Mars: My WIP Research

I’m keeping my work-in-progress (WIP) mostly secret at this point because I’ve barely begun to actually write it. But I will say that it is set in the future and it is about a Mars mission. Because of this, I’ve spent the last couple of months doing a lot of research on the red planet and space travel. I learned a ton of cool facts about the possibility of one day having a human colony on Mars, and today I wanted to share some of my research with you all.

My book will be about the people and reasoning behind a mission, rather than actually being set on Mars, so that it where my research was focused. I did learn some cool things about the planet itself—like how days are 40 minutes longer than on Earth and are called “sols,” and how the colors of a Martian sunset are reverse that of Earth—but mostly what I was interested in was why and how we could get there.

So here’s some of the most interesting concepts and facts that I will be including in my WIP:

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A rocket from the National Museum of the United States Air Force
  • It takes a lot of people.
    Every single book I read and movie I watched showed that so many people are involved with any kind of work in space. Scientists are needed for every specialty that you can think of, from engineers and mathematicians to dietitians and psychologists. People from all backgrounds and all areas of science will be needed for a Mars mission.
  • It’s going to happen a lot sooner than I thought.
    The idea of humans living on Mars seemed to be way off in the distant future to me, and so I first set my book towards the end of the century. However, I discovered in my research that getting a person on Mars is probably going to happen a lot sooner, maybe even in the next decade. Most people predict we will have an a colony by the 2030s. This changed the time period in which I will set my book.
  • Private space agencies will probably be how we get there.
    The main reason we haven’t already made it to Mars is because the money isn’t there. But private space agencies like SpaceX may be the answer to that. It costs a lot less to use one of SpaceX’s rockets than to for NASA to build one themselves, and so that may be the answer to getting to Mars sooner.
  • It’s only possible to get to Mars about every two years.
    Because of the way Earth and Mars orbit the son, the planets are the closest—and therefore the cheapest/easiest to travel between—only every 780 days. When I started to try to plot my book, I had to figure out what months of the year would be potential launch windows throughout the century so that I could make my book accurate. I had to ask my engineer husband to help me with this, and he used a spreadsheet to quickly give me potential launch windows.
  • The further away something is, the further back in time you’re seeing it.
    I don’t know why, but when I came across this piece of research it fascinated me. When you look at a star that is, say, 400 light years away, you’re seeing it as it was 400 years ago because that’s how long the light took to reach you. This concept took my breath away and I’m probably going to do something with it in my WIP.
  • It takes a certain kind of person to be an astronaut.
    The actual requirements to be an astronaut are relatively simple. According to NASA’s website, you have to have a bachelor’s degree in a science field, have professional experience or enough hours as a pilot, and pass their physical. But you have to be a certain kind of person to actually be an astronaut. Potential astronauts are tested many different ways to see if they’re physically and mentally up to the task. The most prominent feature of astronauts that I noticed while doing research was that they’re all resilient. You have to be resilient in the depths of space. You have to work the problem and do what it takes to survive. All that I learned about astronauts will go into how I craft my characters.
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A spacesuit model from the National Museum of the United States Air Force

The Nation Museum of the United States Air Force is a mere five minutes from my house, and when I first started on this WIP, I went by myself to the museum with a notebook and pen and sat in front of all the planes and rockets and thought about flight and space. I couldn’t believe how far we’ve come in the mere 116 years since the Wright Brothers first took flight. And I can’t even imagine how far we can go in the next 120 years. I’m really excited to write this book and explore.


What’s the most interesting fact or concept you’ve discovered while researching for your writing?

My WIP Comp Titles

I apologize for not telling you guys very much about my work in progress (WIP). I’ve kept this story idea under wraps because it’s taking me forever to outline. About a year ago I wrote the first ten thousand words of this story, but, after a medical issue prevented me from reading a writing for several months, I realized the story didn’t work for a lot of reasons.

Part of it was that the story was so much bigger than I initially thought it was going to be, and part of it was because it was a dystopian and I hadn’t thought out all of the necessary details yet. I also just wasn’t ready to start writing the story yet. After I finished Somewhere Only We Know I had felt like I had to jump into something new, but that left me with a half-thought out story.

So now I’ve been taking my time with this idea, outlining it in detail and doing lots of research. Part of that research has been to read and watch all of the comp titles. A comp title is a relatively recent comparable book or movie, something similar to your story that you can use as a starting point to pitch your book and help put it into context for agents, publishers, and readers. So I thought I’d give you guys a taste of my WIP by telling you about all of the comp titles I researched for this project:

  • The Hunger Games Books and Movies
    I chose to watch the Hunger Games movies again because one of my protagonists reminds me of Katniss. Plus I realized my book was also going to be trilogy, so I wanted to watch how the Hunger Games story played out over three books. I had only ever read the first book in the series before, so I loved getting the chance to finally read the whole series.
  • Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
    I chose to read this book because one of her main characters, Lena, reminds me of my other protagonist. Also, this story was inspired by Les Mis, which influences pretty much everything I write.
  • The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
    The Selection Series are some of my favorite books, and I wanted to read them again to help me understand trilogy structure. It was helpful to study a story that I already knew well.
  • Legend by Marie Lu
    Another story inspired by Les Mis, Legend was a helpful and inspiring reread. My second protagonist is very perceptive, like June in Legend. And Lu also has two protagonists, so it was helpful to read this and see how she used both of them.
  • The Reader by Traci Chee
    This one is a fantasy, not a dystopian like the rest of the stories on this list, but it is about a world without a written language, a concept which will play into my WIP.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    This book is a classic, not really a comp title, but the concept of censorship will also play into my WIP.
  • City of Ember
    I haven’t actually read the book City of Ember, but I have always loved this movie for some reason. You’ll see messengers like Lina pop up in my WIP. But the main reason I wanted to watch this movie again was because of that small moment when Lina is coloring a picture of a row of houses. She looks up from the drawing and out the window at the dark alley in her underground city, and then she picks up a blue crayon and colors the sky blue even though she’s never seen the actual sky and doesn’t know what color it really is. This moment has stuck with me ever since I first saw this movie nine years ago, and it was the initial inspiration for my first protagonist.
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Some comp titles for my work-in-progress

I hope that gives you an idea of what kind of story I’ve been working on. I’ll let you know more soon!