A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?

Kelly Weinersmith

Earth is not well. The promise of starting life anew somewhere far, far away—no climate change, no war, no Twitter—beckons, and settling the stars finally seems within our grasp. Or is it. more

NonfictionScienceSpaceTechnologyHistoryHumorGraphic NovelsPoliticsAudiobookPopular Science

448 pages, Hardcover
First published Penguin Press

4.14

Rating

1695

Ratings

315

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Kelly Weinersmith

4 books 212 followers

Dr. Kelly Weinersmith is adjunct faculty Biosciences department at Rice University, where she studies parasites that manipulate the behavior of their hosts. She also cohosts Science…sort of, which is one of the top 20 natural science podcasts. Kelly spoke at Smithsonian magazine’s The Future Is Here Festival in 2015, and her work has been featured in The Atlantic, National Geographic, BBC World, Science, and Nature.

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Nataliya
830 reviews
13897 followers
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“So, humans are squishy and weak. The real estate options are toxic. And pointy. And cold. You’ll be growing vegetables in your own waste, tending your food bugs, and fighting off bark scorpions while drunk on beet wine. more


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Cav
749 reviews
134 followers
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"It is no longer a question of if we will colonise the Moon and Mars, but when. "—Tim Peake, astronautA City on Mars had its moments, but ultimately, it ended up being a mixed bag for me. I am admittedly a huge fan of books on space exploration and future science, but this one left a bit to be desired. More below. The authors drop the quote above at the start of the book. more


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Matthew
345 reviews
1 followers
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For anyone who watched The Martian and thought, "Heck yeah. When can we go. ", A City on Mars is an entertaining reality check. The book was a lot of fun considering the somewhat downer of a thesis. In the opening chapter of the book, the authors answer the main questions posed in the subtitle: Can we settle space and should we settle space. more


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Leilani
28 reviews
3 followers
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A very good accessible and understandable academic piece of literature. As a student currently creating a piece of writing about whether humanity should be exploring space, it was a very useful resource that covered a variety of bases. It was also very informative in general about just how much needs to be considered before space colonisation can ever really be an option. more


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Leo
4502 reviews
477 followers
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This was very engaging and fun way to read and learn about settling in space. Think it was well researched and easy to understand. Altough it's very clear that living in space is not a great idea at least in the nearest future which actually makes me feel calmer. I've heard the discussion about settling in space and I wasn't getting good feels about it and according to at least this book, I was right. more


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Pete
961 reviews
59 followers
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A City on Mars : Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through. (2023) by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith is an amusing read about just how difficult space settlement would really be. Zach is the author of the highly successful webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and his wife Kelly is a biologist at Rice University. It’s important to note that the Weinersmiths are self-described space nerds and they are really keen on space exploration, but they also want people to be realistic about space travel and space settlements. The book has six parts. more


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Translator Monkey
563 reviews
12 followers
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An entertaining and educational read. Lots of fun, lots of information, and I was pleased to discover early on that, unlike so many similar books that take themselves far more seriously, this book was not USA-centric when it came to studying the history of space exploration. more


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taeli
787 reviews
34 followers
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I like that the authors have really put in the time, research, and thinking to show what'll we need to be ready to settle somewhere outside of Earth, and how likely it will be in the near future. more


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Dan Wahl
12 reviews
1 followers
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Abandoning early for now, but may return later. Not enjoying as much as other Weinersmith publications. Some initial observations:- There's a missing mood--space travel is cool. The beginning especially is pessimistic where pragmatism would have sufficed. - Spends the opening section arguing against a set of naive positions that I imagine relatively few readers endorse (or have even heard of). more


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LeastTorque
769 reviews
12 followers
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A book with a bibliography of this size has every right to be more serious and focused and technical. The humor, despite giving me a few laughs, distracted and detracted. It all ended up as more of a comedic opinion fluff piece rather than the persuasive research-backed book it aspires to be. Too bad, as there was some good information and some good arguments in there. As to UNCLOS being a model for the space commons, it seems to me to have a major difference: the deep sea is here, and damaging it by spewing far ranging toxins affects the life it contains, so environmental concerns argue for proceeding slowly (even if commercial interests win out in the end). more


