Hard SF for Connoisseurs "Real page turners in the footsteps of Clarke & Heinlein"      




There is a complex story unfolding here and it is also tied in with the flat-Earthers, moon-landing-deniers and those who cannot understand how we could land on the moon fifty years ago, but not today.

I hope this essay will tie it all together for you.

Firstly, we need to think about why we have not returned to the moon nor gone on to Mars in the last fifty years. When I watched the moon astronauts, on live TV, bunny-hopping around the surface in the nineteen-seventies, like most people at the time, it seemed pretty obvious that there would be a Moonbase or two within a decade and we’d be landing on Mars by the end of the millennium. By today, a Martian colony would be under construction and we’d be mining the moon for minerals and fuel. Why didn’t it happen? What caused the delay to what seemed a very reasonable timeline in the nineteen-seventies?

To understand that, we need to go back to that period. Real scientists realised that two- and three-day missions to the moon were not going to advance our knowledge much further and the technology used for those short visits was not sufficient to take us there with the wherewithal to build a Moonbase. So, any plans to repeat the moon landings were scrapped and changes in political regimes meant the cost of manned missions was growing out of control.

It was decided that we needed a reusable spaceship and NASA concentrated on that objective and produced a very creditable machine called the Shuttle. This offered the opportunity to launch more ambitious scientific expeditions including the Hubble space telescope. The Shuttle also provided the opportunity to repair the Hubble – something which could not have been undertaken without the Shuttle and the Hubble would have remained no more than an expensive waste of money (there were distortions in the mirror preventing it working as intended). The knowledge and images produced by Hubble has exceeded all expectations.

As the nineties progressed and flight surgeons began detailed studies of the people who were flying the shuttle, it became apparent that the human body did not do very well in the space environment. Not only that, but the Van Allen belts which protect low-Earth orbit from the harder space radiation, would not be there for deep space missions. While there was no problem dealing with deep space radiation and passing through the Van Allen belts during short duration missions, under a week or thereby, if missions were to be outside the Van Allen belts for longer periods, there would be an effect on the human body and it might be a serious problem.

The deep thinkers at NASA, and Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) realised that we needed to know a great deal more about the effect of microgravity and radiation on humans. That was one of the reasons for building the International Space Station and, guess what, the Shuttle was the ideal vessel to use in its construction.

The result is that we have now had people living on the ISS, continually for eighteen years, doing the most fabulous science and allowing the flight surgeons to learn more about the problems of living in space.

It very quickly became clear that microgravity was a serious problem for mankind’s desires to explore.

For instance, if we had set off for Mars in 2000, not knowing what the ISS has taught us during those eighteen years, it would have been a disaster. We now know that food loses its nutrient value in space after a few months, that people who had spent eight months getting to Mars, would be totally unable to move around on the surface owing to muscle and bone wastage. They would have died on the surface of the red planet.

In addition, the huge rockets which would be needed to get into a Mars injection orbit were no longer available. The last Saturn V had flown in the mid-seventies. A whole new ‘heavy’ booster was needed, preferably partially reusable. The Shuttle system could only get us to low-Earth orbit and the Soyuz had similar constraints. There was no money to develop a replacement for the Saturn V and it wasn’t needed anyway, because we couldn’t send a mission until we solved the practical problems with manned deep-space flights.

The delays gave credence to the moon-landing-deniers and other moronic groups arose around them like the flat-Earthers and space-deniers.

The few paragraphs above answer those questions; (1) Why haven’t we gone back to the moon? and (2) Why haven’t we gone to Mars?

But we still need the answer to the difficulties of actually doing both of those things. If humans do not leave their planet, the species will be doomed, if not by some accident, then by the sun’s expansion in four billion years’ time. How humans have been affected on the space station shows that any deep space mission out of low-Earth orbit is going to involve solving many problems.

On the ISS we have learned that while freeze-dried foods are excellent, the drop in their nutrition over time is a serious headache. There are ongoing experiments to grow fresh vegetables on the ISS. It has been welcomed by the astronauts who do become bored with packet food, but where, on a flight to Mars, can you grow sufficient quantities of vegetables to feed a group of astronauts for almost three years. Not only that, but there have been crop failures on the ISS. It is easy to send up more seeds on the next Soyuz or Dragon supply vessel, but that wouldn’t work on a Mars mission. If something kills all the lettuces on the way to Mars, there is no contingency plan – they are gone, period.

Similarly, with health. It has been discovered that some astronauts suffer eye-problems in orbit and a few have had urinary tract infections. Infections, turning into sepsis means death unless the astronaut is treated quickly. This is the problem Fred Hayes had on Apollo XIII – it almost killed him and that was only a four-day mission. What happens if it occurs en route to Mars?

So, it is not a simple matter of just setting off and trusting to luck on nutrition and health. In addition, there will need to be multiple launches and landings on Mars to provide the habitat, rovers, food and equipment for the manned mission to survive. All of those landings will need to occur within a few hundred metres of each other, especially given that astronauts arriving on Mars after the best part of a year in microgravity, will be as weak as kittens and it could take them days to be capable of walking even a hundred metres from the lander to the habitat, let alone doing any work.

