I have just finished re-reading the epic Red, Green and Blue Mars science fiction trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. These novels describe a fictional mission to land 100 men and women on Mars and, over the next 175 years or so, the efforts to 'terraform' the planet to try to make it habitable for humans.

It's full of imaginative ideas, including the construction of space elevators linking the planet with one of its moons and the creation of giant space mirrors to warm the surface of the planet.

The author was kind enough to answer a series of emailed questions from me about the books back in 1996, which formed the basis of a feature I wrote for The Westmorland Gazette's sister paper at the time, The Lakes Leader.

Of course, in real life we are seeing some amazing views of Mars at the moment, following the landing of NASA's rover Perseverance and the small robotic, coaxial helicopter Ingenuity.

The Gazette's astronomy writer Stuart Atkinson (who is mentioned in the acknowledgements by Kim Stanley Robinson at the back of Blue Mars) has written about the exploration mission in his column for this newspaper and regularly Tweets and posts on Facebook images of the rock-strewn Martian landscape.

Stuart, who lives in Kendal, has also been writing recently in the Gazette about the International Space Station, which has been visible in our sky once again.

The fact we have been able to land rovers on Mars and have a space station orbiting Earth shows the incredible skill and ingenuity mankind is able to demonstrate when it wishes to achieve something monumental.

That same kind of expertise and drive was demonstrated by the scientists who have developed the various Covid vaccines, whose rapid rollout in the United Kingdom has facilitated the further easing of lockdown restrictions this week, including the opening up of Cumbria's vital hospitality industry.

Scientific advances continue to accelerate and it will be amazing to see what developments emerge in the coming decades.

Who knows? Some of Kim Stanley Robinson's imaginings might not be too far away from becoming reality.