Monday, June 2, 2008

Oddities From my Library - Mars

Status of Timescape: reordered but has not arrived. If it doesn't arrive by Wednesday then the reviews are getting pushed back another week.

So let's start with oddities from my library!

Up first is a book I have mentioned before. I give you:

Okay, it's history lesson time. Mariner 9 was the first time that an object from Earth orbited another planet. It was launched in early 1971 and in November of that year reached Mars just ahead of two Soviet probes that arrived a few months later. When it arrived the planet was covered with dust storms that raged for months but once they ended it sent back a vast quantity of high resolution black and white images which allowed us to map the planet.

For this milestone in planetary science NASA compiled Mars as Viewed by Mariner 9 as a series of images from the probe along with quotes from the team that worked on it. Many of the images are very grainy and you'll find better full color images from more recent probes. What this book has now is history. This is the beginning.

Here is a sampling from the book:

A region near Cerberus, about 245km across. The prominent dark streak is probably depositional in character. An upwind crater can be interpreted as the source of the dark material which carried downwind produced the dark tail. In the process a part of the rim of the smaller crater appears to have been covered by dark material, but there is also a shadow zone behind the smaller crater where no deposition occurred. There is a similar wind shadow behind a hillock near the lower right edge of the longer tail.
- Carl Sagan

The best view yet seen by man of Phobos is this computer-enhanced picture taken at a range of 5540km. The large crater at middle right, near the terminator appears to have at least one small crater on its rim. More than a dozen other small craters are visible. The irregular edges of Phobos strongly suggest fragmentation. - James B. Pollack

The shield volcano at Pavonis Mons is about 400km across and rises more than 20km above the surrounding plains. Concentric graben occur on the flanks of the shield and in the surrounding plains. The caldera consists of a single large circular depression, 55km in diameter. - Michael H. Carr

Mars as Viewed by Mariner 9 is not a common book but copies can be found here and there. If you are interested in the history of NASA and space exploration then it makes a nice addition to your library.