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Book Reviews


The Scientific Exploration of Mars
Author: Fredric W Taylor

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978-0521829564

Price: £30 (Hb), 348pp


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This is a brilliant book! Professor Fred Taylor of Oxford University – a veteran of many robotic missions to the planets including Viking, Mars Express, Venus Express and the Galileo mission to Jupiter – has chronicled our exploration of the red planet in erudite and accessible fashion.

He begins with the telescopic exploration of Mars, and not just Percival Lowell’s canals but also early spectroscopic observations of Mars’ atmosphere and the Mountains of Mitchel, to Wernher von Braun’s plans to colonise Mars before space flight became a reality. From there, and with the help of a terrific appendix, Taylor tells us about the missions that succeeded, such as Mariner 4, 6, 7 and 9, to Viking, and those that failed such as the many Soviet attempts to reach the red planet, Mars Climate Observer, Mars Polar Lander and Beagle 2. He also dissects the ‘faster, better, cheaper’ philosophy that dominated NASA during the 1990s, and fascinatingly describes missions that never got off the drawing board, including sample-return missions, networks of landers and penetrators, inflatable spheres, gliders and propellor-powered drones, and ‘road builders’. Oh, it is tantalising to imagine where we would be now if we’d shown real zeal in our exploration of Mars and fulfilled all of these missions.

The second half of the book is about the science that we have learned from exploring Mars, ranging from how it formed, its composition, geology, where its magnetic field went, water and climate, and the inevitable discussion about life on Mars. The book ends with a look into the future, with upcoming missions such as MAVEN, ExoMars and the Russian Phobos–Grunt, and towards human exploration of Mars, although this feels more distant than ever at the moment.

This is a terrific book for any students of the red planet – now Cambridge need to release similar books for the other seven planets, including Earth!

Keith Cooper

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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