Missions to Mars: Reimagining the Red Planet in the Age of Spaceflight

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Mars has been the object of both popular fascination and scientific inquiry since the seventeenth century. Comparatively close to Earth and offering launch windows for spacecraft every 26 months, after the Moon the red planet has become the most visited and studied object in the solar system during the age of planetary exploration. Because the planet’s surface has been reshaped by floods, volcanism, and glaciation, the history of Mars exploration has been entwined with changing perceptions of Earth and of humankind’s place in the cosmos, and, more speculatively, with dreams of our species’ potential to become a spacefaring civilization. Since the late 1990s with the arrival of the Mars Global Surveyor, NASA has maintained a continual robotic presence orbiting the planet or on its surface. Landers and orbiters have sent back terabytes of data that have revolutionized our understanding of the fourth planet; hundreds of scientific studies published since 1997 have fueled ongoing debates about the planet’s past and present conditions, the possibility that it harbored (or still harbors) life, and its potential as a destination for human explorers and colonists. Given the wealth of data and the increasingly sophisticated technologies deployed to study Mars, writing about Martian exploration comes with the guarantee that whatever one publishes (this chapter included) will need to be updated almost as soon as it appears in print.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExploring the Solar System: The History and Science of Planetary Exploration
EditorsRoger D Launius
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)9781137273178
StatePublished - 2013

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology


  • Mars Global Surveyor
  • Martian surface
  • planetary exploration
  • Martian meteorite
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter


Dive into the research topics of 'Missions to Mars: Reimagining the Red Planet in the Age of Spaceflight'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this