felt they just had to be different. Or that their friend Sonny White is so enthusiastic about this wondrous Q-Drive that they just had to put it in. Too bad for the reading public, I hope no innocent schoolchildren or some wide-eyed teenager finds this book in a library and gets disillusioned when they find out it was all a bunch of hokum.
The authors take pains to disparage all locations other than Titan as worthy destinations for human colonization. They dismiss Mars simply because it is bombarded by cosmic radiation and meteoroids due to its thin atmosphere. Colonists there will have to shelter in hardened shelters, or underground (or lava tubes, which the authors can be commended for mentioning). This is not an insurmountable obstacle, and would be far easier to deal with than Titan's killer cold. Titan residents are going to be spending nearly all their lives in their hot-air-balloon habs. Perhaps the authors should have interviewed some Antarctic researchers and inquired how much they enjoyed being outside their shelters (oh I forgot, the Antarctic scientists evacuate for the winter! Bummer the Titan people can only retreat to orbit). Back to Mars: it's got plenty of rocks, metals, oxygen and water. it's warm, solar energy is freely available, and Mars is far closer to the metal-rich asteroid belt. It has two natural satellites which will be advantageous as stepping-stones for exploration (via telepresence) and establishment of a colony. Mars has an eerily earthlike 24 hour rotational day/night cycle. Mars has nearly three times Titan's gravity (38 percent of a gee rather than 14%). Since nobody knows just how much gravity is necessary for long-term human health and reproduction, this last factor is probably a decisive advantage for Mars over Titan.
The moons of Jupiter are also probably more viable than Titan. The outermost Big Three (Europa,Ganymede,Callisto) all are now known to have underground oceans of liquid water. Since it's liquid we can be sure things are pretty warm down there. The icy roof provides excellent radiation shielding. And contrary to what they said in Beyond Earth, there IS plenty of rock/metal in the Galilean moons. The mean density of Io is 3.5 g/cm3 and Europa is 3.0 g/cm3, so there is plenty of something there much denser than water (1.0 g/cm3). (Io is minable at its poles). Even Callisto has a mean density of 1.83 g/cm3, and as a bonus it's almost completely undifferentiated, so there are lots of the heavy elements near its surface. The only real problem with the Jovian moons is the low gravity, about that of our Moon (though it helps keep the water pressure to a manageable level).
Another thing I wish the authors had made room for was material on the other moons of Saturn. Saturn does have a most handsome collection of medium size moons far smaller than Titan and the Galilean giants, but still far bigger than the space rocks of Jupiter in the 10-300 km range. The Titan colonists will have a great many mining opportunities on these low-gee motherlodes for the metals which they will need so badly.
The authors of Beyond Earth do not even consider the possibility of space stations as colonies as described in Gerard O'Neill's The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. Yes, building city-size habitats in free space will be expensive and difficult. But this solves ALL the problems of a permanent colony in space. Any level of gravity can be provided for, as much shielding against space radiation can be provided for, as much area and volume as needed can be provided for. Lesser gravity and near-zero gravity will assist many manufacturing activities. Access to abundant solar energy and the material resources of the Belt is fast, easy, and inexpensive. It was a gross oversight to ignore the possibilities of space habitats. After publication of O'Neill's book, Isaac Asimov termed this perspective "planetary chauvinism". And it's a mistake when considering the possibilities of solar colonization..
Lastly, a thing that I found annoying was the author's subscription to the too-popular conceit that the universe absolutely must be teeming with alien intelligences. I myself could have done without the prattle about the Fermi paradox. There are plenty of reasons why the Earth may be the only home for intelligent life (personally, I believe even this statement is debatable at best). 'Nuff said on this topic, I will simply refer the reader to the outstanding Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe.
I rate Beyond Earth two stars because it does contain some interesting material on the politics of space development. The color photos are nice. The authors were right to point out that there is much unknown about the long-term hazards of space travel, and that more research into it should be furthered. Importantly, they make clear it's a far better idea to clean up the mess we are making of our Earth than to undertake space colonization on an involuntary, forced basis. After all, it may prove impossible for all we know. As for the idea that the only plausible impetus for expanding out into the solar system would be global environmental catastrophe, the authors could have saved quite a few pages by simply stating the rationale that Elon Musk of SpaceX has for his effort to establish a permanent human presence on Mars -- it's just not a good survival strategy for the human species to keep all our eggs in one planetary basket. It's just something we gotta do, no matter what. Big rocks do fall out of the sky from time to time. But don't fret so much kids, the dinosaurs didn't see it coming either.
to at least the level of Apollo times for Mars or Moon colonies
needs to be done before blasting off. Fermi was correct. Our signals have not reached and we have not received due to time/ space restrictions. Pour colonization money into time/speed
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