Cover image for Life on Mars : what to know before we go / David A. Weintraub.
Title:
Life on Mars : what to know before we go / David A. Weintraub.
ISBN:
9780691180533
Publication Information:
Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press, [2018]

©2018
Physical Description:
302 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Abstract:
"Does life exist on Mars? The question has captivated humans for centuries, but today it has taken on new urgency. NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars orbit by the 2030s. SpaceX wants to go by 2024, while Mars One wants to land a permanent settlement there in 2032. As we gear up for missions like these, we have a responsibility to think deeply about what kinds of life may already inhabit the planet--and whether we have the right to invite ourselves in. This book tells the complete story of the quest to answer one of the most tantalizing questions in astronomy. But it is more than a history. Life on Mars explains what we need to know before we go" -- Amazon.com.
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Summary

Summary

The story of the search for life on Mars--and the moral issues confronting us as we prepare to send humans there

Does life exist on Mars? The question has captivated humans for centuries, but today it has taken on new urgency. NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars orbit by the 2030s. SpaceX wants to go by 2024, while Mars One wants to land a permanent settlement there in 2032. As we gear up for missions like these, we have a responsibility to think deeply about what kinds of life may already inhabit the planet--and whether we have the right to invite ourselves in. This book tells the complete story of the quest to answer one of the most tantalizing questions in astronomy. But it is more than a history. Life on Mars explains what we need to know before we go.

David Weintraub tells why, of all the celestial bodies in our solar system, Mars has beckoned to us the most. He traces how our ideas about life on Mars have been refined by landers and rovers, terrestrial and Mars-orbiting telescopes, spectroscopy, and even a Martian meteorite. He explores how finding DNA-based life on the Red Planet could offer clues about our distant evolutionary past, and grapples with the profound moral and ethical questions confronting us as we prepare to introduce an unpredictable new life form--ourselves--into the Martian biosphere.

Life on Mars is also a book about how science is done--and undone--in the age of mass media. It shows how Mars mania has obscured our vision since we first turned our sights on the planet and encourages a healthy skepticism toward the media hype surrounding Mars as humanity prepares to venture forth.


Author Notes

David A. Weintraub is professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal with It? , How Old Is the Universe? (Princeton), and Is Pluto a Planet?: A Historical Journey through the Solar System (Princeton). He lives in Nashville.


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Weintraub (astronomy, Vanderbilt Univ.) considers the search for life on Mars. Given the increasing possibility for interplanetary travel, Weintraub frames the search by posing the question of whether it would it be right to interfere with it. He then details the history of the search beginning with ancient astronomers and sf and follows through to the ongoing Mars rover missions. In between these points are a fascinating collections of wild guesses, deep rivalries, scientific advances, lies, exaggerations, and errors both small and egregious. Weintraub's prose is not particularly artistic, nor is reader Chris Sorensen adding much with his serviceable voice, but the fascinating story is worth the time. Further, where Weintraub does shine is in explaining the required science so that a layperson can understand the nuanced arguments. He is also able to bring home the oddness of the supposed discoveries by careful discussion of each as though it were accurate until he notes the subsequent retractions, humiliations, and careers that were forever changed. Verdict This look at mankind's relationship with potential life on Mars is recommended for those interested in popular science, history, sf, astronomy, -futurism, and space colonization.-Tristan Boyd, Austin, TX © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Why Mars Mattersp. 1
Chapter 2 Martians?p. 12
Chapter 3 Mars and Earth as Twinsp. 35
Chapter 4 Imaginary Marsp. 46
Chapter 5 Misty Marsp. 55
Chapter 6 Red Vegetation and Reasoning Beingsp. 70
Chapter 7 Water on Mars: The Real Dealp. 77
Chapter 8 Canal Buildersp. 89
Chapter 9 Chlorophyll, Lichens, and Algaep. 117
Chapter 10 Vikings on the Plains of Chryse and Utopiap. 147
Chapter 11 Hot Potatop. 161
Chapter 12 Methane and Marsp. 186
Chapter 13 Digging in the Noisep. 206
Chapter 14 Here Today, Gone Tomorrowp. 221
Chapter 15 Sniffing Martian Air with Curiosityp. 242
Chapter 16 Chasing Martiansp. 261
Acknowledgmentsp. 271
Appendix: Life on Mars Astronomers and Scientistsp. 273
Notesp. 283
Glossaryp. 295
Indexp. 299