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#1 2007-03-23 03:03:03

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

Hello everyone,
This thread is intended to be a place for NON-FICTION book reviews on terraforming. Books on the exploration of Mars (that have information useful to terraforming) are also allowed. Each review should have:

- Book name, author(s), publisher, ISBN, copyright date, number of pages, and cost.

- A short description of what the book is about and the level of science knowledge expected of its readers.

- The main body of your review. At least part of your review should talk about the usefulness of this text for people interested in terraforming the planet.

- Concluding statements and if you think the book is worth the money for your own library. (Or if it is worth pestering your local librarian to get a copy for the public library.)

Reviewing a book that someone else has covered is fine, but if your review is substantially the same as a previous one then there is not much point. If you want to add a bit or challenge something in a reivew that is would be great.

I own a number of such books and will post a few reviews as time allows.

EDIT Feb 2008: I now believe I've reviewed every book on Terraforming written.  I'm expanding this list to review other books of more distant interest. 

Warm regards, Rick.


#2 2007-03-23 03:11:09

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"Terraforming: Engineering Planetary Environments" by Martyn J. Fogg, published by the Society of Automotive Engineers, (c) 1995, 544 pages, hardcover.

This book is long out of print. I found used copies at the big online book sellers (Amazon wanted ~$1,000, what a rip off). However, B&N, & other book sellers were asking about $300.00 US. I picked up my copy at Alibris & it was shipped to my place within the week.

This is a seriously fun book (if you are into science geek type fun).

This is written like a science text book and seems to intend to place itself as the definitive book on terraforming. I feel that it succeeds in this goal. It starts with a review of terraforming from its first discussion in the pages of science fiction to its current state of semi-respectability in scientific publication (such as the journals "Science", the "Journal for the British Interplanetary Society", "Nature", "The Environmentalist", "Advances in Space Research" & "Speculations in Science & Technology").

The book is written for the interested layman. It does include a variety of formulas but these can be ignored with out losing the main thrust of the argument. The book is literate and easy to read.

The most useful part of the book is it is a reference with truly hard to find data of interest to terraforming neatly organized in one place. e.g. I had been looking for what would be the best mix of perfluorocarbons mostly likely to be first used as the first artificial greenhouse gasses on Mars. I could not find the IR wavelengths absorbed by these compounds anywhere, but the information I wanted was right there on page 238. (Such as exists in 1996, many of the values needed have not been studied by scientists at that time.)

(See this: … 9&start=55

for new information posted by Rxke.)

After a discussion on guidelines on how to best intellectually approach terraforming, Chapter 4 talks about planetary engineering of Earth. The major thing that I took from this is that it is a hell of a lot easier to prevent our planet from becoming overheated, polluted, and fighting the spread of vast deserts than it will be to reverse these after they have happened.

Mr. Fogg makes a distinction between "ecopoiesis" (low effort, largely biological terraforming intended to make a bacteria biosphere on a planet) and "terraforming" (higher effort means to make a world suitable for human life).

The book is not highly theoretical. In addition to the chapter on saving Earth there are two chapters on terraforming Mars, one for Venus and a further chapter discussing the possibility of ecopoiesis and or terraforming on other bodies in the solar system (not real likely with out magical nano-technology & the like).

This is the first book that gives me numbers for atmospheric erosion by asteroid and comet impacts. (On Mars, asteroids of 5 km radius or less and comets of 1 km radius or less should not cause any significant atmosphere erosion.) He also discusses using impacts to release volatiles such as CO2 and N2 from carbonate and nitrate beds. (Big impacts are wasteful of energy; splitting the incoming bodies into 200 to 500 meter chunks and directing them to exact targets are better. However, he prefers exploding exactly sized thermonuclear bombs (H-bombs) to more efficiently release these substances from the Martian rock.)

If we want to see Martian seas in less than tens of thousand of years using H-Bombs (or asteroid impacts) is pretty much needed. It just takes too long for the warmth to work its way down thru the rock and permafrost to thaw out the ground water in any reasonable amount of time.  (The first few meters thaw quickly, after that it is very slow.)

I learned of another problem that will face terraformers from reading this book. When converting atmosphere from CO2 to O2 suitable for humans to breath, plants will suck CO2 out of the air, (releasing O2). However, when the plant dies it then releases the CO2 (consuming O2) when the material rots. It is not until we get significant amounts of carbon buried in oil and coal deposits that large shifts in the CO2 : O2 ratio will occur. He suggests artificially burying peat and wood to speed the take down of carbon from the air. (Or peat and wood could be shipped to the tops of mountains as this is effectively in space and outside of any likely biosphere.) I had understood in principle this problem, but I had not realized the scale of the process.

