I really, truly hope it didn’t save the space program


Don’t get me wrong — the space program is important, I support it fully, but this claim that a single book may have saved it is a bit much. Especially since that book was The Martian.

“The Martian” doesn’t make a compelling political or budgetary case for sending humans to Mars. But it does make a human landing and perhaps even colonization of Mars seem plausible at the nuts-and-bolts, airlocks-and-solar-panels level. Sure, it would be wildly expensive, and there’s that whole EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing) issue, but remember, the story is set in the future, where people are smarter, and the duct tape still just as reliable.


I read The Martian. I even sort of kinda liked it — it’s a page-turner and the story kept rolling along. But here’s the problem.

The Martian is a Mary Sue for engineers.

It’s complete nonsense. It’s about a man left stranded on Mars who then mcgyvers his way through every little crisis to survive and eventually…OK, no spoilers. But telling you it’s a Mary Sue is a major hint to the predictable conclusion. If I’d written it, he’d be dead after the first chapter, but then, that’s why I’m not getting hundreds of thousands of dollars and a movie deal.

But if you’re arguing that this book makes Mars colonization seem plausible, we’ve got a problem. It was wildly, majestically, extravagantly implausible at every step. You are not going to survive on Mars by scavenging junked probes and strapping them together with baling wire and duct tape.

If The Martian makes living on Mars plausible, then Harry Potter makes magic plausible, and I’m going to go make a magic wand out of a twig, some chewing gum, and a feather. And that worries me that Americans think a blatant fantasy is a good justification for colonizing Mars.


  1. says

    PZ, with all due respect, presenting an attractive fantasy is how almost all policy decisions get made in the US. Every now then the right decision is made, but it’s not because the public has been given a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the various choices.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    I’m still waiting for someone to provide a good answer to why sending one manned expedition to Mars is better than 20 robot probes to all sorts of interesting parts of the solar system. And that is a vast underestimate of the cost of a manned mission to Mars.

  3. jaybee says

    Not only does every 1-in-100 chance work out for him, there were things that were just flat out wrong. I told my wife that it would have been more satisfying if 40 pages into the book all the pages go blank. That would have been some daring publishing!

  4. brett says

    Achenbach is completely talking out of his ass, so I’m pretty sure it didn’t “save the space program”. Weir or not, NASA was going to propose manned Mars missions (orbital and landing) in the 2030s, just like they have before. We might even get the orbital mission, assuming NASA doesn’t just lose the funding that becomes available after the ISS mission ends.

    An orbital mission sounds like a great way to get the benefits of humans without the additional cost and risk of landing them on Mars. One of the big issues for robotic Mars exploration has been the delayed communications, but astronauts in orbit won’t have that problem. They’ll be able to control rovers on the service in real-time, vastly increasing what they can potentially do. Of course, that would require NASA to have additional rovers on the surface of Mars for them to use, and the only ones extant are Opportunity, Curiosity, and that one they’re sending in 2020. I’m skeptical any of those three will be working and intact by the early 2030s.


    I’m still waiting for someone to provide a good answer to why sending one manned expedition to Mars is better than 20 robot probes to all sorts of interesting parts of the solar system. And that is a vast underestimate of the cost of a manned mission to Mars.

    The manned mission could do a lot more on the surface of Mars, probably more in a week than Curiosity has done in its entire time on the surface. It’s a big-cost, very big reward situation.

    . . . . But I’d still rather spending the money we’d be spending on that in sending probes all over the solar system. Hell, just look at the $30-ish billion they’ll be wasting on SLS in order to give us a big rocket that won’t go anywhere for a decade except Low Earth Orbit, at a multiple of the cost per launch of SpaceX and the other Commercial Crew companies. For that money, you could put a Cassini-Huygens-style mission around every single planet in the solar system, plus landers, plus more space telescopes.

  5. felicis says

    It’s also a terrible story. It’s boring – how many pages of calorie calculations and yield per area must we wade through? It portrays the ‘good’ engineers and astronauts as ignore-the-rules mavericks who succeed through sheer gusto against the rule-bound ‘bad’ bureaucrats. (There’s a distinct tinge of anti-government sentiment, though it just whispers through the story, and while not bad in itself it ends up distracting from the story to be told).

    When I say this was going to be made into a movie… … Imagine ‘Castaway’ rewritten on Mars and cut every scene of self-doubt and despair that humanizes the main character. Not even bad enough to be fun to watch.

