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A Traveler's Guide To Mars 119

Posted by timothy
from the 30-alterian-dollars-a-day dept.
Mar's closest visit to the earth for a while may be over -- but while that reddish speck is still far brighter than usual, you might want to brush up on your Martian knowledge. Read on below for honestpuck's review of A Traveler's Guide To Mars.
A Traveler's Guide To Mars
author William K. Hartmann
pages 445
publisher Workman Publishing
rating 8 - Good book, some flaws notwithstanding.
reviewer Tony Williams
ISBN 0761126066
summary Good interesting guide to Mars

With all the noise and kerfuffle about Mars recently I thought I should take a look at the Red Planet. I'm not well educated about astronomy, have to think hard to get the order of the planets right, but still wanted something with some depth. I found a great little guide for the uninformed visitor, "A Traveler's Guide to Mars" by William K Hartmann. This fairly inexpensive volume is full of all the information you're going to need, a large number of pictures, several maps and a great deal of information about previous voyagers to the planet. Indeed Hartmann was one of the scientists for the Mars Global Surveyor mission.

This book really does look like a typical traveler's guide with large print, bold headings, a good use of colour and text boxes. The style is light enough that when it gets scientific you don't notice too much. It is broken up into seven sections

  1. Introducing Mars: Past and Present.
  2. Noachian Mars: Exploring The Oldest Provinces
  3. Interlude: Landing on Mars
  4. Hesperian Mars: A Time of Transition
  5. Interlude: Rocks From Mars
  6. Amazonian Mars: The Red Planet Today
  7. Where Do We come From, Where Are We Going

The first section is a quick overview of the planet and a look at the history of Martian research. Section three looks at the various landings and what they discovered. Section five is a single chapter explaining the Martian meteors and what they might mean. Section seven is also small and looks at future Martian research. The other three sections look at the geography and geology of various parts of the Red Planet.

I found the whole book fascinating. I particularly liked the way Hartmann kept almost all his own tale in small sidebars called "My Martian Chronicles", 15 of them scattered through the book. These were interesting and meant that he could push his own barrow in a way that didn't intrude into the rest of the book, you could read them when you wanted. Throughout the book you get a huge amount of information about Mars and how the various bits were likely formed and what further exploration is likely to find.

All that said, it's not a book that can be taken in huge gulps. It took me several weeks to read it, picking it up and reading a few chapters then putting it down for a day or so, then perhaps another hour or two just looking at pictures, maps and reading sidebars. The layout does lend itself to this, however, so I'm not quite certain I'd call this a flaw, it seemed like a good way of making a 450 page book on Mars that much easier to digest. It also doesn't seem like a book that you need to read cover to cover, in order. I certainly didn't, reading bits about the meteors and landings and the last section before reading the section on Hesperian Mars.

The Workman Publishing web page on the book is not much use, with only a tiny excerpt from the book and while the book does have a selected reading list at the end it would have been nice to have a list of recommended web sites for further information as most of us don't have access to the sort of library likely to carry advanced astronomy journals or books.

If you're not an astronomy geek and want to know more about Mars then you may well find this book ideal. I certainly enjoyed my visit to the Red Planet.


You can purchase A Traveler's Guide To Mars from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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A Traveler's Guide To Mars

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  • Who is Mar? (Score:1, Funny)

    by jkwatson (201667)
    And why is she visiting Earth?
  • ...you can try to keep abreast with a copy of Total Recall.

    (ba dum ching)

  • What (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:05PM (#6860293)
    No review of the hotels, restaurants, beaches, clubs, local customs etc. This book is no use to me for my vacation. I'm sticking with my Rough Guide to Saturn.
  • Hmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by yoshi1013 (674815)
    I guess I should go out and get this book if I'm ever thinking of visiting Mars to see the ashen remains of Tim Robbin's corpse. Or better yet, that history of the world temple run by skinny CG aliens.

  • I'm not flying all the way to Mars and camping for crying out loud.

    Also, is it accurate to say the Mars Needs Guitars?

  • Where's the URL for the website? I don't have the time to read a *gasp* book, so please help me out here!
  • At least... (Score:5, Funny)

    by i.r.id10t (595143) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:13PM (#6860371)
    At least it isn't two simple words:

    Mostly harmless.
  • If anyone is actually going, can I go with you?! =P
  • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:18PM (#6860421) Journal
    What was the big deal about with Mars? I'm no astronomy buff but do enjoy the things that pop up (meteor showers, Hale-Bopp, that really big Y2K moon). But Mars seems to have been marginally brighter than usual, with nothing special visible. It struck me as less impressive than when Mars and Venus were next to each other a few years ago and you could really see how one is red and one is blue.

