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5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid book , a major achievement.
First of all, if you have the slightest interest in the geology of Mars, or in maps, or in planetary science (and, if not, why are you here?) you *need* to read this book.
"This is a splendid book and a major achievement in the study of Mars.... A number of authors might fairly claim to have written the best Mars novel, but this is the best factual book on Mars that...
Published on Jan. 20 2004 by Peter D. Tillman

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars End of the book causes me to drop two stars.
Most of this book was actually very interesting. The author describes martian geography, the Mars Global Surveyor, and the evolution of martian maps for the first 3/4's of the book. This part is a great read...the MGS data gives you the sense of how modern this book is. Then just as you really are getting into the book you reach what is essentially a book review for...
Published on Jan. 20 2003 by Amazon Customer


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5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid book , a major achievement., Jan. 20 2004
By 
Peter D. Tillman (Cambria, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
First of all, if you have the slightest interest in the geology of Mars, or in maps, or in planetary science (and, if not, why are you here?) you *need* to read this book.
"This is a splendid book and a major achievement in the study of Mars.... A number of authors might fairly claim to have written the best Mars novel, but this is the best factual book on Mars that money can buy."
-- New Scientist, Google for online review
"When the investigator, having under consideration a fact or group of facts whose origin or cause is unknown, seeks to discover their origin, his first step is to make a guess." --GK Gilbert, Science 3(53), 1896 (which codified the method of multiple working hypotheses). Gilbert, of course, was "one of the happy generation of American geologists who...took their impressive beards and intellects to every corner of the American West."
Tidbits: Gene Shoemaker's first map of Meteor Crater, in 1957, was done for the old AEC, as part of a truly crackbrained scheme to manufacture plutonium by detonating uranium-wrapped A-bombs underground. Which, thank heavens, never got very far. Gene didn't like the idea, either, but who's to turn down funding?
No map of exotic lands is complete without exotic names, and the map of Mars is well-stocked: Noctis Labyrinthus, the Labyrinth of Night. Tithonium Chasma, Albe Patera --a volcano that occupies an area about equal to that of India --Claritas Fossae, Utopia Planita... Olympus Mons! Formerly Nix Olympica, the Snows of Olympus --and the highest mountain known to humanity. Mauna Kea, Earth's biggest volcano, would fit comfortably inside Olympus' summit caldera. OM contains some 3.5 million cubic km of rock--or the area of Texas, if excavated 8 km deep. This is one *humongous* mountain. And Vastitas Borealis, the northern lowlands, is arguably the flattest place in the solar system.

I like the respectful attention Morton pays to science fiction about Mars -- which echoes the attention and affection paid to SF writers by working planetary scientists. Of course, sometimes these are the same people, as with UofA planetologist, novelist (Mars Underground, recommended), photographer, artist and all-around Renaissance man Bill Hartmann (who we really should invite as an AGS guest speaker); and Geoffrey Landis, a NASA space scientist and parttime novelist (Mars Crossing, recommended) who helped to develop the Mars Pathfinder.
About the only place that Mapping Mars fails us is in the illustrations. The publisher made a valiant effort, but an octavo-format book just doesn't have the page size for drama. Fortunately, you can Google for suitably-impressive maps and photos of Mars.
Happy reading! -- Pete Tillman
Consulting Geologist, Tucson & Santa Fe (USA)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, Dec 28 2003
By 
David Gill (North Canton, OH USA) - See all my reviews
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When I first saw this book I was fascinated, but I held off till it came out in paperback. Mapping Mars is a very different book than Hartmann's Traveler's Guide. Morton is concerned with helping us understand the process we have gone through in the understanding of the face of Mars. As such, he interviewed many key players in the space-age study of Mars and paints his portrait of Mars through their work.
