Kelly Weinersmith, Zach Weinersmith: A City On Mars (EBook, 2023, Penguin Press) 4 stars

Earth is not well. The promise of starting life anew somewhere far, far away—no climate …

A skeptical dive into space settlement

4 stars

If you've looked askance at Elon Musk's claim/plan to settle Mars this century, this book will validate your priors in a most entertaining way. The first 3 parts cover the physical & mental aspects of space settlement. As someone who works on satellites, none of this is surprising to me. At least a couple times a week, someone in the office will exclaim "space is hard!" as we try to solve a problem. Additionally, the book spends 2 parts of the legal and geopolitical environment of settling space. The authors' position is that space settlement nerds don't really spend enough time thinking through the ramifications. In particular, while there are better frameworks for space settlement than what we have, there's not a clean path to get there and space settlement nerds aren't really moving society in a real way to get there. There's an extended discussion of an attempt to establish a new state in space by dint of a small cubesat launched by a space society. (As a side note, I'm quite surprised that the book doesn't go into the attempts to create micro-states such as Sealand. Those would be a lot easier to attain statehood with that space environments, and yet none of those has even come close to succeeding.)

What really makes the book though is that the authors are both funny and pay attention to the weird facts of space. Steve Bannon once ran Biosphere 2! The humor won't be a surprise to regular readers of Zach Weinersmith's web strip, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.