Thursday, January 29, 2009

Visions of Mars

Dissatisfied with the little pictures you see from the Mars Rovers? This book will solve that problem. J. had a report on Mars for school and we found this beautiful book to make a model from.
The pictures are beautiful. It is really cool to see pictures in such clarity from another planet. The book also discusses the environment there, what the landers have done to analyse things and little fact gems that I didn't know before. For instance, the soil of Mars has a high percentage of a magnetic iron ore, so the soil though completely dry, acts like wet sand.
Then there is this sentence, from the forward, "Today we know Mars harbors a vast reservoir of modern water as ice within its polar caps and within its high-latitude soil." Exactly what is "modern" water? None of this old-fashioned H20 for us, we have Modern Water for our astronauts!
I did feel, towards the end of the book, that all you need to do is add a couple of scrubby juniper trees and clumps of cheat grass and you could be looking at the area around Moab. Of course, with the odd atmosphere, you get some cool visual effects, like blue light halos around the sun. We don't get those here. The size of the formations is incredible too. The giant volcano Olympus Mons is 69,882 ft high. Everest is just a tiny fraction of that.
I just wonder about the tone of absolute knowledge that comes across in the text. While the pictures are amazing, I don't think we have the level of certainty that the author claims. But it is fun to speculate.
This book would be a good companion to the fiction book Red Mars I read a while back. You could almost track the actions of the characters across the pictures in Visions of Mars. I love these books, that let you see up close all the pictures NASA and other agencies are spending so much time and money to get.

Visions of Mars. Olivier de Goursac. Harry N. Abrams. 2005

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