**"Mars - A Cosmic Stepping Stone" connects ordinary people with the relevance of space exploration in a way not seen since Carl Sagan.
**The book encapsulates, completely and understandibly, the 'big picture' about humanity's path to uncovering its cosmic connections and how Mars is critical to that. Few, if any books in the area have attempted to do this and achieve it, since those of Sagan.
**The book presents the broadest, most complete, most up-to-date and most exciting account of humanity's fascination with, and future intentions regarding the Red Planet.
**The book is built on the authors 31 years experience of astronomy and 22 years of communicating science to the public, resulting in many unique ideas and unprecedented ways of conveying them. The author is establishing a reputation in his country for this. Such an emphasis is a priority for the book - more so than conveying facts. Few currently available books approach the subject from such a stand point.
**A new generation, the second generation since the start of space exploration, deserve literature that encapsulates the important issues of the subject and sets them on their own path of exploration.
**The book connects with issues pertanent to todays world. In a global community full of stresses, this book unfolds a positive human story that is of direct relevance to everyone. In a world full of frivolous intrepetations and portrayed fear regarding science, the book brings to the table a grounded yet enigmatic perspective that will bestow a sense of optimism and inclusion.
The questions of our origin and cosmic abundance of life are among the most compelling facing humanity. We have determined much about the nature and origin of the Universe and our place in it, but with virtually all evidence of our origin long since gone from our world and an unimaginably vast Universe still to explore, defining answers are difficult to obtain.
For all of the difficulties facing us however, the planet Mars may act as a ‘cosmic stepping stone’ in uncovering some of the answers. Although different today, the origin and early history of both Earth and Mars may have been similar enough to consider an origin to life on both. But because Mars’ planetary processes collapsed over three billion years ago – just as life was beginning to flourish on Earth – a significant and unique record of activity from that era perhaps relevant to the origin of life still resides there today.
In recognition of this, both the US and Europe are currently engaged in one of the most ambitious programs of exploration ever undertaken. Built on our legacy of Mars exploration from the Viking era and before, a far-reaching, phased, program of robotic exploration now and over the coming decades aims at obtaining definitive answers about the origin and nature of the red planet and what it has to say about the origin and cosmic abundance of life. This book examines these issues in one of the most comprehensive treatments ever written about the planet Mars and our legacy of engagement with it, in language suitable for non-expert and expert alike.
Opening chapters consider the question of life in the Universe and the origin of life on Earth and what challenges face us in uncovering defining answers. With a realization of its importance in this, the next section examines the legacy of our engagement with Mars. From Kepler’s work on its orbit, Schiaparelli’s efforts to resolve its surface features and NASA’s Mariner and Viking programs attempting to determine whether life resides upon the surface, Mars has remained elusive, yet always prodding and extending our capabilities in exploration and our perception of our place in the Universe. Subsequent chapters consider our current understanding of the planet and the recently devised comprehensive program for scientific exploration. All recent, current and upcoming missions and the latest findings are discussed in detail, providing our best understanding yet of a vast and ancient landscape indeed characterized by significant activity relevant to our quest and which also points to a planet far from dead today. Late chapters consider NASA and ESA plans for Mars over the next thirty years, increasingly shaped by the scientific successes to date, unprecedented public interest and by issues of planetary protection. And with mounting political interest, our program for Mars may culminate in a human mission to Mars, perhaps sometime around 2040. The greatest discovery, however, remains to be made. If even one microbe is found on Mars, it will reveal a cosmic context for life with Earth as one place among many harboring life, confirming our cosmic origins and destiny.
Life in the Universe.- The Origin of Life on Earth.- From Antiquity to the Canals.- Viking.- The Legacy of Viking.- Mars: A Cosmic Stepping Stone.- A Grand Plan.- The Search for Life: A Planetary Perspective.- The Search for Life: Water and the Atmosphere.- The Search for Life: Past and Present.- A Global Strategy.- Global Programs.- First Steps: Pathfinder.- Mars Reconnaissance.- Spirit and Opportunity.- A Paradigm Shift.- Next Steps.- Because It’s There.- Planetary Protection.- A Human Mission to Mars.- Our Life in the Universe.
Kevin Nolan is a scientist and science communicator from Ireland. He holds honors B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics and astronomy. After several years in the computer industry, Kevin returned to lecture in physics at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. under Dr. Niall Smith of the Cork Institute of Technology, developing a software based image analysis system for the European Space Agency INTEGRAL space observatory.
Among Kevin's passions is science outreach. Involvement here includes acting as volunteer coordinator to Ireland for The Planetary Society (founder Carl Sagan), popular science writing, public lectures throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, consultancy to Irish TV science programs and occasional TV and Radio appearances.
In 2001, Kevin was invited by Prof. Ian Elliot of Dunsink Observatory to act as secretary to Ireland's contribution to the ESA/ESO/CERN European youth project, ‘Life in the Universe’. Ireland’s efforts were complimented and supported by Ann Druyan, author, media producer and wife to the late Carl Sagan. In 2002/2003 Kevin was awarded a state grant to present a series of high profile, media-rich lectures to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Voyager space missions (titled "Voyager - from Earth to Interstellar Space", Nov 2002) and current Mars exploration (titled "Mars - A Cosmic Stepping Stone" May 2003), which lead to Kevin proposing and in part developing a full-page color feature on Mars for The Irish Times newspaper and a feature article for Astronomy&Spaces (A&S) magazine.
Subsequent to further well received articles for Astronomy&Space and the Irish Times, Kevin embarked on a new writing project - a monthly column for A&S titled 'Cosmic Perspectives' – examining human contexts associated with space exploration. According to A&S editor and Astronomy Ireland Chairman Dave Moore FRAS, the column was among the most popular of the magazine, often prompting lively feedback and debate from readers. Kevin hopes to bring the concept to a broader audience through newspaper and magazine. Also under development are several other books (aside from the currently available "Mars – A Cosmic Stepping Stone") and a science documentary proposal also about the planet Mars, all aimed at connecting the public with matters of scientific relevance.
A unique view of Mars, not just as an exploration destination in its own right, but
as an immensely important test bed for all future planetary exploration
Mars has fascinated humans for thousands of years. Even when we knew the planets only as wanderers in the sky, Mars stood out. It was prominent and distinctively, brilliantly red. As the years passed, it became even more familiar. We gazed at its surface through telescopes and found dried riverbeds and deep canyons. We discovered that Mars' year is twice as long as ours is. We also learned that Mars has four seasons and a 24-hour day. With the passing centuries, Mars has become steadily more familiar, yet still we ask, "Might life also have arisen on Mars? Is there life on Mars today?" If even one microbe is found on Mars, the context for life on Earth will be forever altered: we are not alone.
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