4th Rock from the Sun: The Story of Mars

Nicky Jenner. Sigma, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4729-2249-6
Science writer Jenner illuminates the significance of Mars to humankind, covering geology, pop culture, history, and more. With a quirky tone, she describes ancients mythologizing the red planet; modern authors writing Mars into the zeitgeist, including in such creations as The War of the Worlds and Marvin the Martian; and scientists studying its geology to understand its watery history and the possibility of life there. Though humans have only “been aiming spacecraft at Mars since the 1960s,” readers get an exhaustive mission chronology. It includes the Soviet Korabl 4 spacecraft, NASA’s Mariner program, and the Mars 2020 rover that will allow scientists “to ‘hear’ Mars for the very first time.” Jenner also recounts the largely forgotten yet then-popular mid-20th-century belief in plentiful Martian vegetation. In reality, “Mars is a planet entirely populated by robots,” Jenner writes, though simpler life might “exist in pockets within cave-like environments.” While she praises box-office hit The Martian for its accuracies, she also in a more serious way speculates on Mars’s long-term habitability, namely on the possibility of engineering a breathable atmosphere there with a magnetosphere to keep it secured. Though repetitious in phrase and unrefined in style, this short read still laudably conveys the scope and weight of Mars’s influence on our ideas of the extraterrestrial. It’ll satisfy readers with factoids aplenty and even teach space nerds something new. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/24/2017
Release date: 06/20/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-4729-2252-6
MP3 CD - 978-1-5436-2568-4
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