For the Love of Mars: A Human History of the Red Planet (Hardcover)
A tour of Mars in the human imagination, from ancient astrologers to modern explorers.
Mars and its secrets have fascinated and mystified humans since ancient times. Due to its vivid color and visibility, its geologic kinship with Earth, and its potential as our best hope for settlement, Mars embodies everything that inspires us about space and exploration. For the Love of Mars surveys the red planet’s place in the human imagination, beginning with ancient astrologers and skywatchers and ending in our present moment of exploration and virtual engagement.
National Air and Space Museum curator Matthew Shindell describes how historical figures across eras and around the world have made sense of this mysterious planet. We meet Mayan astrologer priests who incorporated Mars into seasonal calendars and religious ceremonies; Babylonian astrologers who discerned bad omens; figures of the Scientific Revolution who struggled to comprehend it as a world; Victorian astronomers who sought signs of intelligent life; and twentieth- and twenty-first-century scientists who have established a technological presence on its surface. Along the way, we encounter writers and artists from each of these periods who take readers and viewers along on imagined journeys to Mars.
By focusing on the diverse human stories behind the telescopes and behind the robots we know and love, Shindell shows how Mars exploration has evolved in ways that have also expanded knowledge about other facets of the universe. Captained by an engaging and erudite expert, For the Love of Mars is a captivating voyage through time and space for anyone curious about Curiosity and the red planet.
About the Author
Matthew Shindell curates the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s collection of spacecraft, instruments, and other artifacts related to the exploration and study of our Earth and solar system. He co-hosts the Museum’s podcast, AirSpace. A historian of science, he is also the author of The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey and coauthor of Spaceships and Discerning Experts, and coeditor of Smithsonian American Women.
“Shindell describes his book as ‘the history of human ideas about Mars’, and he thoughtfully follows its winding path through religion, literature and pop culture. . . . [He] persuasively argues that Mars is most instructive when it sheds light on how we see ourselves.”
— New York Times
"Shindell crafts a human-centered history of an alien world. For the Love of Mars offers a readable history of speculation and exploration about Mars, beginning with the skywatchers of ancient Mayan, Chinese, and Babylonian civilizations and ending with the scientists and engineers who work on current robotic missions."
“Armchair astronomers and history buffs alike will find this to be a fresh and engaging account.”
"This insightful history will charm readers of popular science, science fiction, and history."
— Library Journal
"Shindell describes efforts to understand a celestial body closer to home, tracing the red planet’s evolution in the popular imagination."
— Publishers Weekly
“If you want to be surprised and inspired by humankind’s fascination with the Red Planet, For the Love of Mars is a great read.”
— BBC Sky at Night Magazine
“This is the right voice to bring Mars vividly to life. Shindell’s history of what we know about the red planet goes beyond Western ideas, bringing valuable knowledge from many times, places, and cultures both into our view and into rich conversation. Its diverse perspectives and cast of characters make For the Love of Mars an essential read.”
— Janet Vertesi, author of Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASAâ€™s Teams
“Through a wonderful combination of scholarly scientific research and thoughtful humanist perspective, Shindell’s For the Love of Mars provides a delightfully educational and entertaining history of our exploration of the red planet.”
— Jim Bell, Mars researcher and coauthor of Discovering Mars: A History of Observation and Exploration of the Red Planet
“Shindell has done the impossible: setting out the long history of human engagement with the red planet over thousands of years in a single book. For the Love of Mars is compelling reading for anyone who has ever looked at, or even just wondered about, the fourth world from the sun and whether we'll set foot on it someday.”
— Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society
"Humans are unsettled by incomplete data, unanswered questions. Show us objects in the night sky, and we create worlds. So it has been with Mars, conspicuous to us Earthbound gazers as one of the heavenly bodies that wanders from place to place against the backdrop of the stars. . . . a world that could share features with our own, as images of the known and unknown were both refashioned through intertwined changes in observation, understanding, exploration and belief. It’s that long evolution of ideas – not yet concluded – that Matthew Shindell relates in this compact survey."
— The Arts Desk
"More than justifies itself as ‘another book about Mars’ in exploring the planet from a distinct and thought-provoking perspective."
"By focusing on the diverse human stories behind the telescopes and behind the robots we know and love, Shindell shows how Mars exploration has evolved in ways that have also expanded knowledge about other facets of the universe. Captained by an engaging and erudite expert, For the Love of Mars is a captivating voyage through time and space for anyone curious about Curiosity and the red planet."
— Sandbox World
"Because of its visibility and striking color, everyone from Mayan priests to modern scientists have sought to center [Mars] in some way in human life. In this book, Shindell explores the ways our curiosity and subsequent exploration of the planet has led us to understanding the rest of our world as well."
"Historians of science are already well-acquainted with Mars’ centrality to science itself, as the Red Planet’s retrograde motion through the night sky led Renaissance and Enlightenment astronomers to toss out the wisdom of the Greeks and map out a series of laws of motion we now call physics. Science, though, is only part of this story: faith, fear, imperialism, and demonstrations of national prowess all figure in Shindell’s stories of Martian exploration, from the construction of telescopes to the landing of rovers on the Martian surface and preparations for future human settlement."
"By focusing on the diverse human stories behind the telescopes and behind the robots we know and love, the author shows how Mars exploration has evolved in ways that have also expanded knowledge about other facets of the universe. This book is a captivating voyage through time and space for anyone curious about Curiosity and the Red Planet."