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A Traveler's Guide to Mars
by William K. Hartmann
Workman Publishing Company, 2003

Review by Larry McGlynn

Unless you resided under a rock during the entire month of August 2003, the chances are good that you took time to see the planet Mars. Whether with your naked eyes, aided by a telescope or on the evening news, you were likely attracted by the hype surrounding the Red Planet's closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years.

Still, even on August 27, when Mars reached its nearest, there were still 34.6 million miles of space between us and the rust-color surface that has beckoned us for hundreds of years, ever since the days of Schiaparelli's natural canali and Lowell's Martian-dug canals.

While we now have no less than five robotic craft on their way to or already at Mars, and have landed three probes, they are no replacement for a crewed mission crawling the surface.

Of course, before we go there, we should know where we are going; enter "A Traveler's Guide To Mars" by William Hartmann.

While there are many books about Mars, including a varied selection of titles introduced to coincide with the recent pass, there are few that boast an author who has also served as one of the principal scientists working on the study of the fourth planet.

If his work with NASA's Mars Global Surveyor mission doesn't qualify Hartmann as the ideal planetary tour guide, he was previously co-investigator on the Mariner 9 mission, the first to map the Martian surface. Elsewhere in the solar system, Hartmann is credited as developing the most widely accepted theory of the origin of our Moon and worked with the Apollo geology team for the manned lunar landings.

In "A Traveler's Guide to Mars", Hartmann turns his considerable talents to exploring the geological theories that shape the study of Mars while leading you, the reader on a trip around the planet in a clear and simple manner. Combining historical and current science with humor and personal experiences, Hartmann produces an excellent guide for the Mars-bound astronaut.

Hartmann takes advantage of the latest maps generated by Global Surveyor and the Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter to step through, feature by feature, the three major geological eras that helped shape the planet we see today. Using imagery and Hartmann's own accomplished artwork, the formation of Mars is explored, as well as how certain features, interpreted by early observers, lead to theories about life populating the planet. A thoughtful explanation of the canals of Mars, not to mention the infamous "Face" first imaged by Viking, are included as examples of early and current posturings on the presence of Martians.

Hartmann expounds on the secret of Mars' missing water, the absence of continental drift and the creation of the largest volcano in the Solar System. Sidebars provide a personal touch describing Hartmann's contact with individuals on the cutting edge of planetary exploration.

"A Travelers Guide to Mars" is a fascinating, lively volume that provides a concise but complete picture of the Red Planet. Formatted to resemble Frommer-style guides, it includes fold-out maps of Mars, further enhancing the reader's experience as they explore the major attractions on the planet's surface.

So whether you are planning a future outing to the planet or just catching the occassional glance during a clear night's passing, Hartmann's "A Traveler's Guide To Mars" is well worth the venture to your local bookstore.


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