cover image Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets

Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets

Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix. Pantheon, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8041-9797-7

Planetary scientist Hendrix and writer Wohlforth weave scientific research with fascinating speculation to paint a picture of how and why humankind might spread to other planets. They take into account technology, psychology, politics , and more, concluding that humans’ first colony will most likely be on Saturn’s moon Titan. Their arguments for Titan are simple: it offers radiation protection, lakes of hydrocarbons for fuel, and an atmosphere that eliminates the need for pressurized suits. In addition to basic survival requirements, the authors tackle the problems unique to prolonged human spaceflight and reasons for planetary colonization. They predict that something drastic would have to happen on Earth to motivate humans to seek another home. To that end, the book’s fictional sections become an account of global conflict, a fresh start on Titan, and eventual habitation among the stars. These future speculations read like a decades-spanning, dystopian sci-fi adventure. The authors’ unsophisticated takes on global conflict are somewhat disappointing, but they do raise important questions about support for biotech-based eugenics and how it may be employed in space colonization. On the whole, the fictional chapters are entertaining, chilling, and put the science in a more human context. The two halves work together to create a striking, reality-based possible future that’s seen through the lens of current knowledge. [em](Nov.) [/em]