Solving these problems must be done before the first mission sets off and the only way to do that is via the moon.

NASA have already committed to the Lunar Orbiting Platform, a mini-space station orbiting the moon. A new generation of heavy launch vehicles is capable of putting the components for such a station into orbit around the moon. Both NASA and SpaceX have had successful trials. The NASA Orion space capsule has its first test in 2019 and it will be the work horse for the manned missions to the LOP. It is shielded to fly through the Van Allen belts and against deep space radiation. The heat shield can be used to protect astronauts if there are coronal mass ejections or other less common radiation hazards.

Getting to this point is just a start and it won’t really have begun until that first Orion launch.

SpaceX and others have been looking at the Lunar Landers. SpaceX itself leading the way with a reusable lander which will have no other job than flying to and from the LOP and the moon’s surface. Other hardware, like a moon habitat will need to be despatched and landed in a convenient location on the moon too. None of this is close to being hardware yet, so there are several years of development time needed.

Looking forward, we might see the LOP in place by 2023, so a Moonbase could be possible by the late 2020s. My own guess is that humans will be visiting the moon again about 2028 and staying permanently from 2030.

If you have read this far, you will no longer be wondering why we haven’t gone back to the moon – we have learned that if it is to be done properly then there is no point just going for a few days. This time we’re going to stay.

Once established on the moon, 3D printers will be used, in conjunction with the regolith found on the moon, to build shelters and other constructions. Refineries will create hydrogen out of the water now known to be beneath the surface. This will allow the Moonbase astronauts to create a much more self-sufficient environment.

And Mars?

Given all that has been learned with eighteen years living on the ISS, I believe that we will need to be living on the moon and regularly travelling to and from the LOP and a new low-Earth orbit space station (the ISS is due for decommissioning by 2024) for at least a decade. That takes us to 2040.

During that last decade the Mars ship will have to be designed and built. There will probably also have to be a Mars Orbiting Platform. In my personal opinion, from listening to ESA, NASA and other articles and podcasts, I do not think the Orion is a man-enough ship for the task and that something, resembling a small space station will be needed, possibly with a rotating hub to stop astronaut bone and muscle wastage. That is a huge project, dwarfing anything that has gone before.

The benefits to humankind from undertaking this journey will be enormous, just as the ISS has revolutionised so much of our understanding of health, bones and diet. The cost, therefore is easily justified, but the one thing we can do nothing about is the sheer amount of time it will need to complete the necessary learning curve.

If I’m right and we’re on Mars by 2040, that would make me 92 years of age and with my history of hypertension and a stroke, that would seem rather unlikely.

However, it no longer matters to me if I see people landing on Mars, because we know so much about the planet from Opportunity, Curiosity and, from later this month, Insight, that we are understanding the planet sufficiently for my needs. Knowing it will happen is enough. If one of the rovers can find life, that would be a bonus.

So there you have it – the title of this essay, “WHY I WON’T LIVE TO SEE HUMANS SETTING FOOT ON MARS AND WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER” is explained.

I hope the younger generations don’t take it all for granted, remember reading about it here and perhaps think about the author. LOL

Science Fiction

My latest project, which I gave the working title, UTOPIA, is now taking shape nicely. I’ve come up with a proper name for it: FEDERATION Discovery. The reason for the two part title is that it is likely to be three books around 100k words each, following through on the same lines.

If you’d like to read the current work in progress on it, this is the link.

16th November 2018


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Comment on GREEN DOOR

Great story!

Loved the concept of time travelers trying to rectify history.

I liked more than Mindslip, because it is more technical. Practically no errors so not much I could point out.

Keep up the good work.

Comment on a rough draft of the now complete MOONSCAPE

Cool story. It could definitely be developed so much more but is also fine just the way it is.

The Visitor and Mindslip are still my two favorite stories of yours.

Another agent rejects THE VISITOR

Thank you for your interest in the ######## ####### Literary Agency.

We have reviewed the information regarding your project, and after careful consideration, we do not feel our agency is the right home for your project.

We recommend you consult The Literary Market Place or Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2017 to find additional agents to query.

We wish you every success in placing your work with an excellent publisher.


As an author, I find it difficult to reconcile the agencies lack of interest in reading beyond chapter three when I get continual feedback such as the very next item in this column.

Email received on THE VISITOR

I finished reading The Visitor a couple of days ago and have been thinking about your book a lot.

I grew up reading sci-fi by authors such as Fredric Brown and Ray Bradbury and then went on to Heinlein and Clarke and others. I enjoyed your story as much as I enjoyed reading many of theirs, and I agree with the socially critical messages which you deftly wove into the plot.

A visitor whether a traveler from another planet or from another town can make us look at ourselves from another perspective. I hope that your book inspires all who read it to take a long critical look at the state of humanity.

Keep on writing!


