on January 7, 2004
This book may very well be the best popular science book I've ever read. The story of what we know about Mars and how it was discovered unfolds in an exciting progression that leaves one convinced that not only has there been a lot of water on Mars in the past, but there is almost certainly still a lot of it underground all over the planet.
The story is lavishly illustrated with many amazing high-resolution images from the Mars Global Surveyor and other orbiter missions, along with a dozen or so of the author's own paintings.
The book answered all of the nagging quesitons I had about whether or not there's really evidence of water on Mars, and several times a question that formed in my mind (like "ok, maybe it was some fluid other than water like liquid CO2") was explicitly answered on the next page.
This book is a real gem, and if you want quick fun way to pick up the appropriate background for enjoying and understanding the results from the Spirit and Opportunity rover missions then this is it.
Sadly The Brittish Beagle 2 lander seems to have followed the Simplified Planetary Local Approach Trajectory that was favored by many previous attempts to land on Mars, but with the success (so far) of Spirit and high hopes for Opportunity landing soon, there will be plenty of exciting new information about Mars available soon, and I can only hope that the author of this book sees fit to give us a second edition in a year or so that summarizes all the new knowlege.
But for now, this it *the* book to get up to speed on Mars.
on December 28, 2003
If I were to take a guided trip to Mars, there are a handful of people that I'd like to choose my guide from - people who have spent their careers trying to understand Mars from the Mariner, Viking and Mars Global Surveyor missions. Bill Hartmann is certainly one of the members of that pool. He cut his geological teeth on the moon with Gerard Kuiper in the early 60's, and made wonderful, major contributions to our understanding of the moon. Then he has been involved in all the major Mars missions since the start. He is an artist as well as a scientist, so he informs this book with the soul of an artist as well as the mind of a scientist.
When I first saw the promotional literature for this book, I was struck by the beauty of the images in it. The book itself did not disappoint. It is a paperback, in the format of a field guide, but it is richly illustrated with color and black and white images. The book has two large fold-out maps - one of the best pre-space probe maps showing the Mars that can be seen with a telescope, and a topographic maps from the Mars Global Surveyor mission.
Hartmann uses his "Traveler's Guide" format to take us on a tour of Mars. The organization of the tour is based on the geological history of the Red Planet. So along the way, in addition to seeing the most fascinating places on Mars, we learn their geological context in chronological sequence.
Although it would be easy to bury the reader in geological jargon, Hartmann succeeds in making the study of Mars accessible and exciting. It is clear from reading the text that Mars is a world that still harbors many surprises for us. He is not afraid to share his thoughts with the reader - but he is careful to point out where they depart from the main stream. But given Hartmann's track record, one has to give his speculations more weight than most. He also enlivens the book with a thread of his personal journey as a Mars scientist in a series of stories from his career labeled, "My Martian Chronicle" that are is interwoven with the main text. These help illuminate the human side of the scientist.
on December 26, 2003
In thruth, I can add little more to the other Amazon reviews other than to say that they are right. William Hartmann's "A Traveler's Guide to Mars : The Mysterious Landscapes of the Red Planet" is a wonderful tour of Earth's most intriguing planetry neighbor, incorporating both a lively history of our evolving knowledge of Mars and also a up-to-date guide to the most fascinating mysteries. What are the sources of the strange gullies and canyons that sometimes stretch hundreds of miles? Why do vast areas of the Martian surface look like gigantic staircases? How much water is there?
The photographs from various interplanetary probes are marvelous and the maps eye-opening. The format of the book makes it especially suited for browsing -- dipping in here and there as whim takes the reader -- yet it also merits a more methodical approach to discover what four decades of space exploration has taught us about Mars.
on October 22, 2003
Some of us who saw the lunar landing in 1969 are still wondering why we haven't gotten to Mars yet. Shouldn't that have been next?
Well, it still could be, and you can get more information on the possibilities by checking out the Mars Society and Red Colony websites. (I can't post the URLs here but in each case your first guess will be correct.)
And if you want more information on the planet Mars itself, this is the book you want.
