Veteran reporter Pat Duggins is known as the “voice of NASA” on National Public Radio. His second book on the space program, “Trailblazing Mars: NASA’s Next Giant Leap,” examines how sending men and women to Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor will be different from Apollo, the Shuttle Program, and the International Space Station. These previous space efforts were more like “vacations” compared to a Mars mission, which will requires astronauts to survive by their wits with no help from Earth.
Duggins covered one hundred and two Shuttle missions on public radio, including the 1986 Challenger disaster and the loss of Shuttle Columbia in 2003. His new book examines early efforts to explore Mars through the words of the men who built the first unmanned spacecraft to skim the surface of the planet in 1965. “Trailblazing Mars” explores efforts to confirm the presence or Martian life through the two Viking landers, and how one scientist still claims the vehicles discovered evidence of living things on the planet. The painful loss of the Space Shuttle program is addressed through the meetings of the Augustine Commission, set up by President Obama to chart a future course for NASA. Later chapters talk about how current astronaut candidates might not be suitable for the long isolation of a Mars mission, and examines concepts of future human encampments on the planet, including a Mars base that “walks.”
“Trailblazing Mars” includes the author’s own conversations with America’s first man in space, Alan Shepard, as well as renowned scientist Carl Sagan, and writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke. Duggins’ first book about the space effort is “Final Countdown: NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program,” also published by University Press of Florida.