  6. komarov says

    Well, I liked the book as such and think of it as a ‘light version’ of Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust or similar stories. Sadly, Clarke is no longer among us so perhaps this has to do.

    On a more pragmatic note, at this point anything that will motivate the US to invest in space and science in general is fine by me. Oy, congress, I hear Jesus is hiding on one of the Jovian moons. And it’s up to you to find him before the Chinese do!

    Maybe if someone can make a case for sighting Satan on Saturn that might also provide an excuse to redirect some of your run-away military budget in a safer and slightly more productive direction. Although that suggestion might also conflict with planetary protection.

  7. says

    If The Martian‘s Mark Watney is a Mary Sue, literally all heroes in all stories are Mary Sues. Watney damn near kills himself over and over making mistakes. He has a distinct (and somewhat flawed) personality and voice. While reading the book, I got the impression over and over that I couldn’t do the things he was doing and that I wouldn’t get along with Watney if I met him. That’s not wish fulfillment. Many of the heroic acts in the book are not his. In fact, the most selfless and dramatic act in the book is not his. A major theme of the book is how great his crew and training are, a tribute to the space program, not Watney. One of his greatest strengths is that he trusts his team.

    Dismissing a fun book that makes the reader appreciate and value science and engineering and teamwork as mere wish fulfillment is too cynical for me, especially when it’s completely nonviolent. While I think a manned Mars mission is probably an impractical waste, I’d give this book to any teenager. It promotes exactly the values I hope to see more of in future generations.

  8. llewelly says

    NASA’s budget just got cut. And what part did they cut? The part studying climate. The only part that actually has some kind of real-world pay off.

    “saved”? Folks, I am here to tell those of you who have been ignoring the news for the last 30 years, but the amount of money going into space exploration keeps going down, and down, and only down. Elon Musk has neat ideas, but there’s no good reason to believe they will save space exploration yet.

    And as for humaned space exploration, well, here is a fact which may surprise the author of the piece, but that ended when Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt lifted off from the lunar surface in December of 1972. Nobody has allocated anywhere near the money necessary to do anything like that in the enusing 42 years.

    There is no reason to believe space exploration has been “saved” at all, by anybody.

    This fool would have better luck arguing that a bad moving starring crap actor Leonardo diCaprio “saved” the Titanic.

  9. says

    Except that he doesn’t grow from any of his mistakes. He isn’t humbled by any of them. That’s what makes him a Mary Sue.

    Odysseus and Gilgamesh and Beowulf aren’t Mary Sues. Sure, they survive to the end of their story (except the Geat), but they face tragedies, and instead of pulling out a roll of duct tape and patching up their mistakes, they change their goals and feel real regret. They go through their experiences and emerge as different people.

    Watney doesn’t change a bit. He also doesn’t reflect much on what he’s doing.

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I’m still waiting for someone to provide a good answer to why sending one manned expedition to Mars is better than 20 robot probes to all sorts of interesting parts of the solar system.

    My attempt: Probes are more cost effective to accomplish their specifically designed-for mission, if anything unexpected occurs; bad things could take place with little ability to recover. A person in that location, while being VERY expensive to get there, is much more adaptable, able to kludge their way through minor mishaps, etc. (which McGyver personified, so it became eponymous)
    While this book may portray such an occurrence of a man coping with unforeseen circumstances to survive till rescued (Robinson Crusoe anyone?), and gotten picked up as source for a movie, does NOT mean it “saved NASA”. Recently, before this book, wasn’t there a serious proposal to plant a village on Mars for a “reality TV” show? The proposal for that faux-show must have included some nuts-and-bolts of what they would need to plant those victims volunteers there.

  11. llewelly says


    We might even get the orbital mission, assuming NASA doesn’t just lose the funding that becomes available after the ISS mission ends.

    Funny you mention the ISS. Originally part of a NASA Mars exploration program. Then was stalled, defunded, and downsied for years. Finally it went up in 1998 and has spent 17 years producing some cool 3d movies, a bunch of youtube clips, and a lot of excitement over a great performance of a 1969 musical tribute to a science fiction movie.

    Now, with one party that is far, far more anti-science than they ever where when the ISS was downsized from Mars exploration to an overpriced youtube set, and another party that cares very little for space exploration, and a bunch of businessesmen, who seem to actually believe the amazingly vapid idea that the tiny number of people who can afford “space tourism” can somehow support space exploration, what makes you think NASA won’t “just lose the funding” ?

