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First Landing Mass Market Paperback – 1 Aug 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jove Books; Reissue edition (Aug. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441009638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441009633
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.9 x 17.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,110,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition
Defining this novel just science fiction would not be entirely correct, since the story is realistic in every aspect of science. Zubrin has not invented any technology that does not already exist at the time of the writing of this work, i.e. more than 10 years ago. This makes "First Landing" a work halfway between a novel and an essay, where a story of pure invention is used to provide the general public with a considerable amount of information both on Mars and on the state of the art of aerospace technology that would be able to bring us up to there.
Obviously the story is set in the future, which unfortunaltely has already passed for us, and it is still science "fiction" (in particular hard science fiction), not because we are talking about space travel and so on, but because it illustrates the actual feasibility through a fiction (invented) story.
On the other hand we are talking about Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society and always involved in allowing mankind to land on the Red Planet with the intention to colonize it. His opinion is certainly optimistic, but this novel is primarily a propaganda tool for his organization (the appendix is proof of this), in order to develop an interest in achieving a goal that still seems far away. Zubrin shows us that in fact it is not. What is missing is only the will to achieve it for a countless number of reasons, including many political ones. This aspect is in fact partly covered in the novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This story is similar in many respects to Andy Wier's novel "The Martian". Andy Wier has said that he got many of the ideas for his book from Robert Zubrin's book "The Case For Mars". The main difference between "First Landing" and "The Martian" is the difference in mission architecture.

The crew of the Beagle arrive in a habitat that is designed for a long stay mission and is intended to support a variety of "abort to surface" contingency scenarios. The Mars Direct mission architecture is a much cheaper, nearer term, and overall far more robust architecture than the one that Mark Watney flew on in "The Martian". This, ironically, makes it much harder for Zubrin to devise a convincing predicament that strands the crew.

Ultimately, Zubrin has to invoke political turmoil on Earth, combined with acts of deliberate sabotage by religious agitators and extremist hackers, in order to create a situation that imperils the crew. The plot highlights some of the political issues that Zubrin is concerned about, but makes for an improbable story. Zubrin is an ironic victim of his own success in this regard. It's simply impossible for him to create a believable novel about a Mars mission that goes wrong in the dramatic manner depicted, because his mission architecture is simply too robust to make such a scenario plausible.

Nonetheless, it is very interesting to see how the crew of the Beagle cope with the challenges they face. By necessity, Zubrin has to impose much tougher challenges on the crew in order to keep the story interesting. Readers who enjoyed "The Martian" will enjoy reading about how the crew pull together to overcome these challenges.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll be honest. Robert Zubrin has been - in a non-professional sense - a colleague for a decade. Both of us are involved in the Mars Society (albeit in different parts of the world) and I've admired the way he has evangelised - and made very human - the ideal of manned missions to Mars.

Given his expertise in the field of Martian exploration, including his ground-breaking, co-authored proposal for "low cost", and "safe" human missions to Mars (called Mars Direct), any novel of his on the subject would, one would hope, cast the pros and cons of a mission and the hard reality of all that it entails, a gripping read.

Unfortunately, I've got to say, this is far from the case.

Almost everything that makes a human mission to Mars such a wondrous prospect - and potentially the greatest _international_ activity the world will likely undertake this century is subsumed in a highly-contrived plot of sabotage, shallow political point-scoring, paper-thin characters and the author's own right-wing bias.

The book opens solidly enough: an emergency prior to the good ship Beagle arriving on Mars that must be overcome - one of a series of events that can only be the work of - shock horror! - a saboteur among the crew.

It's then downhill from here.

I could have lived with the story if the characters were at least fleshed out - or even internally consistent. Sadly, this is not the case. Zubrin is rather well-known for pooh-poohing the psychological aspects of long duration crew selection; and it is fairly evident this bias is carried over to the crew of the Beagle. None of whom appears to have undergone any psych evaluations by NASA at any time in their training to ascertain whether they are fit enough to go on the mission, or are in any way compatible.
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