Mapping Mars is concerned more with the "big picture" of Mars than the Traveler's Guide. As such its illustrations are more concerned with showing the evolution of our maps and our mental images of Mars. Part of that "big picture" is our cultural view of Mars through our science fiction, art and exploration plans. He spends quite a bit of time on these topics - but does not sacrifice the science content.
The book reads like a series of personal vignettes of the people involved in the illumination of Mars - people like Hartmann, Michael Carr, Michael Malin and Bob Zubrin.
Mapping Mars reads well and draws the reader into the personal and scientific journey of understanding Mars.
Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone home next door?, June 24 2003
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
"There's a world on my wall", writes Morton. Distant, remote, mysterious, it has been the subject of speculation, invention, misconception and investigation. Mars has provoked almost as much interest as our moon. Morton traces the early views of what this distant planet might represent and how a generation of human probing has revealed. It's a world of extremes, he declares. The highest mountains in the solar system. Immense chasms that might indicate massive water flows or something else not found in earthly canyons. The atmosphere is thin and cold, but can sustain global dust storms. In short, everything we learn about Mars raises more questions than provides answers. The world on his wall is one of several attempts to map this remote place and characterise it. Morton's account is informative and compelling as he presents what we have learned and the people who have provided the information.
Morton shows how the struggle to understand Mars is faced with limitations. The usual path of comparison with features on Earth prove feeble and vague. Antarctica is one model, the Hawaiian volcanoes another. Neither fits sufficiently to provide valid comparisons. Mars, he urges, must be understood within its own framework. That implies the picture must be built up from a fresh foundation. The foundation has only been sketched by the various probes sent to Mars during the past generation. The interpreters of data transmitted from fly-by probes, landers and surface rovers are the heroes of Morton's account.
Mapping Mars had its origins in Berlin in 1830 when two astronomers sought to establish the length of the Martian day. The 1877 "opposition" led to Schiaparelli's establishing the first nomenclature of visible features, including the famous "canali", misperceived by American Percival Lowell as "canals". When NASA sent the Mariners to Mars, it was Merton Davies who initiated the first true mapping efforts. Morton vividly describes the difficulties in translating fly-by images into realistic representations of the Martian surface. One example of the task is the eight-hour long process needed to transmit a single image the Mariner probe produced back to NASA. Morton then introduces the artists who produced the first graphic drawings made from these early images.
New tools offered additional information, allowing the artist to refine their work. Laser pictures combined with radar mapping added fresh details. The maps improved, and with them, the analysis of how Mars is constructed. The discovery of Martian magnetism offered both insights and challenges. Fresh ideas of Mars' internal structure and process had to be developed. Visible ice, long conceived as frozen carbon dioxide, had to be reassessed. Is there water on Mars, and what has been its role?
Unlike most science writers, Morton gives strong place to the speculative in considering Mars. He laces the story of science with the world of fiction. New information has transformed the writing of speculative fiction and the presentation of "space art" in depicting the planet and its features. He is an enthusiast for these efforts, imparting the struggle novelists and artists have had in "getting it right". They are to be commended for their efforts as Morton is in introducing them to us.
The water issue raises important questions about future, manned, missions to the planet Morton examines the possibilities within a clear explanation of what is plausible. He accepts that manned missions are inevitable, but can only be accomplished from a knowledgeable basis. The ultimate question, can Mars be "terraformed" to permit "normal" habitation by Earthlings, is also evaluated. Will such an effort come from a planet-wide consortium of nations? [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World, March 9 2003
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Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World written by Oliver Morton is a wonderfully fascinating story about the fourth planet in our solar system... Mars.
For the better part of the book the author informs the reader on the geology of Mars along with history of mapping the surface of Mars early on with telescopes... and then later on the Mars explorer robotics that landed a few years ago.
The author's writing style is easy going and very informative. You can read the book with ease... quite frankly once you start you'll find it hard to put down, with the intellectual history and the engaging writing style you'll quickly be engrossed in the book.
