For those who know me, you know that writing is one of my passions…I’ve had the pleasure of writing books covering topics from Abraham Lincoln and freedom of the press to my time opening doors between NASA and the Russian space program.
Today I’m excited to share that Episodes 1 and 2 of my graphic novel From the Earth to Mars have just been published! The non-fiction episodes are focused on the history of humanity’s exploration of space.
Why spend the time researching and writing on space history? For me, the origins of space travel have always been a mystery. Folks my age date to the Apollo program. Younger colleagues gravitated to our community because of the stars like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. But how did this space community truly come to exist? Was space always in the government domain? And most importantly, what can we learn from our history to guide us as we develop commercial space stations, return to the Moon, and bring humans to Mars?
I knew of Dr. Robert Goddard, the pioneering American rocket scientist from the 1920s and his efforts on liquid propulsion rockets, but history remembers Goddard as a recluse. When I helped introduce NASA to the Russian space program in the mid-1990s, during my time at both Energia USA and later MirCorp, my Russian colleagues told me of the spiritual leader of the Russian space program Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the self-educated teacher who foresaw three stage rockets, orbiting space stations and developed the correct formula for rocket propulsion. But when I researched Tsiolkovsky, it turns out he was a loner living in a small town hours from Moscow. We all knew of the Apollo program director, Wernher von Braun, but not as much regarding his German roots developing the V-2 rockets that rained on London during World War II. All of these facts only deepened my puzzlement.
Critically, how did America become so dependent on von Braun and his German team to realize our dream of reaching the Moon?
In early 2020 I set out to find the spark that took the dream of space travel from fantasy to reality. The result was surprising, even stunning. I never expected that the magical ingredients included failed graduate students, famous film directors, overlooked visionaries, stubborn optimists, untrustworthy politicians, and successful businesspeople. All of whom knew, communicated with, and, in many ways, competed against one another across national boundaries in the 1920s as the very first rockets were being developed.
I don’t think it spoils anything to let you know that at the outset everyone assumed ‘rocket travel’ (as it was known then), would develop commercially, just like the other frontier markets of time such as automobiles and aviation.
I knew this was a story worth telling. But, critical to me was telling this story in a medium that conveyed both history and the future, and to an audience far and wide. That is how I landed on sharing this story as a graphic novel. I want to thank the two artists, each with a unique style, who brought this story to life. Shraya Rajbhandary’s bold, sweeping illustrations reveal the power of the first generation of ‘rocket travel’ supporters, and Jay Mazhar drew the comic strips, the ‘pencils,’ and lettering in a classic style that portrays the factual nature of these illustrations.
My intent is to keep telling this story, with episodes covering everything from the 1920s to the 2020s. I‘d like to thank Dylan Taylor, and the team at his publishing company, Multiverse Publishing, for releasing From the Earth to Mars. Together, our objective is to integrate this book into curriculums at both the high school and university level, enabling the next generations of our space community to understand the history and appreciate the work of the true pioneers of space.
Please visit our book website at FromtheEarthtoMars.com As always, I welcome ideas and suggestions on how to best tell the story of space exploration to all on Earth.