Mars is the fourth closest planet to the sun and the second smallest planet in the solar system after Mercury. It is one of the four Earth-like planets in the solar system. In ancient Europe, Mars was called “Mars”, the “God of War” in Ancient Roman mythology, and also known as the “red planet”. In its early days, Mars was very much like Earth. Nearly all of the carbon dioxide on Mars is converted to carbon-bearing rocks like earth. But without earth’s plate movements, Mars is unable to recycle carbon dioxide back into its atmosphere to produce a significant greenhouse effect. So even if you pull it about the same distance as Earth from the sun, the surface of Mars is still much colder than it is on Earth.
Like earth, Mars has a variety of terrains, including mountains, plains and canyons. Mars is basically a desert planet with dunes and gravel on the surface. The size of the terrain is also different from that of the Earth due to factors such as the lower gravity. The topography of the northern and southern hemispheres is in sharp contrast: the lava-filled plains of the north and the ancient, cratered highlands of the south are separated by sharp slopes. And volcanic terrain interspersed with valleys, polar caps of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) and water ice at the north and south poles, and eolian dunes spread across the planet.
Here are our top picks as the best books on Mars in 2023.
1. Missions to Mars: A New Era of Rover and Spacecraft Discovery on the Red Planet
In this magnificent summary, Dr. Cropler tells the history of the Red Planet, from the earliest days when ancient astronomers set their sights on the sky, to the groundbreaking discoveries made by modern technology today, including some of the first images of the latest generation of rovers, Perseverance. Combined with stunning full-color photos from the rover and NASA satellite imagery, this magnificent “biography” of the Red Planet allows us to know and experience it like never before.
When the Rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, scientists expected them to operate for 90 days. But those three months turned into 15 years. Based on data collected by the probe, Dr. Krumple and his team members were able to reconstruct earth’s stunning geological history when it was under water and might have supported microbial life. Dr. Krumple also reveals the joys and life demands of participating as a scientist in these historic missions. The fundamental questions of exploring this remarkable planet have fascinated us Earthlings for years, and missions to Mars illuminate the meaning of Mars in the solar system and the human imagination.
Human exploration of Mars is the most ambitious and exciting scientific goal of the twenty-first century. Few people know as much about this fascinating planet as Dr. Larry Crumpler. As one of the long-term planning leads for the Mars Exploration Rover Project, he helped control the daily communications between NASA and the rovers roaming the planet to gather scientific data. Thanks to the Rover Project, we now know that the dry, red dust of the planet’s surface hides a wet, possibly living history, and that conditions were present for the evolution of complex, organic life.
2. Discovering Mars: A History of Observation and Exploration of the Red Planet
Historian William Sheehan and astronomer and planetary scientist Jim Bell combine their talents to tell a unique story of what we’ve learned by studying Mars through evolving technologies. What the eye sees as a mysterious red dot wandering through the sky becomes a blurry mirage of apparent seas, continents, and canals as viewed through Earth-based telescopes. Beginning with the Mariner and Viking missions of the 1960s and 1970s, space-based instruments and monitoring systems have flooded scientists with data on Mars’s meteorology and geology, and have even sought evidence of possible existence of life-forms on or beneath the surface. This knowledge has transformed our perception of the Red Planet and has provided clues for better understanding our own blue world.
This book vividly conveys the way our understanding of this other planet has grown from earliest times to the present. The story is epic in scope—an Iliad or Odyssey for our time, at least so far largely without the folly, greed, lust, and tragedy of those ancient stories. Instead, the narrative of our quest for the Red Planet has showcased some of our species’ most hopeful attributes: curiosity, cooperation, exploration, and the restless drive to understand our place in the larger universe. Sheehan and Bell have written an ambitious first draft of that narrative even as the latest chapters continue to be added both by researchers on Earth and our robotic emissaries on and around Mars, including the latest: the Perseverance rover and its Ingenuity helicopter drone, which set down in Mars’s Jezero Crater in February 2021.