    For that money, you could put a Cassini-Huygens-style mission around every single planet in the solar system, plus landers, plus more space telescopes.

    But it is good to know you are aware that even in the late 1990s the capability of robot space probes utterly dwarfed the potential of human space exploration. 17 years later, it seems the robots are much, much further ahead. Only people without any sense would prefer to spend their money on human exploration, so it’s not surprising that all the human exploration money goes to people who apparently can’t bring their plans to fruition. If someone is sufficiently confused to believe that human exploration is the best way to spend money in the first place, they probably cannot come up with a plan that is at all likely to work in an environment where most political and economic forces are largely hostile to human space exploration.

  12. flex says

    Which may be the time to mention a little known S-F book from 1956.

    No Man Friday (American title, First on Mars), by Rex Gordon, is a fun little novel about a crash-landed astronaut on Mars who has to perform a good bit of engineering to survive.

    Yes, it’s dated, it’s pre-Mariner. And there are natives. But the engineering problems and solutions were one of things which inspired me to pursue engineering as a career.

    I haven’t heard about The Martian until this post (I haven’t been paying attention to SF in recent years). But maybe I’ll pick up a copy. It sounds a lot like No Man Friday.

  13. Becca Stareyes says

    Pretty much what I hear from my Martian geologist friends is that humans are still more mobile than rovers, able to work for longer, and better able to make decisions*.

    On the other hand, given NASA budgets, it means putting a lot of eggs in one basket. Even in terms of flagship (Cassini-style) missions, human spaceflight is costly. And I think even the geologists are a little divided about if it’s worth it: a lot more science per mission, but a lot fewer missions. (And these are the people who would love fieldwork on Mars.)

    (I think there is agreement that if we can’t do it properly, we shouldn’t do it at all. Half a mission isn’t worth half the cost — you might salvage the technology, but you don’t get any science.)

    * Which, as someone else noted, having humans in orbit operating the rovers cuts out those last two. A lot of it is ‘do a thing, then plan what to do next’, and a human can better handle follow up. On the other hand, I’m not sure that humans in Mars orbit or on Phobos or Deimos would be that much cheaper than humans on the surface of Mars. Might be technically less intimidating, since one only needs to launch and land on a planet with a large amount of infrastructure.

  14. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    but remember, the story is set in the future, where people are smarter, and the duct duck tape still just as reliable.

    [sorry for the spelling pedantry…] This indicates the common legend (i.e. myth) that kids are inevitably/inherently smarter than their parents, therefore future people will be smarter than people today. I gots to remind them that having more knowledge does not inevitably produce smarter. Lack of knowledge is ignorance not stupidity. Knowledgeable and Intelligent are separate poles of two orthogonal axes of mentality. To illustrate this concept of parents being less intelligent than their kids, watch Ancient Aliens sometime; watch how quickly they argue that primitive people were too stupid to do anything and therefore needed smart aliens to help them to make stone walls, AND how quickly they conclude, that since today’s geniuses can’t figure it out, ancient peoples could not have done so, so aliens helped, QED? (note the tacit implications of ‘ancient peoples being stupid since intelligence vs time is a linear, upward, function’)
    while Mythbusters showed how versatile duck tape can be, I think it may have some difficulty with Martian environment. don’t I? do you think so? I’m channeling Comma, aren’t I?

  15. llewelly says

    slithey tove:

    Probes are more cost effective to accomplish their specifically designed-for mission, if anything unexpected occurs; bad things could take place with little ability to recover. A person in that location, while being VERY expensive to get there, is much more adaptable, able to kludge their way through minor mishaps, etc. (which McGyver personified, so it became eponymous)

    In fact, despite a relatively limited ability to upload new code to the probes, and despite radiation damaging their computing ability over time, the Spirit and Opportunity teams have repatedly demonstrated their ability to kludge their way through all manner of mishaps and unexpected problems. Same is true of many other space probes, to one degree or another, and overall, the ability to re-program probes has increased a great deal over the years.

    And I should not need to remind anybody that the specifically designed-for mission of those two rovers was originally only 90 days, and yet they went on for I think 5 years in one case and 9 years in the other.

    If a human exploration to Mars had only been planned to spend 90 days on Mars, what is the likelyhood the humans could kludge their way into surviving for 5 years?