Some of the ideas that people have given in this book are mind blowing. One engineer, Paul Birch, suggests a series of 3 giant mirrors to focus 1.2 times the normal Martian sunlight into a region only 30 km or so in width. This is enough energy to melt the crust releasing all the volatiles needed. (The set up of all of these mirrors and / mirror - lenses is truly clever. The light pressure from one set of statites is enough to hold up the second set against the Martian gravity while the third floats on the gases released by the boiling crust.)

In summary, this is THE book on terraforming. Anyone seriously interested in the subject should track down a copy. 5 out of 5 stars.

A lot of what is in this book is in Robert Zubrin's "The Case for Mars". If you don't want to spend $300+ for this book, "The Case for Mars" will give you 85 to 90% of what is in this tome for $15.00.

I have a suggestion for the activists amongst us: we could start a campaign to encourage an updated version of this text. With enough pre-orders we might be able to get a second edition printed with a couple thousand copies. I would be willing to buy a 4 copies of an updated text at $30.00 or so for donating to friends & local libraries.

Dr. Fogg has a website at:

http: www users globalnet co uk ~mfogg

if you are interested.  It is a fairly small site.

Warm regards, Rick.


#3 2007-03-26 05:33:53

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"Mars: A Warmer Wetter Planet" by Jeffry S. Kargel, published by Springer in association with Praxis, (c) 2004, 556 pages, softbound.

Dr Kargel is a geologist and planetary scientist in Flagstaff Arizona.  He wrote this book for the fun of it and the fun shines thru.  Altho towards the end he seems to be dropping a bit lower on energy.  He promotes his thoughts on the planet but considers a lot of other theories and thinks that many of them have a lot of truth behind them.  It is a refreshing, balanced read.

He starts off talking about how Mars has been seen in the past by scientists, how this has affected popular culture and how popular culture affects science budgets.  He says some unexpectedly nice things about the people who think that there is a giant face in Cydonia.  He traces the major views of scientific thought on Mars currently (White Mars with liquid CO2, Warm Wet Early Mars, Big Ancient Oceans and MEGAOUTFLO).

There is a brief chapter when he talks about the setting for the modern debates on Mars and shows just how large many of the landforms are on the planet. 

Then he gets to work and starts tracing the amount of water on the planet.  His basic thesis is that Mars is dry because it is cold.  There is plenty of water on the planet but it is locked up in ice.  He points out that tho the partial pressure of water is microscopic by Earth standards, it ranges from 5% to 100% relative humidity for Mars' temperature and pressure (usually on the low end of that scale).  Mars' pressure is a hair below the triple point for water (where ice, water and vapor can all exist at once) so water on Mars will either sublimate or freeze to ice (depending on the temperature).  However liquid brines (where the dissolved salts lower the freezing point) will evaporate relatively slowly not boil furiously.  (It is too cold to boil furiously.)  If we double the air pressure liquid brines could be stable over much of the planet's surface.

He talks about the gullies on Mars.  Many of these are likely caused by springs eroding the base of harder rocks above.  He talks about chaotic terrain and the major outflows of (likely) water from them.  There is some debate as to what caused these massive floods, some saying water, some ice (glaciers), some rock debris and some think liquid then gaseous CO2.  (His theory is that these giant floods were mostly liquid water with generous mixtures of the other substances.)

The thing about his book is it is filled with hundreds of images from Mars showing this terrain or that.  These diagrams are blown up, have arrows and descriptions and basically show again and again landforms that support (or weaken) the arguments that he is discussing.  Usually they support a variety of theories.  Mars has so many terrains and seems to have many processes that have occurred in its long history.

In the fourth chapter he talks about the ocean thought to have existed in the north polar basin (called the Oceanus Borealis) and the souther polar ice sheet (the Austral Ice Sheet) that were thought to exist at the same time.  It talks about the scarp around the northern side of the Tharsis bulge that looks like it was made by water erosion.  (Shield volcanoes far from water lack these cliffs.)  He goes over all the evidence for there being large bodies of water in the north.  Possibilities that match the facts are an ocean of water (likely with ice on the surface but in summer with wave action on the shore) an ocean of mud and water which quickly evaporated leaving huge salt deposits.  He also reminds us that some scientists don't think any large body of water was ever there.

Richard Kane (a high school teacher) and his students at Garden City High presented a paper in 1973 which was published in Science.  They argued that  the light and dark markings near the south polar cap were evidence of ancient glaciers that existed long ago.  I think it is very cool that a class of high school students were able to get a scientific paper published in one of the premier scientific journals.

Anyway if there was an ancient ocean, there had to be a lot of snow in the south as the two go together.  He then proceeds to have many, many pictures that give evidence of an ancient ocean of some sort and glacial features in the south.  He also shows what looks like a lahar (a volcanic eruption under a glacier which causes a explosion of steam and lava to roll down hill very fast).