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Corneliu Dascalu
124 reviews
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I never thought reading arguments about international laws and treaties could be captivating. "But here's the thing: You can't leave. Not really. Not in time to stop any calamity on the horizon or any social decay you see as imminent. And if you could leave and build a new civilization, do you know what you'd do first. more


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Michael Burnam-Fink
1534 reviews
245 followers
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Dr. Kelly Weinersmith is an actual scientist, albeit a parasite biologist rather than a space specialist. And Zach Weinersmith is the artist behind Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, a nerd webcomic that I've reading for almost two decades now. "Dad, I have ennui"Space colonization has been a perennial topic of science fiction practically since there was science fiction, and a more or less serious policy proposal since the 1950s. With SpaceX and the dramatic reduction in the costs of reaching orbit, as well as it's CEO Elon Musk's well known desire to settle Mars, space colonization has gotten a second kick. more


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Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
2516 reviews
533 followers
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Though we’ve known since the early 20th century that Mars is essentially a lifeless wasteland, humans have been reluctant to relinquish the dream of one day living there. In A City On Mars, self-described space geeks, Kelly and Zach Weinersmith explore the feasibility of life among the stars. As technology advances providing continued innovation in space travel the dream may seem closer than ever but it’s only a single practical challenge among many. Drawing from several years of original research including interviews with a myriad of experts, the Weinersmith’s explore topics with regards to the the ability of both the human body and mind to withstand life in space for long periods, and the obstacles to creating safe, self sustaining biomes at scale among hostile environments. It’s surprising to realise just how much we don’t know about living in space, and I found these sections to be the most engaging. more


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Stormaloo
144 reviews
2 followers
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The book's title might suggest it's only about Mars, but it actually explores a much wider scope of space exploration. It delves into the advantages and disadvantages of living on the Moon, in orbiting space stations, and traveling long distances in space. The book doesn't just focus on the technology and science; it also discusses how these ideas affect people socially, psychologically, and legally. Interestingly, the authors can only pinpoint one very strong reason for why people might want to live in space: simply because it's cool and exciting. This desire for exploration is seen as one of humanity's strongest instincts. more


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Kyle Soleil
29 reviews
2 followers
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Great pop sci book, it’s really accessible, explained in just enough technical detail and paired with reasonable analogies. It’s also quite funny. I’m biased a bit because I already didn’t think we should be trying to create human settlements on the moon or mars as it is. So it was great to read a whole book arming myself with more reasons why it won’t work. For now. more


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Austin R.
13 reviews
2 followers
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An excellent and relatively exhaustive review of what it will actually take to settle somewhere other than Earth. Funny throughout, well-researched, and thought provoking. It has easily inspired me to acquire and read Soonish, as well as hope the Weinersmiths will write other books. more


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Jason Pettus
1704 reviews
1352 followers
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2024 reads, #2. Not nearly as fun a book as I thought it was going to be, and way more tedious a book than I realized it was going to be. It's "interesting," but "interesting" in the same way that five straight hours of NPR during a car ride because you have literally nothing better to do is "interesting. " Buyer beware. . more


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Mark
406 reviews
8 followers
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A City on MarsAuthor: Kelly and Zach WeinersmithPublisher: Penguin PressPublishing Date: 2023Pgs: 436=======================================REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERSGenre:ComicsHumorSpaceWhy this book:_________________________________________The Page 50 Test: √ ◄ - good to go. $[̲̅$̲̅(̲̅ιοο̲̅)̲̅$̲̅] ◄ - this is money. ‼ ◄ - better than expected……The Feel:This reads like they are trying to talk you out of it. But as they mention they are “space bastards”. They’re laying it on the line instead of sugar-coating it in a best case scenario. more


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Bonnie McDaniel
765 reviews
33 followers
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This is a sobering, thoroughly researched tome that throws quite a bit of cold water on the notion that we will be settling the Moon or Mars anytime soon. Not that it can't eventually be done (the authors think) but the technology will have to advance leaps and bounds beyond what it is at present (with the question of reproduction in space being among the thorniest). It will also be hella expensive no matter the level of technology, and at the end of this book I found myself wondering if the trillions of dollars it would take would be better staying on this planet to deal with the crisis of climate change. This book tackles quite a few serious challenges to space settlement, with the longest and most unexpected section dealing with space law. This took me by surprise. more


