cover image Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars

Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars

Kate Greene. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-15947-2

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. (July)