May 25, 2021

Book Review – The Mars Challenge: The Past, Present, and Future of Human Spaceflight, Alison Wilgus and Wyeth Yates, 2020.

Book Review - The Mars Challenge:

I am totally intrigued by this book. It’s a graphic novel – which apparently is what this kind of comic-book-style is called whether fiction or nonfiction – of a teenager talking with an expert in space flight. The duo converse about what space is, what it takes to get there, and what happens once there. It could have been dry and boring: it is anything but. The graphics bring the whole story to life, as the duo can see examples of some otherwise-complex theories and engineering. Gravity is easier to explain when you can see what it does. It would be a hard job conveying what this book shows merely in words.

Combining words and images so well does not work without a lot of thought. There is clearly a huge amount of research done for this book, then pared down and expertly woven into an engrossing story. The two characters are both women of color, which I found an inspirational touch, and I know others will too. Telling the story as a curious teen eager to learn from an excited expert gives this book added zing.

As a teenager, I’d have been reading and rereading every page until I got the concepts down cold. Adults, I think, could also get a real sense of the universe they live in by reading this. It’s a creatively unique way of taking us to Mars, showing all the challenges we face to do so. It’s a firehose of information, and I needed to keep pausing when reading it, because there is so much to take in.

I don’t recall a book before this that so lucidly sets out the myriad challenges ahead for any human Mars journey – and toys with saying it is simply too difficult – before showing why it’s important to keep working at it.

About the author

International experience in relating science, engineering, music, astronomy, art, and wildlife to general audiences through classes, workshops, public speaking, television and documentary productions. Author of numerous bestselling history books. International keynote speaker at conferences.

Francis French

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