Comment on Chapter One of THE VISITOR

What a way to leave us hanging! An invisible enemy too... Fabulous. My only comment would be that I couldn’t picture what they were wearing clearly. Perhaps a few sentences on that so we can picture them right from the get go? Perhaps from a glimpse at her reflection in the window? Can’t wait to read more. G

Comment on Wattpad after having read GREEN DOOR

What an AMAZING STORY!!! I enjoyed every single chapter! Extremely well done in making such a complex topic so enjoyable @TonyHarmsworth! I hope you are considering applying for multiple awards with this. It truly deserves wide readership and praise. I can’t wait to read your next story! All the very best, G

Comment on Wattpad after having read THE VISITOR

Hi can you please send for me some of your other book titles .They are actually wow!

Comment from an old schoolfriend

I've read all three [science fiction paperbacks] and can't wait for the next. They are all very different, showing that you are not a one-trick pony. I especially appreciated the way you understood how to write Green Door as a novella whereas Mindslip and The Visitor were novels, where you took the time to really develop the characters. And the way you weaved horror and sci-fi in Mindslip was stunningly clever.

Comment on THE VISITOR

Such a wonderful story!! Thanks for sharing. I loved it ?

Comment on THE VISITOR referring to one particular chapter

Beautifully written chapter. I've got tears ? flooding eyes. Very very emotional.

Comment on THE VISITOR

I love it! You describe the science so well and the way you write takes me to Eve's reality. She's brilliant.

Another rejection letter from an agent:

“Thanks for sending me the material on The Visitor and Mindslip.

“It is good to see that these are getting good reviews, but I’m afraid I didn’t hugely take to the narrative style, and wouldn’t therefore be a good advocate.

“I’m sorry to not have better news, but thanks again for the opportunity to consider your work. I hope you find representation soon, and wish you every success.

“All the best,”

### #####

Comment on MINDSLIP

Oh man! You evil, evil man! You made me choke. Well, I heard many women wish some men had the chance to experience first hand the joys of giving birth. Lol.

Comment on MINDSLIP

I’m in absolute awe at this book it’s so amazing to read on a Saturday or whenever. Thanks for writing it. I appreciate good works like this.


Comment on THE VISITOR

Great hard scifi from a developing leader of the genre, strong characters living in a thought-provoking world all too similar to our own. A real page turner in the footsteps of Asimov, Clarke and others, highly recommend.

Amazon Review

Comment on MINDSLIP

Chapter 31 made me cry.

Male pensioner

Hope it wasn't how bad the writing was! TH

Comment on THE VISITOR

5.0 out of 5 stars Space is full of wonders and this book portrays a possibility.

Format: Kindle Edition

Spent part of my spring break reading this book. I couldn't put it down. It's an exciting story, with characters I've connected to the past few days. The ending is sad, but there's a sort of happy ending if you have an open mind about life.

C.L. Trujillo

Latest comment on GREEN DOOR

Wonder, you created wonder. Congratulations.

Loch Ness Understood email:

"Well done, Tony, an absolutely fantastic read... felt compelled to leave a review on Amazon.

"One of the final chapters about you having a stroke is much scarier than any monster...hope you are keeping well. Anyway... my review:

"Always been fascinated with the unexplained...ghosts,ufo,s,loch Ness monsters etc etc. Tony begins his story just like me as a sort of believer then digs deeper into the world of fakery,hoaxers and scientific study, and ends up involved and embroiled in the industry that basically keeps the monster a reality... a fantastic insight into Tony and Adrian Shine's life covering all the history of the loch from ice ages, to dodgy business deals, the photographs to sonar scans... also Tony describing the humble beginnings of the loch Ness visitor centre to what it is today.a major tourist attraction... if you believe or if you don't believe, the monster's legend will never go away and this is a fantastic book that adds reality to the fantasy..."

THE VISITOR comment: Jessicaf5377

Omg I LOVED it!!!!!! Please please write their adventures! I wanna see the cool stuff you come up with in the other worlds!

Sidenote: I'm so embarrassed to say that I guarantee that's how our world would act and come across to them if an alien did come! Makes me sad and disappointed. Maybe that's why we HAVEN'T been visited publicly, if there is such a thing. They know we couldn't handle it and we would just take advantage of the technology and never grow emotionally and mentally. :-(

LOCH NESS UNDEFRSTOOD comment: Angela Young

Read many books on the mystery of loch Ness. This is by far one of the best and also one of the most well written and an honest and incisive true account...fantastic read

THE VISITOR comment: "A fast paced scientifically accurate plot that is thought provoking and predictive of technological development based on todays devices. An enjoyable read that I highly recommend."

Agents seem to be spring-cleaning their slush pile of manuscripts. Two rejections within twenty-four hours. This is the second one, which is also the quickest rejection I've had:

"Thank you very much for your enclosures and letter of the 9th April. I have looked at these and found them very well done. I am afraid though, I am being very very cautious as to what I take on and I just don’t feel able to take this further. But I do wish you every success elsewhere and my position is more a reflection of the market-place than the material itself.

"Thank you again for thinking of me.

"My best,

"Peter §§§§§§"

Got to get back up and send some more off.

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