3. The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must
Mars Direct offers some fascinating anecdotes from a bold new blueprint laid out by Robert Zubrin, a leading authority on space exploration. This book is a step-by-step explanation of how we can use today’s technology to get humans to Mars in 10 years, using Mars’ natural resources to produce fuel and oxygen on earth’s surface, how we build bases and settlements, and how we might one day terraform Mars. It is a process that could alter the planet’s atmosphere and pave the way for sustainable life.
In a sense, the book is a technical manual for creating a project to go to and colonize Mars. There’s a fascinating history here. But first, there are a lot of chemical, physical, biological and engineering technicalities involved in getting to and staying on the red Planet. Actually, the Mars situation is not a vision of the distant future, nor is it a vision that will cost us billions of dollars. Since the beginning of human history, Mars has been a fascinating dream, which is a thing of legend, god and mystery. In the end, the planet most similar to ours is still considered impossible to reach, let alone explore and live on. Now all that has changed with a revolutionary new plan.
4. The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth
This book traverses the frontiers of astrophysics, artificial intelligence, and technology to offer a stunning vision of man’s future in space, from settling Mars to traveling to distant galaxies. With irrepressible enthusiasm and a deep understanding of the cutting-edge research in space travel, World-renowned physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku presents a compelling vision of how humanity may develop a sustainable civilization in outer space. He reveals the developments in robotics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology that may allow us to terraform and build habitable cities on Mars and beyond.
However, he then journeys out of our solar system and discusses how new technologies such as nanoships, laser sails, and fusion rockets may actually make interstellar travel a possibility. We travel beyond our galaxy, and even beyond our universe, as Kaku investigates some of the hottest topics in science today, including warp drive, wormholes, hyperspace, parallel universes, and the multiverse. Ultimately, he shows us how humans may someday achieve a form of immortality and be able to leave our bodies entirely, laser porting to new havens in space. So this book is full of information, and it uses simple language and a rich imagination to inspire young people to the hard work of science.
5. The Mars Project
First published in 1953, this classic book on space travel is a fictional story about the first manned expedition to Mars. Here, German-born scientist Vaughn von Braun details what he sees as the problems and possibilities inherent in a Mars exploration plan. In addition, there are many chapters on how he thinks a manned mission to Mars will happen, including many detailed technical specifications.
Today, von Braun is recognized as the person most responsible for the public acceptance of the American space program. When President Bush directed NASA in 1989 to prepare plans for an orbiting space station and lunar research base and human exploration of Mars, he largely responded to Von Braun’s proposed Mars mission. To sum up, this book has depth, breadth and historical significance. It could really appeal to readers who are interested in the Mars program.
6. Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet
This fascinating book will take you millions of miles away—and decades into the future—to our next home in the solar system. The next frontier in space exploration is Mars, the red planet. National Geographic goes years fast-forward to take a peek into the gravity-defying world of outer space with stunning photography, amazing visuals, and strong science. This companion book to the National Geographic Channel series dramatizes the next 25 years as humans land on and learn to live on Mars. And it is filled with vivid photographs taken on Earth in space and on Mars.
7. The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World
In this beautifully observed, deeply personal book, Georgetown scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson tells the story of how she and other researchers have scoured Mars for signs of life, transforming the planet from a distant point of light into a world of its own. Johnson’s fascination with Mars began as a child in Kentucky, turning over rocks with her father and looking at planets in the night sky. She now conducts fieldwork in some of Earth’s most hostile environments, such as the Dry Valleys of Antarctica and the salt flats of Western Australia, developing methods for detecting life on other worlds.
Here, with poetic precision, she interlaces her own personal journey—as a female scientist and a mother—with tales of other seekers, from Percival Lowell, who was convinced that a utopian society existed on Mars, to Audouin Dollfus, who tried to carry out astronomical observations from a stratospheric balloon. In the process, she shows how the story of Mars is also a story about Earth: This other world has been our mirror, our foil, a telltale reflection of our own anxieties and yearnings. With the compassion and charisma, this book offers an unlikely natural history of a place where no human has ever set foot, while providing a vivid portrait of our quest to defy our isolation in the cosmos. Full of energy and fun, it is a page-turner and a rare read.
