Reviewed by Donald Logsdon Jr.
Mars has intrigued humans for a long time. When we looked up at the night sky we saw a red dot which moved across the fields of stars. It was identified as an eye or a god. As humans developed the field of knowledge known as science, we developed an understanding that this was a planet, part of the solar system, moving around the sun. The human urge to explore new places finally led to an interest in going to the moon and planets. We first learned as much as we could using telescopes but eventually realized we needed to send probes to more fully understand these exotic places.
This is a story of the years of dedicated work by many scientists to increase our knowledge of Mars—an effort that continues today. The contents are grouped into 32 chapters, providing a detailed look at the successes and failures of human efforts to study Mars. As is true in all scientific work, lots of preconceived ideas were overturned by new discoveries. One topic that has been focused on throughout these efforts is attempts to determine if life in any form exists or did exist on Mars.
A valuable part of the book is the portfolio of color plates showing the pictures of the Martian surface gathered from orbit and from the surface rovers, showing the significant improvements in making these pictures over the years. There is discussion of the technology used and the ingenuity of the engineers and scientists in developing space exploration systems. There is also discussion of the difficulty of controlling orbitals and rovers from Earth with a 20–minute delay, and the sometimes desperate efforts to reprogram instruments to keep the systems functioning. The book ends with a discussion of the future of Mars exploration, including the possibility of humans traveling to Mars one day. There is currently a lot of cooperation between the U.S., Europe, Russia, and Japan in space exploration, and the book sees cooperation with China and India in the future.
Review posted on 5/29/2012