Mars, the red planet, is ingrained in our culture, from David Bowie's extra-terrestrial spiders to Captain Scarlet to War of the Worlds. It has inspired hundreds of authors, scientists and science-fiction writers - but why? What is it about this particular planet that makes it so intriguing?
Ancient mythologies defined Mars as a violent harbinger of war, star-gazers puzzled over its peculiar motion, and astrologers defined human personalities by its position and bizarre dance through the sky. And in more recent times, astronomers have explored Mars and its alien characteristics: its dusty red hue, its small moons, its atmosphere, how the planet formed and its mysterious past. Images sent back from various satellites showed startling faces, canals, and pyramids across its surface. Were there Martians, and were they civilised, intelligent, beings?
Science-fact is now catching up with science fiction. Robot vehicles have trundled across the planet's surface, beaming back beautiful views of its rust-orange surface, and testing soil and atmosphere to get clues on how the planet has evolved, and whether it supported (or supports) life. There are many more Mars missions planned over the next decade. And while little green Martians are now firmly the preserve of literature, there is growing evidence that the now arid, frozen planet was once warm, wet, and possibly thronging with microbial life. And one day soon humans will set foot on the red planet. What are the challenges involved, and how are we preparing for them? Is there a long-term future for humans on Mars?
Nicky Jenner's 4th Rock from the Sun reviews Mars in its entirety - its nature, attributes, and impact on 3rd Rock-culture, its environmental science and geology, and its potential as a human colony - everything you need to know about the Red Planet (and quite a few things you don't).
About the Author
Nicky Jenner is a freelance writer and editor. Her news stories, features, interviews and reviews have appeared in a variety of international popular science magazines, including New Scientist, Nature, BBC Sky at Night, Astronomy Now, The Times Eureka , and Physics World . Nicky is also a copywriter for the European Space Agency, European Southern Observatory (the organisation responsible for both the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the upcoming European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will be the world's largest eye on the sky), and the Hubble Space Telescope, for which she was formerly the European press officer.
An easy and thoroughly enjoyable read with a friendly chatty style, and it manages to pack in an awful lot of information. * Sky at Night *
4th Rock from the Sun is more motivational manifesto than instruction manual ... it serves to inspire the reader to root for this next potential milestone in human history. * Science *
Nicky Jenner's enthusiasm and humour are infectious, keeping the reader captivated even while she discusses serious subject. Even the least passionate of readers will fall in love with Mars by the end of the book. * Popular Astronomy *
A fascinating debut ... Jenner nimbly explores humanity's fascination with Mars. * Shelf Life *
A detailed yet bright and breezy guide to our most evocative planetary neighbour. Jenner's book provides a whirlwind tour of the Red Planet's past, present and possible future. This book is the essential guide to the little planet that looms largest in our collective imagination: Mars. -- Ben Gilliland, science writer and author of How to Build a Universe
Informative, scientifically comprehensive and delightful to read. You'll want to travel to Mars! -- Antonella Nota, ESA Project Scientist and Mission Manager, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope
A colourful tapestry of old myths and prejudices, enthusiasm and disappointment, failures and successes, and stories of clever people and machines. Unfold it and you'll see Mars much slower than before. -- Dmitrij Titov, Project Scientist, ESA's Mars Express mission
I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Red Planet - I was wrong. A cleverly written and thoroughly interesting tour of all things martian. -- Louisa Preston, UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow, and author of Goldilocks and the Water Bears