8. The Big Book of Mars: From Ancient Egypt to The Martian, a Deep-Space Dive into Our Obsession with the Red Planet
Filled with entertaining history, pop culture ephemera, and interviews with NASA scientists, the book is the most comprehensive look at our relationship with Mars – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Mars has been a source of fascination and speculation ever since the ancient Egyptians observed its blood-red hue and named it for their god of war and plague. But it wasn’t until the 19th century when “canals” were observed on the surface of the Red Planet, suggesting the presence of water, that scientists, novelists, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs became obsessed with the question of whether there’s life on Mars.
Since then, Mars has fully invaded pop culture, inspiring its own day of the week (Tuesday), an iconic Looney Tunes character, and many novels and movies, from Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles to The Martian. It’s this cultural familiarity with the fourth planet that continues to inspire advancements in Mars exploration, from NASA’s launch of the Mars rover Perseverance to Elon Musk’s quest to launch a manned mission to Mars through SpaceX by 2024. Perhaps, one day, we’ll be able to answer the questions our ancestors asked when they looked up at the night sky millennia ago. So there’s a lot of history in this book that’s both interesting and quirky.
9. Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission
In this book, Mark Kaufman vividly takes us to the surface of Mars through the eyes of the Curiosity spacecraft, which landed on Mars in 2012 after the infamous “seven-minute terror attack. The book not only describes pioneering efforts in planetary exploration, including the search for life, but also foreshadows what space visionaries like Elon Musk believes will be a future era of multi-planet humans. With images never published before, many with surprising colors and landscapes that make you want to spend your next vacation on Mars, this is the one and only book written in consultation with NASA scientists that explains everything, detail by detail and moment by moment, about the most ambitious space expedition the human race has ever undertaken. This book combines inside stories, fascinating facts, up-to-date maps, accessible science, eye-popping pictures, and visions of a future not that far away thanks to the groundbreaking success of NASA’s Curiosity mission.
Renowned science journalist Marc Kaufman spent two years embedded with the engineers and scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, cheering on the rover’s spine-tingling landing, learning the backstory of anticipated findings, and witnessing the inescapable frustrations that come from operating a $2.5-billion multitasking robot on a planet 35 million miles from Earth. For pop science, space, and technology lovers, Mars Up Close takes you inside the mission and onto the surface of Mars. As an added special feature, this book contains embedded Augmented Reality coding: Download NASA’s free app and bring the Curiosity rover and other Mars spacecraft into 3-D reality right on its pages! Therefore, this book is suitable for people who are interested in Mars, rovers, or lovers of outer space.
10. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
In this book, Ms Roach has once again created an engaging and entertaining piece of non-fiction. The authors interviewed astronauts, cosmonauts and volunteers about their experiences on simulated or actual space missions. She participated in activities such as experiencing zero gravity on parabolic flights and a simulation of lunar exploration in Canada’s high Arctic. Ms. Roach also explained the history and challenges of space exploration, such as experiments with pods under cross-cultural conditions. Moreover, there are also some human aspects of space travel, including food, personal hygiene, motion sickness, physiological changes and bowel movements. This means that scientists aren’t ignoring these close to home places.
Space is a world that lacks the things we need to survive and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways a search for what it means to be human. The book was written for adults who still secretly dream of becoming astronauts, and Roach made it happen on their behalf — weightless on a C-9, she just couldn’t resist the chance to “superman” in the cabin. Her passion for discovery was coupled with her love of the absurd, the amazing and stranger than fiction. Therefore, in this book, you will understand the significance of human exploration of space.
11. Project Mars A Technical Tale
In 1949 the famous German rocket scientist Dr. Wernher von Braun wrote a science-fiction manuscript based on a trip to Mars. This was more than just a fictional story. It was an actual proposal to send an expedition to Mars. Dr. Wernher von Braun worked out in great detail all the technical requirements for this Mars proposal. He worked out the orbits the space craft would have to follow to reach Mars and how long it would take. He also worked out how many rockets and space ships and crew would be required for this operation. His proposal, because that is what it really was, provided a great amount of scientific and technical information not available anywhere else. For example, did you know that the moon rotates around the Earth at right angles to the way that the Earth rotates around the sun? Did you know the problems this causes for the tides in the ocean? These little known scientific facts and technical details are all in this book but there is much more.
