In his first book, Final Countdown, Pat Duggins summarized the events that led to the decision to retire the shuttle program and what was to follow after the last shuttle mission ended – the Constellation Program. For his latest offering, Trailblazing Mars: NASA’s Next Giant Leap, Duggins details efforts to reach the red planet efforts that stretch all the way back to the earliest days of the space program.
Trailblazing Mars is a masterful summation of the history that makes up all the diverse elements that have led NASA up to this point. Starting with the NASA’s numerous failures to the incredible success that is the Mars Exploration Rovers; Duggins covers all the important milestones in the exploration of the red planet. He also provides with a succinct understanding of manned spaceflight, where is has been – and where it could go.
“Sending astronauts to Mars has probably been the most dreamed about, but least talked about, goal at NASA,” Duggins said during a recent interview. “The catch is, it will take a whole new NASA to do it.”
Trailblazing Mars works to correct the thinking that a trip to Mars will be reminiscent of the golden era of Apollo. Duggins compares the efforts to go to the red planet to a high-tech homesteading trip to another world. In short where Apollo was a quick week-long vacation – going to Mars will be a far more permanent affair and NASA is going to have to change dramatically to accomplish this.
In his April 15 speech at Kennedy Space Center President Obama stated that he wanted to see astronauts on Mars within his lifetime. If that is to take place, the American public is going to have to face some very real issues – issues Duggins touches on in Trailblazing Mars. How will we handle it when we lose either a single astronaut or an entire crew in space? Unlike Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia if something goes wrong millions of miles from home it is highly likely that those lost will never be recovered.
Pat Duggins is news director at Alabama Public Radio. He’s known nationally as the “voice” of NASA coverage on National Public Radio. Pat has spent over twenty years providing stories on the space program, including the development of NASA’s next generation spacecraft at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He has covered over one hundred space shuttle missions for National Public Radio, starting with the 1986 Challenger accident. Following the 2003 loss of Columbia, Pat provided three hours of “live” coverage on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon.
In a time when long duration manned space missions seem to be drifting further and further away from the American imagination when our ability to do the impossible seems to have been concluded in December of 1972 this book highlights the truth. The truth Trailblazing Mars covers in incredible detail is that we as a species are capable of settling another world – we just have to choose to do so.
Trailblazing Mars: NASA’s Next Giant Leap, will be published by University Press of Florida (UPF) in the Fall of 2010 and will retail for $24.95.