Sending humans to Mars used to seem like an impossible dream. But with the discovery of flowing water on Mars and the blockbuster movie "The Martian," even NASA is talking about a human mission to Mars. So why do people want to go to the Red Planet? We hear from a Mars One finalist and from the commander of one of NASA's Mars simulations; for 8 months she lived in a dome on the side of a volcano. Also, two science fiction heavyweights: Andy Weir describes the improbable origins of his blockbuster novel "The Martian," and Kim Stanley Robinson wonders what it would be like to travel to the nearest habitable star system 12 light years away. His answer? Like being trapped in a Motel 6.
Mead McCormick is one of 100 finalists for the Mars One program, a private venture that hopes to start a colony on Mars by 2027. She talks to Anne Strainchamps about what attracted her to the project, what she imagines it will look like, and her fears about the blackness of space.
According to self-described "space dork" Andy Weir, he was just sitting around at home one day imagining a manned Mars mission — not with any goal in mind, but just as a thought experiment. Soon, he realized this would be a pretty good premise for a story. And boy was he right. His novel "The Martian" started as a series of blog posts and has become a blockbuster motion picture. In this interview, he reads excerpts from the novel and discusses the balance between pure fantasty and scientific accuracy in science fiction.
Solar engineer Martha Lenio was the first woman to command a mission on the HI-SEAS — the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. It's a project co-sponsored by NASA and the Univeristy of Hawaii that simulates what it would be like to live on Mars for eight months. To survive in such extremes, they were sequestered into a 1,000 square foot dome, and when they went outside they had to wear space suits. When Lenio got there, she said it didn't feel much like Mars, but she changed her mind after 8 months without the sun and wind on her skin. She spoke with Anne Strainchamps about missing her family — and missing YouTube cat videos.
Long before the discovery of water on Mars or Matt Damon's star turn in The Martian, Robert Zubrin has been advocating for a human mission to mars. His book, The Case for Mars, made a splash when it was first published in 1996, and has continued to be influential in both scientific and science fiction circles. Zubrin calls Mars "the Rosetta Stone" for understanding life in the universe. But he's not just interested in science. He also thinks the sheer challenge would bring positive and uplifting change to all of humankind.
Have you ever heard that space is a vaccuum? That space is totally silent? Well, neither of those things is exactly true. Thanks to the research of physicist Don Gurnett, we now know there are thin layers of gas in space that produce all kinds of interesting waves — including sound waves. In this segment, we talk with Gurnett about his research and listen to some downright strange and wondrous sounds from both near and deep space.
Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky once said, "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever." Kim Stanley Robinson takes this idea as the premise of his new novel "Aurora," which chronicles a 200-year space voyage outside of our solar system. For Robinson, contemplating the journey was both technical and emotional. Several generations would live and die on the spaceship. Robinson says the story turned into a "prison novel." He talks with Steve Paulson about his vision for science fiction and for humanity.
The Bible and the Quran are some of our most sacred and revered texts. They're also full of violent passages. Is religion the source of violence and intolerance around the world? We look at how sacred texts inspire both violence and liberation.
Sacred music provided comfort and hope to generations of African Americans, from slavery to the civil rights movement. Music historian Robert Darden tells this inspiring story and we hear lots of great music.
Atheist and humanist A.C. Grayling says we don't need religion for inspiration or morality, and he believes religion has done more harm than good. Grayling talks about two of his latest books: a humanist bible and a humanist manifesto.
Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun have been photographing life in the Louisiana State Penitentiary for 30 years. They talk about the conditions in the prison - nicknamed Angola, for the plantation that was formerly on the site - and how they've changed over time. When they see the inmates working in the fields, they say, it looks a lot like slavery.