He then talks about the discovery that he made that has kept him studying Mars for most of his career.  In Argyre Plantum he found what looked like gullies across the southern part of that vast crater.  How ever these are raised ridges rather than gullies.  They might be eskers!  An esker is a raised riverbed that flows under a large glacier.  If these were eskers then Mars had to have had huge wet glaciers some time in the past.

Most of his career from that moment has been based on showing that there is enough water for this to occur and discuss theories of how it could happen.

A lot of people felt that Mars could not have glaciers.  (Kim Stanley Robinson echoed this in his book "Red Mars".)  So the author gives dozens and dozens of high definition pictures of the remains of glaciers and things that look like active rock glaciers on Mars.  It is very hard to study all of these and not be convinced by his evidence. 

Martian glaciers in many way are like Earth glaciers.  (Both carve large u shaped valleys for example.  By the way, the only known way to carve a u shaped valley on Earth is with a glacier.)  There are some major differences tho.  The glaciers on Mars move a lot slower.  The lower gravity, tiny amounts of water being deposited (likely as frost) and much colder ice suggest that most glaciers are moving 1000 to 10,000 times slower than Earth glaciers.  They are also a lot bigger and are shaped by craters rather than the river cut valleys on Earth.

He also say that the polar ice caps are glaciers which seems pretty obvious to me.  You pile up 2 or 3 km of ice in a big hill and it will flow some.

There are also many other landforms that point to glaciers from what looks like debris flow, moraines, flow lines, crevasses and sharp ridges that look like they were cut by ice.

Chapter 5 is the heart of the book.  Here he starts to talk about his own theories and coordinates the data already gone over into a powerful story of the past of Mars.

If massive glaciers existed, they had to have periods when there was more water in the air.  One method was dubbed MEGAOUTFLO which stands for Mars Environment Glacial Atmospheric OUTburst FLood Oscillations.  It says that massive volcanic eruptions melted ground water and put millions of cubic km of volatiles into the air.  This for a time warmed up the planet enough that there could be liquid water, evaporation and massive snow falls.  These periods of warm and wet were repeated with gradually diminishing size and intensity many times in Mars' history.

He discussed a bit of the scientific infighting that this theory set off and then starts marshaling his arguments to support it.  One very nice set of graphs on page 196 show that liquid CO2 (kept under pressure underground under a cap of ice) and CO2 dissolved in water or CO2 cathrates is an important volatile in creating the landforms of Mars.  He believes that CO2 has modified the behavior of water much more than most scientists have considered.  It is because of this book that I believe that Mars has large cathrate stores of CO2.

On page 206 is a diagram of a "Ice Pegmatite" geological structure that can occur on Mars but not on Earth.  Processes like this can concentrate usable ores for Martian colonists.

In chapter 6 he gets down to brass tacks and starts laying out evidence to support the idea of massive amounts of water on Mars.  There are pictures (pg 237 - 240) of meandering river deltas that could only have been laid down by running water (NASA called this picture a smoking gun for liquid water), and compared these land forms to ones in permafrost areas on Earth.

Chapter 7 looks at evidence that there are glaciers on Mars now.
There are polygon terrain much like those made by frost heaves on Earth (but generally bigger) and many, many pictures of landforms made by (he says) modern glaciers.  Generally the ones that are 45 to 60 degrees from the poles usually look like they are shrinking.  While the ones 30 degrees or less from the poles look like they are equilibrium or growing.  He suggests that in a previous climate cycle, rock glaciers could grow farther from the poles but with the current axial tilt they are shrinking away from the equator.

He does point out that the patterned ground might be created with out ice but with salts absorbing moisture from the air and expanding and contracting based on the amount of water in their mineral structure.  He suspects some of the features on Mars are salt flats behaving this way.  (If so, that is good for us for these exposed salt beds are concentrations of many needed chemicals.)

There are many, many pages of evidence and photographs of various land forms supporting a lot of water under ground.  Permafrost is near to the surface within 30 to 40 degrees from the poles and is deeper but still there (as shown by 'sploosh' craters) nearer the equator.

He then shows a number of pictures of tundra areas of Alaska, Devon island in Canada that look very similar to areas on Mars. 

Chapter 8 is about life on Mars.  I'll just say that the author thinks it likely that bacteria live in the aquifers deep underground.

