Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Guest Post by Keith Mansfield (author of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle For Earth)

Tomorrow sees the publication of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle For Earth, the third book in my favourite science fiction series for younger readers. Thanks to the generosity of the good people at Quercus I already have a copy in my hands, and this explains the reason that this guest post by Keith Mansfield has gone live a couple of hours later than I had planned - yet again I have been sucked into the adventures of the eponymous young hero and completely lost track of time. Sorry Keith!


The Best Way to Land on Another Planet

This year for the first time we launch a spaceship that has a really cool, proper sci-fi style way of landing on another planet. Better still Johnny and Clara Mackintosh are both going to be onboard (truly!). Here’s the full video of the Mars Curiosity mission. I’d say it’s well worth checking out the whole five minutes twenty-nine seconds showing the voyage beginning from Earth, as well as the science after the spaceship lands, but if your attention span is akin to that of a goldfish, you’re best going to the 01.40 mark and watching the landing from there. At first you’ll think you’re watching a conventional parachute descent but just you wait for what’s to come. I’m really talking about the skycrane.


It’s been a theme of the books that Mars is really close but, for one reason or another, Johnny never actually goes there. In Battle for Earth that all changes, but when he gets there he doesn’t like what he finds.

In real life, after a lot of problems we’re getting better at sending spacecraft to the red planet. Nowadays there are even three satellites in permanent orbit, as well as rovers on the surface. The first of those was Pathfinder, which makes a fleeting appearance in the title sequence of Star Trek: Enterprise. This little vehicle didn’t go very far but paved the way for the incredible Spirit and Opportunity which each travelled around twenty miles across Martian terrain, all the while beaming back pictures to the satellites overhead which would relay them to Earth. These were about the size of a small car, but Curiosity is fully five times bigger with ten times as many scientific instruments.
Along with everything else it carries a microchip containing the names of some people from Earth – among them Johnny, Clara and also Bentley. It is amazing to me to think that my characters will truly get to land on and move around the surface of another world.

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Massive thanks to Keith for writing this for The Book Zone. Please watch this space for my review of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle For Earth.

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