    So, did anyone see anything really cool? It seemed to me that most of the people getting excited don't realize that you can see Mars all the time.

    • What was the big deal about with Mars?

      So, did anyone see anything really cool? It seemed to me that most of the people getting excited don't realize that you can see Mars all the time.


      It's just one of those things that people make a big fuss over just because they're statistically rare even though there isn't anything tangible that happens. Kinda like birthdays. Or baseball stats. It made for some good Hubble pictures though.
      • ... because they're statistically rare even though there isn't anything tangible that happens. Kinda like birthdays.

        Birthdays are rare?

        I'm pretty sure someone has a birthday every day.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      See Mars in an astronomical telescope dude.
      The big deal is Mars is in a favorable opposition and this occurs 15-17 yrs.

      What's cool is you can the the polar caps and some dark surface markings.

      The obserable size remains much the same a couple of weeks on either side of closest approach. So there was a lot of hype for that one day.

    • If you had a telescope to view it I think you would have been much more impressed. The view I got through my 8-inch newtonian with a 9mm eyepiece was increadible.

      You can't see mars all the time ... it's lost in the suns glare for a large part of every year. A view like the one we just had doesn't happen very often.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I was impressed. I'm not a big astronomy buff either. However, I decided that I was interested enough in astronomy that I purchased a telescope for the event. I enjoyed looking at Mars through the scope, and Mars *was* brighter. At the time of opposition, Mars had a magnitude of -2.9. Next April, Mars will be at a magnitude of 1.44. While I'm not an astronomer, I do know that the more negative the magnitude, the brighter the object. There's also the historical fact that this is the closest we will be to Mar
    • Answer: Lots of land, no pesky Indians. Also, no water and no air. That about sums it up.
    • by p3d0 (42270)
      Mars was ok, but the most impressive thing I saw was around a year ago when about four planets were all close to each other. Looking out my window, I could mentally connect them and see the ecliptic, and it really gave me a visceral sense of being on a planet travelling with other planets around the sun.
      • Mars was ok, but the most impressive thing I saw was around a year ago when about four planets were all close to each other.

        Yup, /that/ I thought was very impressive.

        By the way, for the people chiding me -- I'm not in any way anti-Mars. 1) Anything that gets people interested in science and nature is good and 2) I hadn't realized that there was anything unusual to see through telescopes. I just hadn't seen anything impressive and was curious as to what I'd missed.

      • Hey, I forgot all about that, that last year I would step outside, point at the sky, and go "planet-planet-planet-planet" and my wife and everyone in her family thought I was totally weird or something.
    • Um, naked eye, all you can expect to notice is that Mars is brighter.

      It struck me as less impressive than when Mars and Venus were next to each other a few years ago and you could really see how one is red and one is blue.

      Venus is _not_ blue. I don't know what you were looking at, but the only blue things in the solar system are Neptune and Uranus and they're only barely visible to the naked eye.

      If you had used a telescope you could have easily seen a number of features that are not regularly visible.
    • Mars is the god of war [wikipedia.org]. It's all a big gubmint conspiracy to make The War Against Terror more popular ;)
    • I saw it a couple of different nites, and I was absolutely blown away by how spectacular it was. I've done a fair amount of casual stargazing since I was child and I don't ever recall seeing a planet that bright. I've seen all the naked eye planets except Mercury (sigh) and this viewing of Mars really stands out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:19PM (#6860433)
    The author has NEVER BEEN TO FUCKING MARS! The average Slashdot nerd could write a better Traveler's Guide to the Vagina than this outright fraud.
    • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:55PM (#6860785)
      Okay, my recent trip to Mars didn't go so well, so let me gift you with some advice gleaned by my mistakes.

      1) How to get there (and back).

      Answer: A rocket. Reallllly big. Lots of fuel, lots of food and water. DON'T forget the zero-g toilet and about a zillion barf bags. It's a bumpy ride, so take some seat cushions for the ascents and descents. Also take some sunglasses and SPF-1000000 sunblock.
      2) Money.

      Answer: You'll want to exchange currency at Mars Customs, located on Deimos. Avoid Phobos altogether - it's just a tourist trap. Martians have but 3 fingers on their 'hands' (okay, tentacles), so their math is a little funky. I'd advise taking a calculator for doing conversions both into their currency, and their math. Prices on Mars are generally reasonable, but you don't want to pay too much! Shop around. Oh yeah, bring a moneybelt. The natives are lightfingered little bastards, not that I'd want to generalize. Some of my best friends are Martians. Honest.

