Category: Nonfiction
Reviewed by: Allen Taylor
Title: A Pioneer’s Guide to Living on Mars
Author: Peter Kokh
NSS Amazon link for this book
Format: Paperback/Kindle
Pages: 316
Publisher: Independently published
Date: January 2021
Retail Price: $19.99/$9.99
ISBN: 979-8666905043

The title of this book can be taken two different ways. Yes, it is a guidebook for the first generation of settlers who will spearhead humanity’s push to expand beyond Earth all the way to Mars. The second meaning of the title is that the author, Peter Kokh, is himself a pioneer, and this is his guide. Peter has been advocating establishing a permanent human presence on both the Moon and on Mars for decades. He has thought long and deeply about the challenges that pioneers on those worlds will face, as well as how those challenges can be met and overcome. This book is the culmination of Peter’s decades-long conceptual journey.

Peter does not view going to Mars as a “flags and footprints” operation like the Apollo program to the Moon. Pioneers don’t just visit a destination. They are not tourists who return home after gathering a few hundred pounds of rocks. Pioneers travel to a destination with the intention of staying, and of building a new life there.

Between 1986 and 2017, Peter edited and produced three hundred and one issues of the Moon Miner’s Manifesto. This monthly publication contained Peter’s articles describing designs for self-sustaining settlements on the Moon. By mining the Moon’s resources, Moon miners could build an economy that through trade with Earth could sustain a viable and growing presence on the Moon.

In 2018, Peter expanded his horizons beyond the Moon and started publishing a newsletter Outbound: To the Moon, Mars, and Beyond. The subject of this review is Book #2 of the Pioneer’s Guide Series. Book #1, a guidebook for lunar pioneers, is a compilation of the best and most enduring ideas from the Moon Miner’s Manifesto. Book #2, A Pioneer’s Guide to Living on Mars, is a compilation of the best ideas that specifically pertain to Mars from the Outbound: To the Moon, Mars, and Beyond newsletter.

The Mars Pioneer’s Guide is a gold mine of ideas that touch on every aspect of building a base on Mars, and from there, expanding out to explore the length and breadth of the new world, learning its secrets and discovering how to build a society that is not dependent on a lifeline from Earth, but rather one that eventually is able to trade and interact with Earth on a peer-to-peer basis.

Peter got some real-world experience at what life as a pioneer on Mars might be like by serving two tours of duty at the Mars Society’s analog Mars base, the Mars Desert Research Station in Nevada. The isolated location of the MDRS was quite Mars-like, except for a few small details, such as the fact that the sky was blue rather than red, the gravity was Earth-normal rather than the much weaker Mars gravity, and the fact that crew members could actually breathe the air, rather than suffocating in their fake space suits.

People with an interest in how humanity might realistically settle Mars should have this book on their bookshelf. Elon Musk’s long-term goal is to build a city on Mars. If that city is ever to come to pass, its future inhabitants would do well to pack a copy of Peter Kokh’s Mars book in the luggage they take with them on the SpaceX Starship that carries them to their new life. When they arrive at their new home, they will have a guidebook written by a man who has already lived on the Red Planet in his mind.

© 2021 Allen Taylor

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