Cars on Mars
by Alexandra Siy

Price at time of review: $18.95
64 pp.
Charlesbridge Publishing
Watertown, MA
ISBN: 1570914621

Grade Level: 5-8

Reviewed by Jacqueline Pfeiffer
3rd Grade Teacher

"Go 303,000,000 miles, then stop at the fourth rock from the Sun." So begins this marvelous book about the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. From the first page to the last, great information and tidbits are sprinkled throughout the text. The author explains her fascination with Mars and the rovers and includes a glossary and numerous websites and resources for further information. 

This NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2010 is the first book I’ve found that describes the journey of the rovers, from Steve Squyres' dream as a college student to the actual movement of the rovers on Mars. The author's light writing manner makes the book irresistible. There is an abundance of photos taken by the rovers along with artists’ conceptions of what the rovers could possibly have encountered when in areas for which there aren’t actual photos. The author takes readers on a step-by-step journey, from the design of the rovers (with a large labeled illustration) to their actual movements on our neighboring planet.

Two pages are devoted to Sofi Collis, a child who lived in an orphanage in Rumania and named both rovers. She states, “In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the spirit and the opportunity.” The rovers are about the size of golf carts and are 10 times slower than a wood turtle—averaging less than two feet per minute. The drivers of the rovers sit on Earth.

The rovers' landings on Mars were not pretty sights—more like belly flops with lots of beach balls. Explanations are given for the naming of Mars' rocks, craters, and other physical features. I was especially touched with the Columbia Hills, each one named after one of the astronauts who perished on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

The rovers photographed their tracks, including the deep impressions made by a broken wheel on Spirit. Each mission was to last approximately 90 days, but the rovers are still working after almost five years. They have sent back more than 217,000 photos while driving a total of about 12 miles.

This is the most conclusive and comprehensive book I have found on the Mars rovers. I’ve read many articles about the rovers, but I’ve never found a book that tells the amazing journey of these rovers from their beginning until the end of 2008. The reading is great for elementary students who love space science and anyone who wants to know more about the rovers.

Review posted on 5/13/2009

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