The Martian, by Andy Weir
Rating: A great book
Mark Watney, one of five crewmembers on the monthlong Ares 3 Mars mission, is marooned when he seemingly dies during an emergency mission abort. Alone and without contact with NASA or his crewmates, he begins to do the math on how long he can last on Mars and how long until NASA a) may discover he’s still alive and B) is able to rescue him. He starts by farming potatoes to have enough calories to last the extra several hundred days. He then travels to the Pathfinder rover, which he rigs to communicate with NASA, and from then on they determine a rescue plan. Back on earth, after their attempt to launch a supply package explodes, a scientist disobeys orders and gives the Ares crew instructions on how to slingshot back to Mars for a faster rescue time. Watney blows out an airlock, destroying all of his crops and leaving him with only the potatoes he had already grown. He then accidentally short circuits the Pathfinder while modifying his rover for the journey to his rescue site, again losing contact with NASA. Now left only with the plans they had already discussed, as well as the DIY ingenuity he has shown the past 300 days, Watney travels to the ascent vehicle for Ares 4 (which had already been sent in advance), where he finally regains contact with NASA, completely guts almost everything out of the rocket to make it light enough to shoot him into orbit, and is finally rescued.
Not really a political book, but it does do a lot to show how much effort, research, and red tape NASA has to go through to accomplish anything, and fictionally demonstrates the ingenuity of humans in times of hardship. Watney’s story becomes the biggest news story for 2 years back on Earth, and greatly increases people’s appreciation for NASA and space exploration.
There are several women both on earth and in the Ares crew. They are treated just like any other character, more or less.