Christopher Wanjek: Spacefarers — How Humans Will Settle the Moon, Mars, and Beyond




Christopher Wanjek
Harvard University Press; Illustrated Edition, April 14, 2020, $29.95
ISBN-10: 067498448X; ISBN-13: 978-0674984486

Wanjek reports:

My book Spacefarers explores the challenges of living in space and on other planets and moons from the perspective of biology, engineering, economics and philosophy.

While many books have speculated on the possibility of living beyond the Earth, few have delved into the practical challenges and plausible motives for leaving the safe confines of our home planet. As such, these books are more hype than reality.

Christopher Wanjek

Christopher Wanjek

I argue that there is little doubt we will be returning to the Moon and exploring Mars in the coming decades, given the potential scientific and commercial bonanza. Private industry already is taking a leading role and earning profits from human space activity. This can be a sustainable venture and a natural extension of earthbound science, business, and leisure.

I envision hotels in low-earth orbit and mining tourism on the Moon. Lunar science bases will be analogous to bases on Antarctica, with year-round crews supporting scientists and engineers visiting for a few months. Few will settle on the Moon, though. Low gravity won't permit childrearing. I also propose the slow, steady development of science bases on Mars beginning in the 2040s at the earliest, to be followed by settlements only if Martian gravity will permit reproduction and healthy child development—a major unknown.

I was fortunate in that my publisher, Harvard University Press, approached me for a book idea. No agent. They were developing a new series and said I could have any topic in the universe. Yet my choices—black holes, gravitational waves, Big Bang, dark energy—were all taken! What a relief, actually.

Space colonization proved to be a fun topic in which I could inject a little bit of realism…and levity. I was given nine months to write the book; and with nine proposed chapters in my head, I set a month deadline per chapter. This was like writing nine magazine pieces.

My only mistake was not knowing the word count would include the index and appendices. This meant cutting 10,000 words. Entire sections needed to be axed. Young writers, know your word count well!

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Sep. 30, 2020

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

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