Packed with gorgeous photos from the various Mars missions (and some from Earth for purposes of comparison and inference), this book is a garden of delights for areophiles: the very latest information and theories about the red planet, interspersed with the reminiscences and personal views of the author, astronomer William Hartmann, all in a very high-quality glossy paperback designed for long shelf life -- and, one hopes, for interplanetary travel.
If you've ever wondered what gives Syrtis Major its dark color, or even if you've just looked at the night sky once in a while wondering what the heck might be _out there_, you'll find something to engage you in this volume.
Have a look. Then let's start getting ready to go.
on October 21, 2003
This is book is simply amazing!! I wish I could give it ten stars - off the scale. The author has captured the majesty and mystery of Mars, clearly and concisely. Filled with hundreds of stunning, high resolution photographs, the book a real page turner for anyone in the general public who yearns to know what's out there awaiting us on Mars.
on August 28, 2003
I cannot believe that there are no reviews on this marvelous book. I chanced upon both the book and the author at the recent Mars Convention in Eugene Oregon. The book has not left my side..... Hartmann picked a most unusual publishing route for his book. The book is part of the Traveler's Guide Series by Workman Press. This represents a great price advantage to the reader. Had one of the more common publishing houses of scientific literature published the book it would have been three times the price.
The main theme of the book is the interpretation of the data principally from the current satellites orbiting mars. The images themselves have amazed all of us but now the next step is taken and we have a detailed interpretation of the imagery and other data being received from these fantastic satellites.... if you want to know what mars is about, this is THE book....
on August 18, 2003
As an astronomy junkie and a web surfer, I've often marveled at the amazingly sharp photos obtained by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) has both wide-angle and telephoto capabilities and has revolutionized knowledge of Mars since it went into orbit in 1997. As I've browsed those photos, and even visited Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) website to surf the archive, I've idly wished that someone would put together a book of those photos, along with explanations by planetary scientists.
Quite by accident, I stumbled upon Hartmann's Traveler's Guide to Mars recently, a 2003 publication by one of the scientists who's been involved with Mars since Mariner 4 in 1965. At 468 pages in length, with nearly every page containing photographs, this book is a gem. I regard it as the best book on Mars over the last few years (which is saying a lot if you read my reviews last month).
Hartmann gives us forty short chapters, each devoted to a single feature or geographic region. Each chapter is between 2 and 10 or so pages in length. Lavish use of photos is the standard, usually a Viking mosaic for context and then a series of MOS or Odyssey Themis photos illustrating unusual geology, the search for water, etc. There are also many examples of the Global Surveyor's other primary instrument, the laser altimeter, which beautifully illustrates relative elevations of the features, and has added immeasurably to our understanding of the landforms studied. Hartmann also makes frequent use of Earth landscape photos that are close analogs to the Martian features he's showcasing. Hartmann's explanations of the features are clear and easy to understand. The writing is at a level that will be easy for novices to comprehend, but will not leave seasoned Marsophiles feeling talked-down-to.
Interspersed throughout are 15 sidebars, "My Martian Chronicles," in which Hartmann recounts some of his personal experiences as a member of the scientific teams which slowly untangled many of the mysteries he confronts in the text. These serve to make an already superb book even more enjoyable by bringing a very personal touch to the narrative. Hartmann is always careful to specify when he is touting his own pet theories, and when he is speaking of the consensus of the scientific community. He does a great job of illustrating how the scientific process actually works by telling the stories of the many geologists and planetary scientists who have contributed to our understanding of Mars over the years. He also hints where he thinks NASA's priorities ought to be with respect to human exploration of Mars: there are simply some questions which will remain open until there is a geologist with a rock hammer on the scene.
This is an excellent book in every way imaginable. First of all, it satisfied a longing I had had for several years. Second, it is written by a top flight scientist who also happens to be a gifted writer and communicator. Third, it is edited and presented in such a well-thought-out manner that it is simply a pleasure to read (and re-read and re-read). The only possible improvement I could suggest would be a second edition (updated of course with new findings) that uses the coffee-table format. When I think of the MOS and MOLA photos used in this book reproduced in large format 11x17 inches, with the accompanying text, I positively salivate with anticipation.