Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars
Space, Exploration and Life on Earth
'Filled with wonderment and awe ... Greene's eloquent memoir is equal parts escape and comfort.' Publishers Weekly
A powerful reflection on life in isolation, in pursuit of the dream of Mars.
In 2013 Kate Greene moved to Mars.
On NASA's first HI-SEAS simulated Mars mission in Hawaii, she lived for four months in an isolated geodesic dome with her crewmates, gaining incredible insight into human behaviour in tight quarters, as well as the nature of boredom, dreams and isolation that arise amidst the promise of scientific progress and glory.
Greene draws on her experience to contemplate what makes an astronaut, the challenges of freeze-dried eggs and time-lagged correspondence, the cost of shooting for a Planet B.
The result is a story of space and life, of the slippage between dreams and reality, of bodies in space, and of humanity's incredible impulse to explore. From trying out life on Mars, Greene examines what it is to live on Earth.
'In her thoughtful, well-written account of the mission, Greene reflects on what this and other space missions can teach us about ourselves and life on Earth.' Physics Today
Poet and science journalist Greene writes of isolation, deprivation, and boredom in this enlightening account of her sojourn in a habitat mimicking the conditions of a future Mars mission. A dozen essays cover her four-month stay in a geodesic dome, where, as she describes in the introduction, she was sequestered in a dome "with five other not really astronauts" on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano as part of a NASA-funded research project on "space food systems for Mars and... the food's impact on crew psychology." Greene reports the study participants "lived and breathed survey questions for four months.... No sunshine on our skin, no fresh air in our lungs." In "The Standard Astronaut," a systems analyst determined that "a crew of smaller astronauts would launch for half the payload cost" due to lesser weight and food requirements, concluding, "The logical thing... is to fly small women." In "Guinea-Pigging," Greene contrasts her own agency and project transparency with the abuse of the hundreds of black men with untreated syphilis in the Tuskegee Study. Tidbits on space travel and how outer space expands Greene's inner self are filled with wonderment and awe. By project's end, the unexpected outcome for Greene is gratitude: "though I never left Earth... I didn't truly appreciate this planet until I couldn't access it at will." Greene's eloquent memoir is equal parts escape and comfort.