      3) The weather.

      Answer: Enroute is normal, unless you have a breach in the spacecraft. If that happens, it won't matter what you packed. On Mars itself, the air is somewhat thin, so pack a pressure suit. It's also somewhat chilly, so layer! Bring plenty of oxygen. It doesn't rain, so no umbrella is needed, but you may experience something the "Red Planet" is famous for: a sandstorm. Trust me on this - just stay in the spaceship during one. If caught outside, determine which way the sand is blowing, then get in the shadow of a rockface. Leave your galoshes at home.

      4) The sights.

      Answer: Lots of rocks and dirt. Some sand and dust, as well, plus two moons in the sky and a bright dot for the Sun. Don't miss the 'Face' on Mars. Inside is a typical Martian funhouse, full of those funny distorting mirrors. Those are a blast. A side-trip to the North Pole is full of frozen fun, but make sure to take a native guide to get the most out of your time.

      5) The food.

      Answer: Kind of bland, but worth the experience. Dried Martian dust-mite on a bed of Martian cabbage is the classic dish. Get used to dust on everything. It is safe to drink the water on Mars (Yes, it's there, but expensive!), as non-native microbes can't effect the Human body.

      6) The natives.

      Answer: As seen on TV! Little green guys with big eyes, and three tentacles per 'hand'. They used to be big on invading other planets back in the 50s and 30s, but they've mellowed out a lot since Perestroika.

      7) The nightlife.

      Answer: They like to boogie. Martian-tossing is the latest fad you'll find in all the nightclubs. They're real big on karaoke, as well, and classic Earth cinema is all the rage. "Santa Claus vs the Martians" is still #1 at the box office.

      8) The beer.

      Answer: They import it from Canada. Labatt Red is the drink of choice.

      Don't forget to buy souvenirs for all your friends!
      • You may think the two moons make for a really romantic atmosphere, but some things to think about:

        1) Mars...Needs...Women!

        2) Alcohol & 1/3 Earth gravity do NOT mix well.
      • We mostly travelled in and around the poles [nus.edu.sg]. Didn't get to see The Face though; it became dark by the time we reached there. Besides, there was a sandstorm that was heading our way, so we left immediately for The City. Here's a picture of the lagoon there [nus.edu.sg]; it's mighty beautiful! (The "lagoon" you see there is the old, historical Al Khaiyra lagoon that is supposedly secret, and was built about the same time as the City.)

        If you're missing home, or you want to show off Earth to your Martian friends, do take t

    • Lets not go overboard here...
    • How do you know that ?

      Well, now he lives here on Earth, but I have serious doubts
      about his origins. He can be a Martian or just a Wookie
      undercovered as a human, who knows...
  • by HeXetic (627740) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:24PM (#6860482) Homepage
    Good grief, sometimes it's getting a little ridiculous with this whole "WOW MARS IS SO MUCH CLOSER OMG WTF LOL BBQ"

    Mars is all of 1% closer this year than it has ever been in the last 600 years. This is an almost insignificant amount. "Even with a good telescope and a camera", writes "Bad Astronomy" [badastronomy.com] debunker Phil Platt in on a page about the closeness of mars and a variety of bad astronomy being spread about it [badastronomy.com], "you'd have a hard time seeing the difference. In fact, the difference is so small it would just barely be detectable using Hubble."
    • Yeah yeah, and the year 2000 was just another year which would have been completely unremarkable if people used a non-base-10 counting system. Let us have our fun, will ya? At least it gets people talking and thinking about Mars, as opposed to, say, Ah-nold's sex life.
    • I know what you mean. A co-worker of mine said that she heard tell on the news that Mars was so close to Earth that there was danger that it might collide with the moon. And this was a person who (apparently) did a minor in physics at university. Hehe can you imagine what tides would be like if Mars was that close?! That would make living in Florida REALLY suck!

      I'm also sick of reporters saying that this is "the closest Mars has been to earth in the past 60,000 [or whatever the date was] years." This is
    • Mars is all of 1% closer this year than it has ever been in the last 600 years. This is an almost insignificant amount

      Yes and no. Mars brightness varies very much over a cycle of around 2 years. Right now is the peak, which makes a great time for Mars observations. In addition, this particular peak is slightly stronger than it has been for a long time, but as you say that effect is quite insignificant.