Chapters 9 and 10 talk about colonizing Mars and then terraforming it.  The colonizing part was obviously written by a man who had read "Case For Mars" for it largely does not repeat what is in that book.  He gives new chemical formulas and new suggestions for what (a some what more advanced) colony than Zubrin's could do.  He points out the unlikeliness of wind power on Mars (not enough energy density, pg 459) even with a thicker atmosphere, but allows that there might be a few areas with strong katabatic winds which might serve.  There is a nice discussion that even half way to the poles, smart windows (that insulate themselves at night) are enough to heat a base.

One point he makes that few other authors have mentioned in the danger of building on permafrost that may melt.  (He shows pictures of roads and buildings being destroyed by thawing permafrost in Alaska.)  Mars is a lot colder than Alaska but we have to be careful that our warm bases don't melt the ground below them.

The terraforming chapter was nothing special, just a standard repeat of what Zubrin, Fogg and others have said.  He spends a lot of time talking about if we should terraform Mars given that we are causing the 6th major extinction event on Earth.  I found this chapter the most dreary in the book.  He goes on to talk about the fate of Earth and Mars as the sun warms and grows into a red giant.  Sadly, just about the time Mars can enjoy warm weather for 3 billion years, it is eroded flat.  Worse there are few of the chemical concentrations left that life need. 

Chapter 11 is a late inserted chapter that talks about the amazing discoveries of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. 

This is a great book.  It has an extremely well reasoned and supported argument.  The author is careful to say what is known and what he is speculating on and the many, many pictures strongly support his arguments.  I suspect that this book (and the evidence which supports it of course) will define Martian studies for a long time to come.

This is sometimes not an easy read.  (There is just such a high information density.)  But the book lays out in an almost bewildering glory, the complexity of Mars.  Martian geologists will have their work cut out for them on this planet for a long time to come.

It is well worth the money.  I also encourage you to ask your library to buy it.

Warm regards, Rick.


#4 2007-03-31 20:51:51

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet", Steve Squyres, Hyperion, copyright 2005, $25.95 US, ($34.95 Canadian), 422 pages.

This is a book written by the Scientific Principle Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover mission. It tells the story of how a band of scientists & engineers put together a plan to send a multimillion dollar probe to Mars. I learned what sort of hoops they had to go thru, the problems of building the rovers and landing bodies on a tight budget with too little time and the problems of launch. Finally, in the last quarter of the book they get to Mars and start exploring. In addition to other important discoveries, they proved that liquid water once ran on the surface of the planet.

I read the whole book in one sitting. Then I went back and reread the last quarter, still in the same sitting. I LIKE this book!

Mr Squyres is a good story teller. He has left out dozens of stories, many no doubt interesting, to create a narrative of steadily increasing tension. Hundreds of fascinating details explaining how NASA and JPL get things done are shown thru out the book.

His fondness for his robots comes thru clearly. But reading the book, the slowness of exploring via robots is obvious. A man with a geologist's hammer could do in a minute things that the rovers take 10 sols to do. The whole time, the dust is building up on the solar power panels. The robots soon did not have enough energy to move, to do science and to heat themselves at the same time.

The rovers discovered rocks rich in sulfur, chlorine & phosphorous. They found evaporate deposits where chlorine and bromine salts were left (first discovery of bromine on Mars). The concentration of salts via water deposits speaks well for other metals and elements being concentrated by hydrological processes. This suggests that useful metal ores will be found on the planet.

They found jarosite and (likely) goethite on Mars. These are both rocks that are only formed with water, and in fact have water as part of their crystal structure.

The found "blue berries", small round nodes of hematite. These may have formed in acid, salty seas much like manganese nodules form in our oceans.

I particularly liked the story of the rock called "pot of gold". It looks like a potato with strange ridges the length of tooth picks sticking out of it. On the ends of the toothpicks were lumps. It looks like no other rock anyone on the team had ever seen before.

The best part of the book was the final sentence. I quote: "What I really want, more than anything else, is boot prints on our wheel tracks at Eagle Crater." end quote. No one who has read this book could NOT want to go to Mars and do a real job of exploring it.

This book is well worth the few bucks it costs. Ask your local library(s) to get it. Each person who reads it will want to see humans on Mars.

5 out of 5 stars.


#5 2007-04-03 06:06:02

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"The Rock From Mars: A Detective Story on Two Planets" by Kathy Sawyer, Random House, (c) 2006, 394 pages, $25.95.

This is a book aimed at non-scientists. It concentrates on the human story of the scientists studying possible life signs on the Antarctic meteor ALH001. I read it hoping to learn a lot more about if there was actual life on Mars. I found that most of it was stuff I already knew. But it was fun anyways.

The major drama is the scientific battles that took place around the rock. Scientists are humans with emotions who sometime act childishly. No news to me, but perhaps an eye opener to those who don't know much about science.  I was amused by some of the scientists who attacked those studying the rocks.  It later turned out that they were sloppier in their own work than our heroes.