  16. llewelly says

    slithey tove:

    while Mythbusters showed how versatile duck tape can be, I think it may have some difficulty with Martian environment. don’t I? do you think so? I’m channeling Comma, aren’t I?

    Do not tape ducks. Do not google for images of other people taping ducks. There are no ducks are Mars. Tape will not work in such a dusty environment.

  17. llewelly says


    You gotta realize, The Washington Post talks a lot of rubbish these days.

    As far as I can recall, the businesses model of The Washington Post has always been “fair and balanced reporting”, which is business speak for hiding a minority of sensible articles in a sea of garbage.

    People complain about The Huffington Post, but in fact huffpo is just better at doing what the Washington Post, The New York Times, and all the others have always done. And don’t bring up The Guardian; they’re still giving Roger Pielke a platform to propagate garbage that puts hundreds of millions of lives at risk.

  18. says

    Except that he doesn’t grow from any of his mistakes. He isn’t humbled by any of them. That’s what makes him a Mary Sue.

    I dunno. I felt like Watney became a bit more humble at the end of the book, especially in his last journal entry. The “fuck those guys in ground control, they’re too careful” cowboy attitude became a grudging respect for them. Think of the time he spent out of contact with them. He seemed to come out of that a little more willing to listen. I don’t have the book in front of me, but I could swear he actually explicitly says something to that effect.

    Yours is a fair argument, though I think we’re arguing about a character’s personality more than we are a lazy author.

  19. nomuse says

    Arg, I know, focusing on minutia…

    Started as “Duck” tape because it was canvas-backed. Got back-formation into “Duct” — and is pretty much useless in that application. Will work in dusty environments (though not well); used on an Apollo EVA to repair a fender.

    And don’t ever bring it near my theater. Gaff, yes (although trusted too far by some people). Duct tape leaves residue everywhere. Even worse when it gets old/starts to melt in the heat.

  20. brett says

    The “Earth science” thing will get vetoed by Obama, although it’s appalling that they’re doing it in the first place (although not surprising).


    Keep in mind that the critical time period will be in the late 2020s, more than a decade from now. We don’t know what the partisan situation will be like in Congress. I won’t rule it out completely, but I’m not particularly optimistic either – I could just as easily see NASA either losing the funding or deciding that it’s too expensive and doing another space station because it’s “more affordable”. Or the funding will get vacuumed up by that unnecessary manned mission to retrieve a piece of an asteroid already retrieved by a robot.

    If I had the funding, I would prefer to send people, at least to orbit where they can be more directly in control of what’s happening with the robotic explorers. But given the funding limitations, it’s stupid to waste it on the manned program at this point.

  21. iiandyiiii says

    I enjoyed “The Martian”. Gosh, with this, the Avengers, and PZ’s GRRM-poo-pooing, I’m starting to worry that my favorite atheist blogger and I share no love whatsoever for any books or movies! What am I to do (other than recognize that tastes can differ)?

  22. moarscienceplz says

    humans are still more mobile than rovers,

    Humans walk faster than today’s rovers, true. Humans might be able to climb some slopes that rovers can’t, BUT those spacesuits are very clumsy and risking a fall in one is highly dangerous.

    able to work for longer,

    Rovers can work non-stop as long as the sun is shining, AND they don’t have to return to the homebase at the end of every day. They can keep moving in one direction for hundreds or possibly thousands of days, so their range is much greater than a human (unless homebase is some kind of RV).

    and better able to make decisions*.

    Humans already do make the serious decisions for the rovers. The only decision that can’t be made by humans is a reaction to an accidental slip or fall, which has been successfully avoided by all our rovers so far, and which could kill a human, but if it “kills” a rover, so what? Send another rover, with better technology.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    “I liked it for what it was: nerd fantasy.”

    The first half of Stanislaw Lem’s novel “Fiasco” is a marvellous, optimistic nerd fantasy, with the nuts and bolts of a believable interstellar exploration explained. The downbeat second half is about how reality messes up the best laid plans, how leaders are trapped into dysfunctional thinking, how noble plans can be perverted.
    The aliens remain enigmatic.

  24. azpaul3 says

    The story is not a blueprint on how to colonize Mars. And since the plot doesn’t follow Campbell’s monomyth narrative is no reason to belittle the idea the story brings forward.

    I think Achenbach is off center in crediting Weir’s story with “saving” the space program. He is, after all, a journalist out to sell a story and bullshit headlines based on bullshit premises is part of the game. Frankly, I’m not sure The Martian has much of any effect on the space program beyond lighting up the fantasy, with one exception. And this is the important part.

