For the Love of Mars:
A Human History of the Red Planet
University of Chicago Press, 2023, 248 pp., Hardcover. $27.50. www.press.uchicago.edu
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, 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.