The book makes the point that altho the case for life on Mars has not been made one way or another by the rock, a lot of good has come to the US space program and to scientific research in general. The book also shows the fairness and care of the team which is arguing for the signs of life.

On the Norwegien island of Spitsbergen is the volcano Sverrefjell. In cracks in the rocks are the only examples of carbonate desposits that look like the ones in the Martian rock. While studying it, people were surprised to find that the hot volcanic water was crawling with life.

I learned that the Rio Tinto in Spain (which is acidic and seems to mimic the acidic waters of early Mars) has a team of biologist, chemists & engineers there learning about it for possible ties to the Martian studies. They are also drilling deep for rock samples in the acidic ground water to see if bacteria can live deep in the cracks in this acidic environment.

In the notes section of the back of the book, there is a bit more scientific discussion that was excised from the main text.

Overall an interesting and valuable read. Ask your local library to pick up this book. It encourages interest in Mars and further exploration.

4 out of 5 stars.

Warm regards, Rick.


#6 2007-04-10 21:21:33

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"Moons & Planets 3rd Edition" by William K. Hartmann, Wadsworth Publishing Co, (c) 1993, 510 pages.

This book is out of print but I found a number of copies on Albris for under $10.00.  Well worth the price even counting shipping.

I have several text books on astronomy but this is the one I usually turn to when I need data on planetology.  Rather than starting at Mercury and working its way out, world by world, this book is based on comparative planetology.  It teaches some fundamentals (on geology, meteorology or whatever) then compares each planet to each other emphasizing that topic.

One of the biggest strengths of the book is how multi-disciplinary it is.  It covers physics and geology, chemistry and meteorology, biology & orbital mechanics, history and experimental science (by probes).  I was charmed to find a solid foundation on geology and minerals in an astronomy book.

It is a dense read.  There is a LOT of material in this book.  It is aimed at the university student, however most of the math is in sidebars set apart from the main text.  So people with a high school education, can enjoyably read the main text, ignoring the calculus and calculations for the most part.

The book has many photographs, tables and charts.  Also the author is an accomplished artist.  Several beautiful paintings of space subjects have been done by the Mr Hartmann.  These include a striking painting on the front cover.  (This shows a small meteor impacting Rhea, with Saturn in the background.)

The author shows you the alchemical symbols for the planets (including new ones for more recently discovered bodies).  These are used in graphs extensively, so you can see where the various planets sit, with out having to cover up the diagram with the planet names.  This is typical of the  clever graphic design thru-out the book which packs a lot of information into a small space.  (In an easy to read way.)

The major disadvantage of the book is that it was published in 1993.   I would love to see this book get updated to include the new discoveries we have made.

>>> EDIT: there IS a new edition that has come out in 2005.  It sells for a bit over $100 bucks.  Good new indeed! <<<

However, much of its data is still accurate and it is a literate, well crafted work.  I recommend it as an intermediate to advanced text for people interested in planetology.

Warm regards, Rick.


#7 2007-05-09 00:40:43

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"The Solar System: Mars" by Linda T. Elkins - Tanton, published by Chelsea House Publishers, (c) 2006, 206 pages, hardcover.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  On one hand it has information on Mars that is not already in my library.  On the other hand it does not have enough 'oomph' to really make me happy.

This is a book that is intended to be a serious scientific primer for high school students on Mars.  It is part of a series of new books talking about the solar system and we have learned so much about Mars in the last few years it gets its own book.

As a primer to the planet it is excellent.  However it is not a fun read.  It is a long series of facts and essays.  Well organized, but lacking the excitment of the best written science books.

Also there is not much of interest to terraformers in this book.

If you are looking for an up to date book to give you the facts on Mars this will make a good choice.  I fully intend to read the other books in the series for the rest of the solar system.

However I am seriously wondering if there is enough new material to make it worth my while putting it into my library.

Warm regards, Rick.


#8 2007-05-09 20:29:41

From: Alabama
Registered: 2007-02-02
Posts: 134

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

Rick I'd like to thank you for this.  It's given me a lot of stuff to read.  Sadly one of the books here is supposed to be in my local library but is missing, and they didn't have A Warmer Wetter Mars which was the one I wanted to read the most.  Still it branches out a bit from references in the books I did get.  To anyone who can please add to the list.


#9 2007-07-01 04:32:23

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

Hi everyone, X.
  Thanks for the kind words X.  You might ask the local university libraries to order a copy of Mars A Warmer Wetter Planet.  They have significant budgets to order books and the librarians are delighted to get thoughtful requests.  Failing that you could try ordering it on Albris.  I got my copy there very inexpensively.

  I was hoping that someone else would do a review of Case for Mars since likely plenty of people have a copy, but anyway, this book does not deserve to wait longer...