    Weir’s story makes the concept of colonizing Mars very soon quite plausible. Sure there are a whole big bunch of major problems to be solved, but none of them are beyond our capabilities to solve today. Political will aside, what Weir presents is doable … soon.

    I see so many poo-pooing the character development, the plot devices, the mcgyveresque engineering while missing the point Achenbach, in a typical journalist over-hyped way, was actually trying to make. The Martian presents us with a fantasy of a Martian colony that is more than just possible. As students of history we should know by now that tomorrow’s realities are built on today’s fantasies. And this reality, given the proper political climate, may be closer than it appears.

  25. marcus says

    I enjoyed this book also. I wasn’t looking for a rational justification for a Mars mission nor a deep, life-changing piece of literature. It was as both Ryan Cunningham and PZ stated a fun, nerd-tastic, bit of sci-fi. It reminded me very much of Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and I appreciate that it is reality-based if not totally realistic. A young person could read this and learn quite a bit about Mars, space exploration, biology and engineering not to mention comradery and mutual respect. As far as I can tell from my admittedly privileged perspective, the female characters were well-developed, treated with respect and found in all positions of responsibility. (The mission commander was a woman and an atheist.) There was no murder, rape, or gratuitous violence. There is a lot to love about this book on many levels.

  26. llewelly says


    Political will aside, what Weir presents is doable … soon.

    How, after decades of political anti-will, do people put put political will “aside” ?

    I hope the political climate improves by the mid 2020s, but that seems very unlikely – it will mostly be a lot of the same people involved … all of whom today have similarly bad protegees. And with the treatment our education system has gotten in the last 20 years, I am not seeing any reason to think young people coming into politics will help much. They’ve been too effectively deprived of essential resources.

  27. azpaul3 says

    #30, llewelly

    How, after decades of political anti-will, do people put put political will “aside” ?

    Right. Change that to “If the political will where different… If, like the Force, the political will were with us… If so many of the politicians weren’t so fucking blind, stupid, demons of dumb and otherwise unenlightened…

    As for the rest of your message, I fear you may be right.

    I think I’ll go have a sad, now.

  28. kaleberg says

    I saw the trailer for The Martian. It looked like a remake of Robinson Crusoe on Mars. It sounds a bit weaker. At least RCoM had a proper rebel uprising, free the slaves thread.

  29. Nemo says

    @jd142 #21:

    After all, our congress used Michael Crichton’s State of Fear as a template for dealing with climate change.

    I remember when this book came out, it was the first time I’d ever heard the idea of global warming as a hoax, a grand conspiracy of scientists. I thought that was just about the craziest thing I’d ever heard of, but hey, it’s a novel. Then people started taking it seriously…

  30. mykroft says

    As someone educated in the post-Sputnik decades, I sometimes wish China would announce it was going to colonize the Moon. Perhaps then the Republicans would freak out and start overhauling/investing in our educational system again.

    If any Republicans are listening and want to overhaul the current system, I recommend getting rid of grade levels in schools. Kids keep getting promoted when they haven’t mastered subjects, and get to the point where they can’t even follow the material anymore. The teachers are penalized if the slower kids don’t learn and thus keep hitting the same points, while the kids who mastered the material first time around are bored and tune out.

    Instead set levels in each subject, and test the students so that they are placed in classes where they will be stretched, not broken. They can graduate if they have demonstrate a composite skill level over a set minimum. Slower students aren’t placed in classes where they have no chance of succeeding, and the faster students can advance as fast as they can soak up the information. If someone operates at the 8th grade level in English but at the 11th grade level in science, they can successfully learn each. You will wind up with fewer dropouts, and more engineers and doctors.

  31. longship says

    Warning: Minor spoilers ahead. (Very minor)

    When I like a book I will read it more than once. I have read “The Martian” three times and I think I am as aware of its flaws as much as anybody.

    However, the reason why I read it over and over is that I found the narrative to be, although a bit stretched, a compelling one. Yup! Watney gets through some very sticky — dare I say deadly — situations. But that is why the narrative drags you along from page to page, and why I have read it three times.

    But here’s the deal. It is fiction. I don’t know what PZ or the author of the cited article are about. But Andy Weir’s novel is one helluva first novel. The science is pretty damned good. The characters are fairly well developed, especially Mark Watney, but also several others.

