Mars: Uncovering the Secrets of the Red Planet. – Review – Brief Article

Mars: Uncovering the Secrets of the Red Planet. – Review – Brief Article – book reviews

Fenella Saunders

Mars: Uncovering the Secrets of the Red Planet. Paul Raeburn, with a foreword and commentary by Pathfinder project scientist Matt Golombek. National Geographic Books, 1998, $40.

For space enthusiasts, it was encouraging last year to see crowds of people mesmerized by Mars encounters that didn’t involve a character named Marvin. Many of the entrancing images from the Mars Pathfinder mission have now been collected in a coffee-table book with breathtaking glossy photos of our sister planet, artists’ renditions of the red world’s past and future, and even a centerfold of three-dimensional images (glasses included). The 3-D photos weren’t made just to look pretty: accurate simulations of the terrain were essential to plan Sojourner’s travels. Perhaps their most impressive aspects are the nigh-invisible ridges that suddenly pop into focus, giving viewers an unparalleled apprehension of the sweeping distances. (Occasionally, though, where the two views don’t quite overlap correctly, annoying ghost images spoil the illusion.) The text also addresses the history of Earth dwellers’ study of Mars, the inevitable question of Martian life, the day-to-day progress of Pathfinder, and NASA’S future missions. But the words are clearly secondary to the grandeur of Mars–the authors seem (realistically) to expect most people to flip straight to the pictures. If the book’s goal is to seed our imaginations with dreams of space and inspire excitement about otherworldly matters, then it might just succeed.

FENELLA SAUNDERS (Book Review, page 54) is a DISCOVER researcher/reporter.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Discover

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