Once Upon A Time I Lived on Mars is a collection of essays by author Kate Greene, one of the thirteen people to take part in the HI-SEAS experiment meant to simulate life on Mars. Alongside a crew of thirteen others, Greene spent approximately six months atop Mauna Loa, an Hawaiann volcano eight thousand feet above sea level.
I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Kate Greene is an accomplished science writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Slate and AEON to name a few. Holding a lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut, when the opportunity arose to take part in a NASA-funded four month long Mars simulation, she jumped at the chance.
The book is broken up into a dozen different essays that relate to various aspects of her stay on “Mars”. When speaking about each part, she relates it to events both current and in the past. For example, she spends a whole chapter on human trials and how they would evolve over the years. The worst being the Tuskegee syphilis experiment (seriously, go look this horrendous case up if you aren’t already aware). She also tells of how astronauts are expected to combat boredom and menu fatigue, something that I hadn’t thought about. You only get a finite number of meals in space and I can’t imagine there would be much room for creativity. She speaks on the perils of isolation, the inconceivable amount of money it costs to fund space travel and the pitfalls of communication with our loved ones on Earth.
I thought this was an interesting read. I enjoyed it more than Mary Roach’s “Packing for Mars”, which seemed to touch on a lot of what Greene explores in her book. Greene does a tremendous amount of research noting several books, videos, interviews and articles where she was able to learn most of what she needed outside of her own experience. I did expect a more linear approach that dealt mainly with her time as a member of the HI-SEAS project, so in that sense, I was a little disappointed, but by relating her time there to other events I ended up learning a lot more.
Once Upon A Time I Lived on Mars is due for release on July 14th, 2020.