      But why so negative about the buzz? While it makes little difference for observations and travel, isn
    • by operagost (62405) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:28PM (#6861160) Homepage Journal
      You read wrong. It's 1% closer than it was in its last opposition in 1971. However, it can be as far 400 million Km away. It is currently 56 million Km away. That's much closer.
      • You are the one who read wrong. I said it was "1% closer than it has ever been in the last 600 years". This statement holds true so long as at no point in the last 600 years was mars ever closer than 56 Km, regardless of whether mars was 400 million kilometers away at any point in the last 600 years.

        Actually, I did misread, but not in the way opergost suggested. I misread "600 centuries" in Phil Platt's article as "600 years". So, as a correction, "Mars is all of 1% closer this year than it has ever been
    • but it really is as close as it will be for another 60,000 years, what is wrong with using that event to get the whole world to go out and take a look at mars.

      It's marketing, and it is a beautiful site when it's close. What you don't understand is that people don't want to go out and look at mars every time it's at opposition... about once every 60,000 years is enough for them --- it's a marketing event for astronomy and what's wrong with that? what's to debunk?
  • by TheTranceFan (444476) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:25PM (#6860496) Homepage
    Those three books, by Kim Stanley Robinson, describe the colonization and terraforming of Mars. But there's so much exploration and description, by the end, you'll swear you've been there. Not a fast-paced read, but very good indeed. At least that way you'll get a nice dose of sci/tech, Mars politics, and space elevators along with your geographic descriptions.
    • A truly great read. Very insightful character development combined with great hard science about what Mars is like. Mind you, some of the science he uses to get folks to Mars, and have them live basically forever is questionable. If you are a SiFi fan, this has to go on to your must read list. BTW - KSR has writen a __LOT_ of other great stuff. Make sure to also try 'Escape from Kathmandu". Have a look at http://www.sfsite.com/lists/ksr.htm for a complete list
  • Mostly harmless?
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:27PM (#6860509) Homepage Journal
    This book really does look like a typical traveler's guide with large print, bold headings, a good use of colour and text boxes.

    Does it have any good ideas on how to get there and back?

    • Really, really big ACME potato guns?

      KFG
    • by Fryed (205364) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:42PM (#6860661)
      No, for that information you'll have to turn to intro to The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide. For those of you who don't own this essential book, I'll reprint the relevant bit below:


      How to Leave the Planet

      1. Phone NASA. Their phone number is (713) 483-3111. Explain that it's very important that you get away as soon as possible.

      2. If they do not cooperate, phone any friend you may have in the White House -- (202) 456-1414 -- to have a word on your behalf with the with the guys at NASA.

      3. If you don't have any friends at the White House, phone the Kremlin (ask the overseas operator for 0107-095-295-9051). They don't have any friends there either (at least, none to speak of), but they do seem to have a little influence, so you may as well try.

      4. If that fails, phone the Pope for guidance. His telephone number is 011-39-6-6982, and I gather his switchboard is infallible.

      5. If all these attempts fail, flag down a passing flying saucer and explain that it's vitally important you get away before your phone bill arrives.
    • Well this book itself does not. However the author, who presented last month at the Mars Scoiety Convention [marssociety.org] does know how to do it. Primarily because he read this book The Case for Mars [amazon.com] . You will too after you read it.
  • by WhiteBandit (185659) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:33PM (#6860574) Homepage
    Well, I imagine the reviewed book will be pretty useful once we get there. In the meantime, how will we get there?

    I definitely recommend people to check out The Case for Mars [amazon.com] by Robert Zubrin.

    It is a pretty intriguing book explaining how we could basically use "off-the-shelf" technology to get there and live off the land once we get there.
    • Like this [www.isr.us], in less than 20 years given adequate funding.
      • Critical technology which is yet to be viable in a lab environment much less a space mass production facility. But more importatly this timeline does not appear to account for the source of material to build the cable. Surely they are not suggesting ligting a million plus kg to orbit the old fashioned way ? THe ability to move a near earth object of the proper composition is also another technology that is yet to be developed as well that is pretty key. 20 years with one break through... phunny there is mor
        • >> Surely they are not suggesting ligting a million plus kg to orbit the old fashioned way ?

          no and yes.

          I am in no way suggesting you lift 1000 tons of anything into space. Said material is not only strong, it's light. I'm no expert in the field, but what I read says a 3mm-diameter string lifts 45 tons, and that a full kilometer of it weighs in the 7.5kg (!) vicinity, given you can epoxy enough carbon molecules together into such a long string.