Mars is cratered much like our Moon and has a most beguiling landscape. There are picture in the book that gives the reader a good sense of what the author is taking about when it comes to the geology of Mars. Only after our spacecraft reached its orbit could we see Mars for what it is, a planet with a surface area as great as that of the Earth's continents, all of it as measurable, as real as the stones in the pavement outside your door.
This book is about how ideas from our full and complex planet are projected onto the rocks of that simpler, empty one. The ideas discussed are mostly scientific, because it is the scientists who have thought hardest and best about the realities of Mars. It is the the scientists who have fathomed the ages of its rocks, measured its resemblance to the Earth, searched for its missing waters, and always wondered about the life it might be home to.
Engagingly fascinating are the two words that rightfully describe this book, enjoyable without technobable.
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3.0 out of 5 stars End of the book causes me to drop two stars., Jan. 20 2003
Most of this book was actually very interesting. The author describes martian geography, the Mars Global Surveyor, and the evolution of martian maps for the first 3/4's of the book. This part is a great read...the MGS data gives you the sense of how modern this book is. Then just as you really are getting into the book you reach what is essentially a book review for Kim Stanley Robinson. On the back of this book you see acclaim from KSRobinson because our author gives him a favorable review.
Thats one star automatically taken away.
After the review the author Ollie Morton starts getting into Mars politics. Apparently Ollie doesnt like Bob Zubrin...he gets his own chapter in the book. He explains Zubrins Mars Direct plan and then spends the rest of the chapter criticizing it. This theme carries from Zubrins chapter until the end of the book some five chapters later. Way too many Carl Sagan references too, that was a problem in "Lifting Titans Veil" as well. Lets face it the guys been dead a long time now and he gets enough credit. If you look in the glossary of this book KSRobinson and CSagan are two of the largest entries. Ollie you could have cut out a hundred pages of the book. Since you waste the readers time you lose another star.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Divergent Mapping Of Mars, Oct. 20 2002
By 
Bruce Crocker "agnostictrickster" (Whittier, California United States) - See all my reviews
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Mapping Mars by Oliver Morton is an excellent book! Morton takes the reader on the very human journey to map Mars from Percival Lowell to the folks planning the 2003 rovers. Along the way, Morton brings everything that conceivably connects to this mapping effort, including Mars art [I'm proud to say I have an original Bill Hartmann hanging on my living room wall] and Mars fiction [no, I won't sell you my signed first editions of Stan Robinson's Mars books], into the mix. I also found Mapping Mars to be one of the best introductions to geology and geologists at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century I've read in recent years. My one complaint [and it's not really Morton's fault - Morton was just passing on a piece of history] is with the following passage:
[Robert Zubrin] told [his students] that no one did more for society, or was more worthy of respect, than scientists and engineers. If that was so, asked one of the kids one day, why was Zubrin just a teacher. Zubrin came up with an answer-he always had answers-but he took the question to heart. He began applying to graduate schools....
I agree with most of the sentiment in this passage, except the part about teachers somehow being less admirable than scientists. I was trained as a geologist and I teach high school earth science. I get asked the same question all the time AND I too have an answer:
Someone has to begin training the folks that'll be the first people on Mars [and help the rest become damn fine citizens of the Earth].
I highly recommend Mapping Mars, especially to anyone with an interest in Mars, geology and geologists, mapping, the cultural offshoots of the exploration of our solar system, and the future. I'd personally love to go and field check all those Mars maps we've been making back here on Earth, but I'll be too old, plus I have health concerns that would keep me off any crew (but like Gene Shoemaker, someone has to inspire and educate folks back here on Earth). Read Mapping Mars and maybe you'll be inspired to go.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Looking at the Face of a Neighbor, Sept. 11 2002
By 
R. Hardy "Rob Hardy" (Columbus, Mississippi USA) - See all my reviews
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The one geographic feature of the planet Mars that most people can think of is the famous "Face on Mars," a huge rock formation which is, if the fringe interpreters have it right, a gigantic, one-generic-face Mount Rushmore, to be viewed by us humans as sculpted by esthetically inclined Martians. There is more to Martian geography than that, and _Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World_ (Picador) by Oliver Morton, barely mentions the Face, and does not stoop to debunk it. Once again, real science is shown to be much more fascinating than fringe science. _Mapping Mars_ provides a history of how we know what we know about the most nearly Earth-like neighbor, and shows how we are actively creating a world in our own image.
