The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

Crown. Jul. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781101904817. $28.99. SCI
For centuries, Mars has been a source of fascination for many astronomers and other scientists. Johnson (planetary science, Georgetown Univ.) paints a colorful history of the Red Planet and the people who have attempted to uncover its secrets. She recounts many of the scientists who have observed Mars ever since the Mesopotamians distinguished Mars as a planet and not a star. Ground-breaking astronomers such as Galileo, Christian Huygens, Giovanni Schiaparelli, and Percival Lowell hoped to learn more about the geography and climate of the planet. Yet, like astronomer Carl Sagan of Cosmos fame, the author is lured by the notion that life exists beyond Earth. Through her descriptions of NASA Mars missions such as Mariner, Viking, and Pathfinder, the author reveals her passion to join the quest for knowing Mars. Johnson also reflects about what exploring Mars means for human existence, drawing readers into learning about each new revelation brought forth by scientists or planetary rovers.
VERDICT Part natural history of Mars and part personal story, this narrative is accessible and eloquent, making it essential for armchair explorers and Mars enthusiasts. Johnson’s journey is also inspiring to women interested in S.T.E.M. careers.
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