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Janis
37 reviews
0 followers
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Generally an interesting read given the rarity of a pessimist view on space travel and colonization in media. Most critiques of the popular narrative and problems were relevant and well layed out in an entertaining way. There were, however, several points I cringed at and that shouldn't have gone past otherwise thorough sceptics:- The authors state that improving access to resources doesn't make us all rich. This conflates two different frameworks of being rich. A better access to resources and the resulting advancements and products doesn't make one rich compared to other people at the same time and general location but it does when compared to historic standards of living or people in less developed nations who don't benefit from the resources yet. more


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Dallas Wilburn
181 reviews
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(3. 5 stars)This book has an impressive breadth of topics it covers to really dive into this idea of whether space settlement is a viable option or not. It is also massively funny with some of the authors' presentation of metaphors and analogies to make everything digestible in the classic Pop Science way. Really enjoyable audiobook as well. With breadth, there is naturally less depth, and there were many times where I wished there was a comprehensive bibliography somewhere to be able to dive deeper into some of these topics. more


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Melodi | booksandchicks
772 reviews
57 followers
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3. 5Thank you to @prhaudio for the gifted copy of this audiobook. I just had a deluge of all things space in a matter of a couple days and I know I won't recall much of it. BUT, I feel much more educated regarding space exploration, settling space and the many problems surrounding these aspects. I am completely sold on the idea of settling or colonizing Mars is a bad idea with a wide range of very problematic concerns that need to be addressed. more


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Christian
197 reviews
9 followers
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This is a fun and engaging examination of the challenges of colonizing other worlds and a welcome critique of the breathless exhortations of tech bro edgelords like Musk who insist we need Mars settlements within the next few decades. For humanity. The authors don’t merely debunk these ideas but look at all the issues that would need to be addressed before such a project could possibly be done successfully, whether it’s acquiring a fuller understanding of what space travel would do to the human body or considering how moon or Mars communities would be governed. Who doesn’t want to know all about space law. Or the possibility of exporting military conflict into Earth orbit and beyond. more


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Peter Baran
626 reviews
48 followers
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Humorous popular science is a tough nut to crack, and the Weinersmith's don't exactly crack it here. He's a cartoonist, she's a scientist so the division to labour does seem to be getting him to draw infrequent Randall Munroe-esque gags illustrating the text. The text itself mainly leans on quotidian or nonsense comparisons to carry it over the line, but all of that's fine because the content is strong enough. Because you need to drill past the somewhat misleading title here to the subtitle - Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through. Which it happily answers in its introduction, and that answer is pretty much NO. more


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Scott Kardel
339 reviews
16 followers
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Many space enthusiasts may not be happy about Kelly & Zach Weinersmith's wonderful book but it should be required reading for anyone who has an interest in the possibility humans building settlements in space. They expertly take on the big issues with sound facts, reasoned speculation and good humor. . more


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Dan
52 reviews
0 followers
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An in-depth exploration of space settlement from a healthily skeptical perspective. Very well written and well researched. more


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Derek McColl
14 reviews
1 followers
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Lots of good info and humor. Although I can buy the wait and see approach for "settling" space, I think we should continue to push the boundaries of science and technology by exploring space with robotics and people where possible. I don't think book necessarily means to dissuade those pursuits, but it definitely comes off that way. more


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Linda 😊 Tam
63 reviews
4 followers
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The best book I read of 2023. It’s wide ranging and completely fascinating and super funny. It also contains the only explanation I’ve read of how new nations get created on earth. more


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Jack Grimes
23 reviews
0 followers
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I wholly enjoyed this book as a pop-science look at some underdiscussed aspects of space settlement, something I agree it's important to temper our expectations about. My main complaint is that the whole book felt to me like a series of introductions; as if as soon as it was ready to really dig into a chapter it moved on to the next. Given all the talk in this book about the extent of the research done--which I believe was a huge project. --versus its actual length, and its repeated "We have more stuff on this but had to cut it" notes, I guess what I really want is for the Weinersmiths to release a Director's Cut version with nothing left out. more


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Steadman Watson
28 reviews
2 followers
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Interesting in some parts, but biased nearly as much as the myths it seeks to debunk. . more


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