    And as with all such narratives, there are heroes. And to what purpose would such a narrative serve if Watney died in the first chapter and the rest of the book be blank pages? That argument is just plain silly.

    I like Commander Lewis (Ares 3 mission commander) and Mitch Henderson (Ares 3 flight director) characters a whole lot. They both make risky decisions that both help the situation yet raise the danger level, which is always a good narrative device in these stories. That both these decisions are ethically based is frosting on the cake.

    The Martian is a helluva ride. I recommend it in spite of its flaws.

  32. billgarthright says

    As others have pointed out, The Martian is fiction. I loved it the book, but that’s entirely subjective. Tastes in fiction vary. There is no right or wrong when it comes to a work of fiction.

    Now, maybe the author got some of the science wrong? I wouldn’t know. If I’d recognized that, it might have threatened my suspension of disbelief – which is a requirement for all science fiction – or it might not. In general, minor errors don’t bother me much, if I recognize them at all. It’s fiction, after all.

    Was it implausible? It only needs to be plausible enough for fiction – which means not very – and that’s going to be a subjective determination by individual readers, anyway. It’s fiction. We all have different tastes in fiction.

    I highly recommend The Martian. Most of the people I know who’ve read the book loved it, as I did. But not all. In our Classic Science Fiction discussion group on Yahoo, we have yet to find a single book that everyone loves (or that everyone hates, for that matter). Tastes differ. (That diversity of views is a good thing. It makes our discussions interesting. And we all recognize that fiction is inherently subjective, so no one’s view is ‘right.’)

    I’m a science fiction fan, and I think it’s great that this book has received so much attention. But I don’t care if you didn’t like the book as much as I did, or if you didn’t like it at all. Tastes vary.

    Either way, fiction isn’t going to change the reality when it comes to space exploration. And if it’s actually going to change perceptions (I have my doubts), I’d much rather people became enthused about The Martian than about Star Wars.

  33. says

    THE MARTIAN isn’t about colonization. It’s about a short term expedition that faces disaster. Colonization is about creating long-term, self-sustaining settlements. The novel is hardly any sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy; if anything it shows something of how difficult and dangerous and actual mission would be. There are tons of other books about Mars that are far more wish-fulfillment. Just go read Robert Zubrin or look at the MARS ONE bozos.

  34. Thomathy, Such A 'Mo says

    The Martian, that book where the central conceit, in my mind, is that a dust storm on Mars has anything like gale-force winds?

    Sadly, that bit broke it for me and it’s right at the very beginning. A dust storm on Mars would be like nothing. The author even acknowledges that this is a major conceit, especially given how far he went to make everything else extraordinarily accurate. You know, expect for how nothing that can’t be fixed ever happens to the unchanging, superhuman protagonist.

    felicis @ #5 is right. This is Cast Away without the self-doubt or despair.

    At least it adapts easily to the current standard of Hollywood. And damn will they love that impossible (I cannot exaggerate how impossible it is) sandstorm.

  35. mikeedwards says

    I’m just parachuting to say that “The Martian” is essentially a novelisation of Zubrin and Bakers “Mars Direct proposal of the 1990s, including the trek across Mars as an emergency contingency. I found it an engaging read, and I thought the constant diabolus ex machina was necessary to keep the drama up while the protagonist essentially waited for rescue. I’m pretty sure the “mcGuyver in space” has been a figure in every space exploration story since “From the Earth to the Moon”.

  36. Menyambal says

    I read a good one many decades back. The young man had invented some kind of space drive, and headed for Mars, secretly. He got stuck, and had to engineer his survival. His girlfriend managed to copy the drive, and came to rescue him. She also got stuck. I recall that she got the air compressor to quit squeaking with oil from her nose.

    So it’s been done.

    I recall a scientist pointing out that a dust storm on Mars is a very gentle breeze.

    Seriously, the guy thinks that a story which starts with the space engineers totally fucking it up, is a rousing cheer for space engineers?

  37. Menyambal says

    Looking again at the picture up top, of an empty toilet paper roll … There was a short story about a supply ship in WWII, in the Pacific, with everything possible on board, and with the tools and skills to make everything else, and deliver it to anyone who needed it. There was also great pride in the ship’s self-defense ability. The one time that an enemy attack got through, the crew got the fire out with the loss of only one storage compartment, and were justly proud of that, too. And then they realized that the fire had burnt up all the Pacific Fleet’s toilet paper ….