          And you don't need to lift a full elevator ribbon to spa
          • There are very few IF's ?????

            many or few there are a couple huge honking ones.

            A) No lab manufactured nano tube to date of any manufacturing technique has yet to produce strands close enough to the theoretical max strength to prove It is possible to create a space elevator.

            B) No one yet knows how or even if its realistic to draw them out into suffcient lengths to stretch across a room much less 70,000 kilometers. Similar problems with joining smaller strands to make larger ones without loosing strength.

            T
  • by kfx (603703) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:35PM (#6860590)
    Why would I want to buy the Traveler's Guide to Mars when I can get the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

    I mean seriously, there are a lot more interesting places to visit in the galaxy than Mars. There's no reason why I should want a book telling me all about going there and paying to see the sights, when I can get a guide that tells me how to get around the whole galaxy for free!
  • by sssmashy (612587) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @01:36PM (#6860597)

    The title of Ch. 6, "Amazonian Mars: The Red Planet Today", totally sold the book for me. Who are these Martian Amazons, and where did they come from?

    I can't think of anything more arousing than the thought of lonely Martian/Amazon girls who have grown to heights of 7-8 feet in the lower gravity environment, and who could snap me in half like a twig.

  • Shouldn't this book have been published by Lonely Planet [lonelyplanet.com]?
  • I'll stick with the Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @02:52PM (#6861398) Homepage
    Something that's been bothering me for years.

    Why can't I see "canals" by looking at high-quality photographs of Mars from a distance, and/or squinting?

    Percival Lowell and his team at Flagstaff published detailed drawings in which there was a veritable spiderweb of canals, dozens and dozens of them spanning the whole planet.

    It's now accepted that these long, linear features were a kind of optical illusion.

    But why can't I experience the optical illusion for myself?

    An interesting near-contemporary account is givenin this article in the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica [1911encyclopedia.org] "Of the reality of the better marked ones there can be no doubt, as they have been seen repeatedly by many observers, including those at the Lick Observatory, and have actually been photographed at the Lowell Observatory. The doubt is therefore confined to the vast network of lines so fine that they never certainly have been seen elsewhere than at Flagstaff. The difficulty of pronouncing upon their reality arises from the fact that we have to do mainly with objects not plainly visible (or, as Lowell contends, not plainly visible elsewhere). The question therefore becomes one of psychological optics rather than of astronomy. When the question is considered from this point of view it is found that combinations of light and shaded areas very different from continuous lines, will, under certain conditions, be interpreted by the eye as such lines; and when such is the case, long practice by an observer, however carefully conducted, may confirm him in this interpretation. "
    • I heard that some of the canal lines he claimed to see were actually cataracts and other defects of his own eyes.
      • No so much defects as veins on his retina - the way he was using the telescope (bright light source, very high f/ number, etc) made it work like an ophthalmoscope. Think of how when you go to the optician and they shine a light in your eys - often you can see the veins. There was an article in Sky and Telescope in 2002, but I don't have the issue to hand.
    • "As it turned out, when the first unmanned Mariner probes began imaging Mars close up in the 1960s and 1970s, the canals Lowell saw were indeed optical illusions created by his human mind connecting indistinct and disconnected natural features on the Martian surface. Actually, there are "canals" on Mars, but they are natural waterways created eons ago when Mars apparently had large amounts of liquid water flowing across its land. "

      From This place [setileague.org]


  • "Mar's closest visit to the earth..."

    Come on. It should read: "Mars' closest visit to the earth...".
    • NO!

      It should read "Mars's [...]". The possessive s is only ommited when the noun is plural, not when it otherwise ends with an s. You know, one does look a bit foolish when pointing out an editor's obvious typo by suggesting a gramatically incorrect correction.

      Unless you are under the impression that there is more than Mars. :-)

      -- MG

  • Anybody read Kim Stanley Robinson's series 'Red Mars', 'Green Mars' and 'Blue Mars'? It is quite an extraordinary representation of what the colonization of mars might be. Definately worth the read.
  • If we ever did land on mars would we have to worry about disease etc. THey put the moon landing team in quarantine for a while after they came back. THe moon is a pretty dead, sterile place but mars has a possibility. I mean if there is life it would probably be of the microscopic bacteria/single celled organism type. We know how much bugs from the old world annihilated populations in the new world. Imagine what something from another planet could do!
  • Does the book mention Hrossa, Sorns, or Pfifltriggi?

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