There have been generations of pre-rocketry astronomers who tried to make sense of our neighbor planet. Morton gives a history of the English astronomers who named features on Mars after Englishmen, and French, Frenchmen, as well as Percival Lowell's certainty that he could see canals the Martians had made. The detailed mapping, begun with the later powerful earthly telescopes, was not all done with photography. "The well-trained human eye could seize such brief impressions, understand what was seen in them, and remember it," allowing much more resolution than photographs, and the book is illustrated with examples of different artistic versions of maps and terrain. Many science fiction books have tried to take in our understanding of the terrain and the ecology. Movies, however, have not done a good job, disregarding science; "... the blatantly ignored scientific advisor on _Mission to Mars_ ... has been stoically bearing the ridicule of his colleagues ever since." The colors of the terrain and sky have become understood, after much haggling, but the status of water on the planet is still under debate. Morton covers the debate about going to Mars, and if we do, should we be thinking of hijacking its ecology to transform it into something we could traverse without pressure suits? Terraforming Mars, transforming it into something like home, sweet home, is on the minds of not just impractical visionaries, but geologists and chemists as well.
Morton has given a wonderful history of a very human enterprise, something we have accomplished and about which we can be truly proud. His summary of what we know about this mysterious planet may need updating after the next lander starts sending back data, but his book will remain an important description of how we got where we are now. He has a fine balance of a reporter's detachment and engagement with his subjects, and even the detailed scientific descriptions are clear. At heart, however, his book is an optimistic and inspiring look at how scientists, astrophysicists, and dreamers sustain Mars as the obsession which it will always be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well balanced and engaging modern cultural history of Mars, Jan. 21 2003
I bought this book on a whim after getting interested in Mars colonization after reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, to which Dr. Morton's book is an excellent non-fiction counterpoint. Not only does he set forth a well-spoken, engaging exposition of the 20th century's cultural and scientific history of Mars, he balances this with a keen sense of the limitations of human knowledge, telling his story in the context of real, live human figures at the forefront of Mars exploration.
The central theme, of maps and how they relate to place - and furthermore, how we relate to those maps and places - sets off an easily read story of what Mars has meant to recent society, how scientists have shaped that understanding, and how that understanding is both formed and limited by our extended observers, the robot orbiters and landers that we've sent to our red neighbor.
Highly recommended reading both for historical and cultural interest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the best science journalism I've seen, Jan. 31 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World (Paperback)
I highly recommend Oliver Morton's Mapping Mars. Not only does it frame the debate about the likelihood of life on Mars, but also does a great job of explaning our changing understanding of the planet.
It also conveys a sense of Mars as a real place, and discusses how the meaning of Mars changes depending on our sense of whether or not we think there is life there.
Finally, it asks a crucial question: what do we mean by "nature" and how tied up is that notion with "life"?
And it has cool pictures.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lucid and engaging gem of a book, Feb. 22 2003
By A Customer
Mapping Mars covers more ground than its title would suggest. Not only does it give an enjoyable account of the attempts to describe Mars' topography, it also tells of how scientists, artists, and authors have grappled with the red planet over the years. Mars seems to be dear to Morton's heart -- he turned down the opportunity to be a founding member of the Planetary Society -- but he provides a very balanced view of the sometimes abrasive personalities behind Mars exploration.
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Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World
Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World by Oliver Morton (Paperback - Sept. 1 2003)
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