Mars rotates around the sun in almost the same plane that the Earth rotates around the sun, but there is a difference has to be accounted for. Then there is the question of radio communications between Mars, the space ship and Earth. Mars is furthest away from Earth at the point where they are on opposite sides of the sun. One would assume that they are too far away from each other to communicate. But we now know that this is not true. A radio transmission can even pass right through Jupiter and reach Pluto and then go on into deeper space. This book anticipates problems that have subsequently taken place. He describes a fictional disaster when a rocket blows up killing the people inside that is almost exactly identical to the real Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that took place on January 28, 1986, with seven would-be astronauts inside, showing that seven would-be astronauts who were killed had not studied this book to anticipate this problem.
12. An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales
In this book, Oliver Sacks delves deeply into the lives and minds of uniquely different individuals, including Temple Grandin, who has autism and studied “normal” or “neurotypical” people like an “Anthropologist on Mars,” because she had no clue about how other people think or act and she desperately wanted to know how she could go about having social interactions in the world she had landed in. Articles in the book include one about surgeons with Tourette’s who can perform delicate, difficult operations for six hours straight. There are many articles like this in this book, which are fascinating, insightful and eloquent.
In the book, Sacks outlines each of his case studies with a different section of the novel that are all mutually exclusive from one another. These sections illustrate: a color-blind painter, a blind man who believes he is living in the sixties, a surgeon with Tourette’s syndrome, a man who lost his sight in early childhood to regain it in his mid-fifties, an artist who creates his artwork solely from memory, a young artist savant, and an professor with autism with extraordinary empathy for animals. Sacks goes to great lengths to get to know his patients on a personal level and learn as much as they can about how they go through life, oftentimes shadowing them at both work and home to get a sense of both their private and personal lives. All in all, this is a stunning book that will make you think and marvel. If you also like it, you will never look at the human brain with quite the same lens as you did before.
13. NASA Mars Mission for Kids: A Space Book of Facts, Activities, and Fun for Ages 7-12
This is a space book for kids full of facts and fun. This book is packed with Mars Rover history and engaging content about upcoming and previous missions to the Red Planet. Travel through the solar system and learn incredible NASA facts, Mars trivia, and uncover the ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian history behind the early discovery of our closest planetary neighbor. Written for kids ages 7-12+, there are also plenty of fun activities such as word puzzles, hidden pictures, STEM/STEAM coloring pages, and fun step-by-step drawing tutorials. With the Mars mission happening right now, children and students can use this book to travel through space and time!
This book is also a children’s space coloring book: wonderful outer space colors and planets, astronauts, spaceships, rockets, or children’s astronomy. Through this book, children will learn how to explore outer space with binoculars, binoculars, or just your eyes! In addition, the themes and activities in the book are well chosen, so the book can really get children involved in the activities and be educational for both children and parents. If you like the planet book, then you will love this book!
14. Deep Life: The Hunt for the Hidden Biology of Earth, Mars, and Beyond
This book takes readers to uncharted regions deep beneath Earth’s crust in search of life in extreme environments and reveals how astonishing new discoveries by geomicrobiologists are helping the quest to find life in the solar system. This book combines cutting-edge science with thrilling scientific adventure, its features rare and unusual encounters with exotic life forms, including a bacterium living off radiation and a hermaphroditic troglodytic worm that has changed our understanding of how complex subsurface life can really be. This unforgettable book takes you to the absolute limits of life―the biotic fringe―where today’s scientists hope to discover the very origins of life itself.
The book explores one of the most mysterious and sexy questions in science today: Is there life beyond Earth? Onstott’s insight — that we can’t understand life on other planets without understanding our own — will surprise and delight any amateur alien buzzer enthusiast. This journey of discovery has woven his own personal reflections on the field with just the right amount of scientific knowledge. He showed us that science was challenging, exciting and adventurous. So if you are interested in this book, add it to your collection.
