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Mars is a small world with a big reputation. This mysterious, singular planet—with volcanoes that dwarf Mount Everest, a canyon system that would stretch fully across the United States, and curious landscapes that perhaps once harbored water—has fascinated us for centuries. In the most up-to-date account available of the elusive Red Planet, Stephen James O’Meara follows our longstanding love affair with this unique celestial body, from the musings of humanity’s first stargazers to the imaginings of science-fiction writers, radio broadcasters, and filmmakers, to the latest images and discoveries from the Curiosity rover. The book also reviews plans for piloted missions to Mars—and what it will take for those missions to succeed.

224 pages | 100 color plates | 6 3/4 x 8 3/4


Physical Sciences: Physics and Astronomy, Physics--Popular Books

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"For readers investigating Mars for the first time, the impressive collection of photographs taken by rovers and orbiters will astonish, and may even make you question if what you are seeing is real. If you've ever wondered about life on Mars or what Martian blueberries look like, O'Meara will provide you with the answers. . . . Mars will appeal to historians, planetary geologists, and anyone with an interest in space and exploration. Five stars."

BBC Sky at Night Magazine

“There are few celestial bodies as fascinating, or as well-studied, as Mars. O’Meara presents a concise summary of everything there is to know about Mars in a richly illustrated book that will appeal to any science enthusiast. From the cultural significance of Mars in ancient times, to first studies with the naked eye and the detailed views coming from modern spacecraft and rover missions, O’Meara shows how our understanding of the Red Planet has changed fundamentally time after time. Our fascination with Mars continues unabated—this month alone marks the arrival of three new probes in the planet’s orbit—with a crewed mission planned for the 2030s.”

Nature Astronomy

"What sets a book apart is the quality of its writing, the 'voice' of its author. . . . O'Meara's Mars book is written so poetically and with such a beautiful use of language that reading it is like listening to a presentation by a passionate outreacher. . . . A superb book which will be enjoyed by anyone interested in Mars."

Popular Astronomy

"O’Meara, a prolific author and expert astronomical observer, describes humanity's fascination with Mars from ancient times to the present era of extensive robotic exploration. The book offers a popular yet accurate and well-referenced account of what that planet meant to ancient societies, how Mars studies affected the development of early modern physics and astronomy, and how the search for evidence of life, particularly fossil microorganisms, guides contemporary exploration. Despite the broad coverage of Mars topics, controversies, and investigations, the author does not shirk details. Appendixes of tabular data include summary information on more than forty attempted missions to Mars, including launch failures and other mishaps. Three more spacecraft arrived at Mars even while the book was under review... Highly recommended."


"The raptor-sharp vision of journalist O’Meara is legend among astronomers. In his latest book—the chapter on practical tips for red-planet watchers—he describes sighting Mars in broad daylight during its 2018 close approach to Earth. Less visually endowed observers will still enjoy his finely focused overview of the history of Mars through the ages, with an emphasis on the flood of information received from robotic missions in the past twenty years. . . . Humans have been making plans to join the robotic crew on Mars in the next decade. O’Meara’s book should be required preparatory reading.” 

Laurence A. Marschall | Natural History

“This topical, general, and up-to-date book has arrived on the scene in time for the 2020 perihelic Mars opposition, and is to be warmly welcomed. It is the sort of all-round descriptive book one would have liked to have written oneself. O’Meara’s approach is largely historical but never stuffy. He weaves a compelling tale from the ancient puzzle of the naked-eye motions of Mars to the exploits of the twentieth- and twenty-first-century surface rovers, the search for life, and the chances of humankind eventually living there. The book includes many highly unusual and well-chosen illustrations. . . . O’Meara has produced an engaging text, and the format of the book is pleasing. The standard of editing, printing, and color reproduction is very high. . . . An excellent publication that is to be recommended.”

Observatory Magazine

"Presenting the red planet in both fact as well as the many fictions in which it has been featured, and including some of the most up-to-date discoveries from the information collected by the Curiosity rover, this forthcoming book should be of interest to both dedicated astronomers as well as the simply martially curious alike."

Johannes E. Riutta | Well-read Naturalist

“This is a really excellent book that tells the story of how humans have interacted with the planet Mars from our early civilizations through the dawn of science, and up to modern day space missions that have landed there and crossed its surface digging up samples. This is all told in an engaging and well-written manner by an award-winning astronomer. . . . It is full of photographs, many in color, with extensive links and references, plus appendices offering factual data about the planet, including a complete record of the missions sent to study the planet from its neighbor Earth over the past sixty-two years. This book is a one-stop Mars travelogue. If you have any interest in Mars at all you will love it.”

Magonia Review of Books

"This is an excellent book. I suspect that many of the people who buy it—either for themselves or as a gift for someone else—will be attracted more by its stunning array of photographs than anything else. But it would be a shame if readers don’t get into O’Meara’s text too, because it’s packed with fascinating stuff."

"This beautifully-illustrated addition to the Kosmos series focuses on the planet Mars, taking readers through a spirited history of how humans have thought about their famous neighbor through the ages and giving a clear and knowledgeable of the state of our understanding of the most famous alien world of them all."

Open Letters Review

"Mars is a detailed resource that provides a vast history on the planet which includes dating back to the first that discovered the planet and those currently obsessed with Mars from filmmakers to radio broadcasters. O’Meara also includes the most recent information from the Curiosity rover, Mars mission plans, and critique on if the chances of these plans succeed."

Seattle Book Review

"O’Meara is an award-winning astronomer and coeditor of Oxford’s A Dictionary of Space Exploration. This background ensures the text of Mars, a profusely illustrated hardback, is authoritative and insightful. After O’Meara covers the ‘prehistory’ and the fictional ‘romancing’ of Mars, the bulk of the book is devoted to Martian exploration from 1960 onwards and plans for piloted missions."

Canberra Times

"All in all, I can thoroughly recommend O'Meara's Mars to anyone with an interest in the Red Planet."

Fortean Times

"O’Meara, with his extensive experience of writing about astronomy for a general audience, is a natural choice to deliver the lowdown on our planetary near neighbor. Despite the relative compactness of the book, he manages to create a hugely informative and entertaining read in s cool and authoritative style, with an impressive array of cultural references, incorporating Homer, Dante, Swift, and Voltaire. And with 125 well-chosen illustrations, there is no lack of visual appeal."

Physics Education

"This fascinating book on Mars is written from a unique perspective: O'Meara has been observing Mars visually through telescopes for nearly a half century, and as such he understands well the limits that visual observers of the past have had. Combined with his talent for writing scientific history for the lay person, this has resulted in a book that anybody desiring to learn about the history of the red planet, from ancient times up to our modern spacecraft era, will enjoy."

Daniel W. E. Green, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University

Table of Contents

1 Communion with Mars
2 The ‘Miniature of Our Earth’
3 Romancing Mars
4 The First Emissaries to Mars
5 Lifting the Curse at Mars
6 Scouting Out Humanity’s Next Home
7 Mars: Our Home Away from Home?
8 The Lilliputian Moons of Mars
9 Observing Mars

Appendix I: Mars Oppositions, 2020–35
Appendix II: Mars Fact Sheet
Appendix III: Mars Missions

Photo Acknowledgements

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