SETI [Fwd: Spaceviews reviews of Entering Space and Dark Life]

Robert Owen (
Fri, 24 Sep 1999 17:35:19 -0400

Larry Klaes wrote:

> *** Book Reviews ***
> by Jeff Foust
> Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization
> by Robert Zubrin
> Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999
> hardcover, 306 pp., illus.
> ISBN 0-87477-975-8
> US$24.95/C$34.99
> Buy this book at
> For most of the 1990s, Robert Zubrin has been most directly
> linked with the planet Mars. While working at Martin Marietta in the
> early 1990s, he developed a low-cost plan for human missions to Mars
> called Mars Direct that captured the imagination of not only space
> activists but eventually NASA. That plan became the basis for the
> book "The Case for Mars", which in turn generated public interest that
> led to the creation by Zubrin of The Mars Society last year. However,
> Zubrin takes a wider view of humanity's future in space in his latest
> book, "Entering Space".
> In this book, Zubrin provides a road map for how humanity will
> expand its presence beyond the Earth to the solar system and
> eventually interstellar space. From Earth orbit humans will go to the
> Moon (for science more than settlement) and Mars (of course), and then
> on to the asteroids. From there humans will spread out in the outer
> solar system, in large part to harvest the helium-3 present in the
> atmospheres of the gas giants that's needed to power the fusion
> reactors that will be needed to supply the Earth's growing energy
> needs. From there humans will eventually spread out beyond the solar
> system to other worlds around other stars.
> In the book, Zubrin explains not only how humans will explore
> the solar system, but why people will go. Without a frontier to
> explore, humanity will lapse into a mundane, stagnant existence that
> can only lead to an eventual decline. This argument, presented in
> persuasive detail in the book, is arguably more important that the
> discussion of how we will explore the solar system: why the technical
> details may change, what motivates us to explore is less likely to
> change.
> Zubrin develops a strong core argument, and prunes away plans
> and concepts that he feels are wrong or unnecessary. He doesn't
> hesitate to criticize some launch vehicle concepts, solar power
> satellites, and Moon bases -- despite their interest in some sections
> of the space activist community -- because he feels they are
> infeasible and likely to fail. However, he does perhaps spend too
> much of the latter part of the book discussing interstellar
> exploration. While this is the next logical step beyond the outer
> solar system, how we will do this is highly speculative at this stage,
> given our relatively primitive technologies.
> "Entering Space" is certainly not the first book to explain
> why or how we should explore space, but Zubrin arguably does a better
> job crystallizing the arguments for space exploration and settlement,
> on a technical and philosophical basis, than anyone else in recent
> times.
> Dark Life: Martian Nanobacteria, Rock-Eating Cave Bugs, and Other
> Extreme Organisms of Inner Earth and Outer Space
> by Michael Ray Taylor
> Scribner, 1999
> hardcover, 288 pp., illus.
> ISBN 0-684-84191-6
> US$23/C$34
> Buy this book at
> What do deep, dark caves have to do with the search for life
> on Mars? While the two may at first seem unrelated, the study of the
> unusual bacterial life forms that exist in caves may help scientists
> in their search for evidence of similar past or present life on the
> Red Planet. Michael Ray Taylor brings together these seemingly
> disparate subjects in "Dark Life".
> Taylor's book weaves together a set of first-hand accounts.
> One is the exploration of caves on Earth, where evidence of unusual,
> tiny life forms have been discovered by scientists. The other is the
> story behind the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view)
> Martian meteorite ALH 84001, in which some scientists have found
> evidence for fossilized nanobacteria. These two worlds of research
> come together in part because of Taylor, an experienced caver who
> brings evidence of nanobacteria discovered in caves and hot springs to
> the attention of NASA scientists. In the book we hop back and forth,
> from crawling through caves to attending planetary science
> conferences, as the two threads come together.
> The book provides an interesting, unique account of how our
> understanding of the Earth's biosphere is changing with the discovery
> of nanobacteria in places thought to be devoid of life, and how that
> may shape our understanding of what life might existed (or exist
> today) on Mars. He brings in an interesting cast of characters, from
> cavers looking for nanobacteria that could have medical aplications to
> a NASA summer intern who was involved with the initial discovery of
> evidence of life in ALH 84001 -- although she didn't initially realize
> it. "Dark Life" is an entertaining, informative book that shows that
> the search for life in extreme environments on the Earth may help us
> in the search for life on other worlds.
> ========
> This has been the September 22, 1999, issue of SpaceViews.
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ____ | "SpaceViews" (tm) -by Boston Chapter
> // \ // | of the National Space Society (NSS)
> // (O) // | Dedicated to the establishment
> // \___// | of a spacefaring civilization.
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Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA

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