"The Case For Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red PLanet and Why We Must" by Robert Zubrin, Published by Touchstone Books, (c) 1997, 339 pages, $15.00 softcover.

This is THE book on Terraforming that is currently in print. 

Robert Zubrin almost singlehandedly has transformed the idea of going to Mars from a $500 Billion boondoggle to a pratical plan.  (NASA has taken his Mars Direct plan and modified & expanded it but it still will cost less than $75 Billion dollars.)  If we used Mr Zubrin's origional plan we could have humans on Mars in less than a decade with 13% of NASA's current budget.

More than any single person, Mr Zubrin has transformed human thought on the Red Planet in the last 12 years.

This book is a powerful example how ideas can be nurtured and grow.  It has been the single largest recruiting tool for the Mars Society and other pro-space exploration groups.  Encourage your local libraries to buy copies.  Failing that, buy some copies of your own and donate them to all of your local high school's libraries.

In case you can't tell, I am IMPRESSED by this book.  It is aimed at a science literate layman.  Someone with highschool science will have no trouble understanding it.

The book starts off describing the Mars Direct mission.  As an engineer who has worked on real rocket programs, Mr Zubrin knows how to plan what is possible.  He then discusses the history of Mars and space exploration to that world.  Many of the problems with NASA and previous Mars programs are political.  Nothing new there but they are spelled out.  (The worst is the 'cost plus' accounting system used for buying rockets in the USA.  This alone has cost the USA hundreds of millions of dollars in lost commercial launches.)

He then goes over how his "Mars Direct" plan (that he invented with some other engineers at Martin Merrietta Astronautics) would work in detail.  Unlike many space programs that people have suggested this gives the details, showing tonne by tonne how the package will fit together.  His biggest innovation was realizing that Mars' CO2 atmosphere could be used (with a dense power source) to make rocket fuel, reducing manyfold the size of the initial launches.  (By not having to ship the rocket fuel to Mars, the size of the initial launches is reduced as we don't need fuel to launch the fuel.)  A feed stock of hydrogen must be shipped to Mars but thru simple chemistry plus power this is turned into 18 times its own mass of rocket fuel.

He then talks about the "dragons" that scare people into saying that a Mars launch is too dangerous and needs more studies.  He shows that these are  paper tigers.  Just one example is the idea that we need to study long term exposure to zero gravity.  Not only are these problems well understood (needing no further study) but by spinning the spacecraft at the end of a teather, connected to the upper stage of the rocket, the zero gravity can be simply avoided.

He also talks about the alluring siren of the moon.  Many people say we should go back to Luna before going to Mars (this is the current USA plan).  He points out that there is no practical need for a Lunar mission before going to Mars.

Starting in chapter 6 thru 9, he discusses building the initial base, the initial colony and finally the possibility of terraforming Mars.  These section of the book are dense with practical ideas on how we can use local materials to help the people there.  This is the biggest difference between Mars and Luna.  Luna is missing most of the elements that life needs, Mars is a rich planet where the materials we need are there in the air and dust.

Furthermore, Mars has been geologically active with both volcanos and water erosion.  Both of these will concentrate minerals suggesting that we will find useful ores on Mars when we start exploring it.

In the final sections of the book he argues that if we wish to have a free society having a frontier is key.  He suggests that Mars is the only likely frontier our society will have soon.

Then in a late chapter he talks about the Martian meteor ALH84001 which showed signs of life. 

After finishing this book, I turned back to chapter four and read it thru to the end again.  It was that exciting.

This is a book that is dense with ideas. 

Since the book has been published things have moved on.  For example, his company Pioneer Astronautics, has continued to work on Mars enabling technologies.  He has created a superiour SCUBA diving breathing system  which can be used in space suits.  He has also shown that even more mass can be saved by converting the hydrogen feed stock into aromic hydrocarbons for a 54 times increase of mass when converting it into rocket fuel.  Partly because of his continuing work, the cost of the Mars mission has continued to drop since he first promoted Mars Direct.

Our understanding of Mars has also grown since then.  The major things we have learned is that Mars has a lot more water than was thought when he wrote the book (which is good) and that the southern polar cap has about 1/4 of the CO2 than was thought (which is bad).  Terraforming can still be done using his methods, but using the perfluorocarbons (the super greenhouse gasses he discusses) will likely be manditory as well as just the polar solletta mirrors.

The Martian meteor ALH84001 now looks like the indications were NOT caused by life but (in my opinion) this question is not fully resolved.  More than anything that rock has shown how hard it is to distinguish life signs that are microscopic in size.  (If we were on the planet, the problem would be trivial to solve.)