15. How We’ll Live on Mars (TED Books)
In this sweeping, provocative book that mixes business, science, and human reporting, Petranek makes the case that living on Mars is an essential back-up plan for humanity and explains in fascinating detail just how it will happen. It sounds like science fiction, but Stephen Petranek considers it fact: Within twenty years, humans will live on Mars. He makes the case that living on Mars is not just plausible, but inevitable. Private companies, driven by iconoclastic entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, and Sir Richard Branson; Dutch reality show and space mission Mars One; NASA; and the Chinese government are among the many groups competing to plant the first stake on Mars and open the door for human habitation.
Life on Mars has potential life-saving possibilities for everyone on earth. Depleting water supplies, overwhelming climate change, and a host of other disasters—from terrorist attacks to meteor strikes—all loom large. We must become a space-faring species to survive. We have the technology not only to get humans to Mars, but to convert Mars into another habitable planet. It will likely take 300 years to “terraform” Mars, as the jargon goes, but we can turn it into a veritable second Garden of Eden. And we can live there, in specially designed habitations, within the next twenty years.
In this exciting chronicle, Petranek introduces the circus of lively characters all engaged in a dramatic effort to be the first to settle the Red Planet. This book brings firsthand reporting, interviews with key participants, and extensive research to bear on the question of how we can expect to see life on Mars within the next twenty years.
16. Death on Mars: The Discovery of a Planetary Nuclear Massacre
In an epic story of discovery, there is compelling evidence of the death of a civilization on Mars and the shocking reason for its demise: an ancient planetary nuclear holocaust left isotopic traces of a massive explosion that have survived well into our own time. Now, the story told by the reams of Martian data is clear. Mars once had a climate like Earth’s, with oceans and rivers, and for a long time was home to plant and animal life, including human civilization. Then, for unfathomable reasons, a massive thermonuclear explosion destroys the heart of Martian civilization, destroying earth’s biosphere. But the story doesn’t end there. This tragedy may explain the Fermi paradox, the idea that the universe, so fertile on the surface with so many planets suitable for life, is as silent as a graveyard. We must send astronauts to Mars immediately to get the most out of what’s happening there and learn how to avoid the fate of Mars.
It is a very readable and convincing book. The author concludes that the destruction of Mars was an act of war by examining evidence that man-made structures may have been destroyed. It has a very good understanding of what’s going on in the scientific community, with depth and breadth. So, this book is very meaningful for human development and Mars research, and if you’re interested in that, this book is a good choice.
17. Life and Death on Mars: The New Mars Synthesis
The book is about Mass Extinction and Nuclear Catastrophe on Mars, including: Oasis Earth, The School of Mars, The Dream of Mars, The Red Star, The Vikings of Mars, The Oxygen of Mars, The Paleo-Ocean of Mars, The Crystal Palace of Mars, The Chixulube of Mars, The New Mars Synthesis, The Twilight of Mars, Endgame of Mars, The Moons of Mars, The Epilogue of Mars and more. However, there are the terrible truths: firstly, Mars was actually Earthlike for most of its geologic history. Secondly, Mars held a massive and evolving biosphere. Thirdly, Mars was the wracked by a mysterious and astonishing nuclear catastrophe. Fourthly, we are, biologically and culturally, the Children of Mars. Lastly, Life and Death on Mars: The New Mars Synthesis –going boldly where no human has gone before.
This book is stunning and incredible. At the end of this book is a must have to start learning about Mars and it will make you think over the fact that life can be seeded everywhere and therefore can come from anywhere. We cannot thank enough men like Dr. Brandenburg who ‘force’ you to think outside the box. Brandenburg’s evidence is well considered and his conclusions are stunning. You must read this book if Mars is of interest to you.
18. How to Survive Mercury Retrograde: And Venus & Mars, Too
Go beyond the fear and negativity of retrograde periods and achieve success. Retrogrades can present unexpected opportunities when you approach them with creativity and patience. This book shows you how to be better prepared for retrograde cycles and handle those areas of life that are most commonly affected. Discover the answers to questions about getting married, accepting a new job, or buying a car during a retrograde period. Explore retrograde survival tips that will help you maintain focus and correct mistakes. Look up your sign and corresponding element to see how you can cope. Whether you are a student of astrology or just someone wanting to know how to survive a retrograde cycle with less stress, this book will help you navigate these challenging astrological periods.
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