When Andy Weir's "Artemis" debuted last year, the book transported science-fiction readers to a near future in which regular people live on the moon, tap its resources and (sometimes) pull off a lunar heist. It's a crime caper on the moon.
In case you missed it last year, "Artemis" is Weir's second science-fiction novel, after 2014's spectacular "The Martian" (Crown, 2014). It tells the story of Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara, a porter who works to move goods around (sometimes not so legally) on the moon base "Artemis." I won't spoil the rest, but suffice it to say, adventure ensues. There are moonwalks and chases, and more than a bit of moon exploration history. (For example, Artemis' domes are named after Apollo astronauts.)
Just like the "The Martian," "Artemis" will be getting the movie treatment. Fox and New Regency picked up the film rights to the book months before it was released last year. The film will be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, according to Deadline. The movie version of "The Martian," released in 2015, starred Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars who has to figure out how to survive.
With the paperback of "Artemis" (Broadway Books, 2018) launching in bookstores today (July 3), we caught up with Weir to find out what he thinks about NASA's new plan to send astronauts to the moon and if private companies are going to get there first.
Space.com: A lot has happened since "Artemis" debuted in 2017. The U.S. now says its goal is to definitely return astronauts to the moon instead of an asteroid, with Mars on the horizon. What do you think of that moon-bound plan? Does it make sense to start back at the moon again, nearly 50 years after astronauts first landed there, or should NASA be aiming straight for Mars?
Andy Weir: I actually like the moon plan, and I prefer it to a direct-to-Mars approach. First off, most of the technology developed for a modern lunar mission would be usable for a later Mars mission — the main part being the Earth-independent nature of the mission profile.
Secondly, I think a lunar mission could really help get public/private space partnerships going. Instead of spending gajillions on the mission like we did in the 1960s (NASA was 5 percent of the entire federal budget), this time we would most likely work with commercial space companies to reduce costs. That, in turn, will help grow the burgeoning commercial space industry.
Space.com: Artemis is a sprawling moon colony, and its original residents all flocked there for one reason or another. What makes the moon such a tantalizing target for them and for the rest of us in real life, given that we don't even have spaceships that can reach the moon on regular trips yet?
Weir: The only deviation from the modern world that I made for "Artemis" was the price to low Earth orbit (LEO). I decided that, by 2084, when the story takes place, the price to LEO has been driven down by competition in the commercial space industry far enough that middle-class people can afford to go to space. It's not cheap — it's a once-in-a-lifetime vacation if you choose to do it. But it's in reach. That makes an economic incentive to build a vacation resort on the moon.
Space.com: A few billionaire-backed companies are aiming for the moon, like SpaceX, with its Big Falcon Rocket, and Blue Origin, with its plans for a Blue Moon lander. Do you think private companies will colonize the moon before governments, or does NASA still have a horse in that new space race?
Weir: You have to be careful with the word "colonize." I believe that, pretty much by definition, "colonization" is always a private company affair. People have to want to move somewhere in order for it to be colonized. If they want to go, they'll pay to get there. And if they'll pay to get there, a company will arise to provide the service. The only reason it hasn't already happened is we lack the technology to make it affordable.
That having been said, I definitely think it will be a government agency (or collection of cooperating government agencies) that will make the first permanent installation on the moon. Something like [the] ISS [International Space Station].
Space.com: Finally, what's next for the Artemis colony? Surely, this isn't the last we've seen of Jazz and her life on the moon. Any clues to what her future holds?
Weir: I definitely plan to write sequels. The setting was widely praised by readers, even by readers who didn't like the story. So, I'm definitely on to something.