The current Mars Sample Return mission that NASA is building is a direct result of this book and the Mars Direct plan.  Anyone with an interest in Terraforming should snap up a copy of this book.

Warm regards, Rick.


#10 2007-11-13 03:18:58

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"On to Mars - Colonizing a new world" edited by Dr R. Zubrin & Frank Crossman of the Mars Society, Apogee Books Space Series, (c) 2002, 264 pages, $19.95.

This is a book that has a series of monographs on topics brought up in the Mars Society annual conference.  It includes a CD with more papers from the 2001 and 2000 conference as well. 

I had put off writing this review for a long time hoping to read thru the CD and including comments on it.  However, I've been so busy that I've decided to just review the book.  When I get around to the CD I'll edit this post.

This book did not have anywhere near the impact on me that "Case for Mars" did.  But "Case..." had many clever ideas that had been built up for many years by many people all presented in one place.  This book is incrementally building on that work (so to speak).  Filling in details and offering opinions of the details of colonizing Mars.  There is not much new on Terraforming.

As can be expected, the articles are of varying quality.  Some I found very interesting; others I had to force myself to finish.

The greatest value of the book is the data that it contains.  For example, in the article entitled "Power, communications and Computer Technologies for Mars" they give numbers for geothermal, nuclear, solar, solar power satellites and wind power, specifically working out which would give the most power per stowed volume.  This is info you would have to search long and hard for elsewhere.

Others were what I considered puff pieces.  Clerics saying if you didn't bring priests and God to Mars then it was not worth going.  They were very careful not to say which religion they supported so the reader is free to assume that it is the one that they favor.

There was a wide variety of essays.  From funding options for Mars exploration, legal considerations, details of potential colonies, types of space propulsion systems, crew selection, vehicles for the Martian system, ethical considerations of terraforming, and ideas for making the Mars society more successful, there are many ideas and topics.

One eye opening essay said that the first person to land on Mars, stay there a year and come home should OWN it.  It sounds preposterous, yet the author makes a strong case for this. 

The book is likely to have something that will interesting for anyone curious about Mars exploration and terraforming.  It is written at a variety of levels (some assume a solid science background others are for anyone).  A few of these articles tempt me to summarize them for our terraforming forum.

The book's opening is a speech by Robert Zubrin which brought tears to my eyes.  This is a man that knows how to make people think big.  I'm tempted to recommend people buy the book for that speech alone.

However, I think that only real Mars fanatics will want to buy this book.  For normal folks, you might suggest that your local library pick up a copy.

Warm regards, Rick.


#11 2007-12-15 17:35:45

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

Hi everyone.
  I'm reviewing two new books by Dr. Zubrin.  These are not about Terraforming so I will keep them short.

"Mars on Earth: The Adventures of Space Pioneers in the High Arctic" by Robert Zubrin, Published by: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin Group, (c) 2003, 252 pages.

This is a book about how the Mars Society rounded up some corporate sponsors (with an emergency donation drive from the Mars Society) and built scientific research stations in Canada and the USA.  The first was in Haughton Crater on Devon Island in the high arctic.  The second was in the desert northwest of Hanksville, Utah.

The more exciting story is the base built at Haughton Crater.  The components of the station were to be dropped out of a US military transport.  Some pieces were smashed and those hired to put the base together mutinied & walked off the job.  Using volunteers, some Inuit boys and a few people hired from some 'local' towns the pieces were brought together and the base was built.

I was surprised by how much useful science was done by the Mars society by their bases.  In addition, a fair amount of information was discovered on how to make a Mars program cheaper and more reliable.

I do not have exactly how much this book cost, but it was under $8.00 on Albris.  Well worth the price if you are interested in Mars exploration.


"Energy Victory" By Dr. Robert Zubrin, published by Prometheus Books, ISBN 978 - 1-59102-591-7, (c) 2007, 336 pages, $18.68 on B&N for the hardcover edition.

This book begins by documenting how the Saudi royal family have funded terrorism for decades including the Wahhabi extremist sect & the Taliban.  He points out that the money (more than $2 trillion since the first OPEC oil crisis) and need for oil has paralyzed a strong US stance against the House of Saud funding terrorism.

He shows that by mandating all cars sold in the USA must be Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFV) that can burn any mixture of methanol, ethanol and gasoline, the USA could achieve energy independence, plug a $200 B a year hole in the economy and really fight terrorists.  This would add about $100 to the cost of a new vehicle (mainly because of better quality materials in the fuel line).

Other parts of the book discuss the hydrogen economy fraud, false studies (that are widely quoted) saying that ethanol is more expensive than gasoline, how we can really help the third world nations develop in a humane way, how an alcohol economy will help global warming, and gives a history of WWII from the point of view of energy supplies.  It also documents how Brazil went from 80% dependent on foreign energy to 0% (using FFV) in the same time that the USA has gone from 35% to 65% dependent on foreign energy.

This book offends just about every power group in Washington and I expect it to be first ignored then viciously attacked.  It criticizes every administration since the formation of OPEC for failing to develop an energy policy.  It points out how many of the major lobbying and legal firms for both the Democrats and the Republicans are well funded by House of Saud.  It will anger the farm lobby because he suggests reducing tariffs on foreign alcohol.  It shows Bush's "Hydrogen Economy" is a fraud & a lie.  And it makes a very personal attack on Al Gore.  (Zubrin agrees that global warming is a problem.  He just thinks that it is something that can be dealt with after we stop the more immediate problem of bankrupting ourselves by giving trillions of dollars to people who want to kill us.)

This book is like Case for Mars in that it is dense with facts and highly readable.  I expect that it will define the energy debate for years to come.

As you can probably tell, I am a fan of this book.  Ask your local libraries to get this book and pick up a copies for yourselves and any influential people you know.  With any luck, people will be so enthused by Zubrin's writing that they will pick up "Case for Mars".  And hopefully, in a couple years, the west can try to think what to do with $350+ billion per year we are saving and look up to a new world.

Warm regards, Rick.


#12 2008-01-03 23:28:15

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"New Earths: Restructuring Earth and Other Planets" by James Edward Oberg,  Published by Stackpole Books, (c) 1981, ISBN O-8117-1007-6, 283 pages, cost was ~$6.00 on Albris.

I was not expecting too much from a book written in 1981.  It was better than I expected but, unsurprisingly, there are better books out there.  Most chapters start with a fictional scene of about a page and a half in length that shows some element of terraforming.

As a primer to terraforming this book is not bad.  It hits the basics at a very high level.  However, there has been a lot of work in this engineering discipline since that time and many of his thoughts have gone out of date.  For example, there is no discussion of adding man made greenhouse gases to Mars' atmosphere.

There are a number of facts in this book that I've not seen in other places.  for example, the mass of air required to make a 1 bar atmosphere for Mercury, Luna etc. is given both as a kg mass and as a spherical iceteroid.  (Mercury and Luna would take an iceteroid about 60 km across according to Oberg.) 

The index is fairly basic which makes finding odd facts harder.  I may have to read thru the book again and make my own index to values I want to find later.

Overall, the book is good but dated.  If you are looking for a first book on Terraforming, I would suggest "The Case for Mars".  However, if you are building a library of terraforming books, this one can be found used, for quite a low price.

Warm regards, Rick.


#13 2008-02-10 03:17:54

From: Vancouver B.C.
Registered: 2007-02-17
Posts: 244

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming.

"The Geology of Mar: Evidence by Earth-Based Analogs", Edited by Mary Chapman, Cambridge University Press, (c) 2007, ISBN-13 978-0-521-83292-2, 460 pp, ~$150.00.

I was so excited by this book that I bought it for full price rather than waiting a few years and letting the price drop.  I was hoping for a book that would be full of geological information that would be useful for people planning colonization.  There was not that much along those lines.

The book is divided up into articles that talk about strange structures on Mars that are hard to explain.  These are compared to unusual terrestrial geologic formations. 

The book is NOT easy to understand.  I have long studied geology and feel that I have more than an interested layman's grasp of the subject.  But I found much of the book a very tough read as technical terminology obscured what the various authors were trying to say.  Basically, they were writing for a professional audience.  Sadly there is not a glossary of terms, so I had to do some research to follow what was being said on several occasions.

Many pages of the book are taken up with scientific references.  The essays obviously summarize many people's work.

The book begins with a high level essay that explains our current theories for Mars' geologic past.  Then individual essays start carving away at the strange landforms we have discovered.  I'll summarize a few points I found interesting below.

Impact structures on Earth and Mars had nothing too surprising.  I got better formulas for how big a hole meteors dig on Mars.  One thing I learned is that some "sploosh" craters suggest that there were liquid water aquifers as well as permafrost when the rock hit.

A couple of chapters look at Martian volcanism.  Nothing too surprising.  There is evidence that some eruptions were modified by water.  Some cones that were thought to be volcanic are likely conical spring mounds where dissolved minerals build up a cone at lower elevations as the water evaporates.

The next chapter discusses flood lavas. On Mars, these go about ~10 times further and seem to have flowed faster than ones on Earth.  This is very strange as Mars is colder & has lower gravity which would tend to suggest it should have smaller, thicker flows.

I enjoyed the next chapter as it talked about rootless volcanoes.  I had not heard about these before, but they are formed when a lava flow goes over wet sedimentary rock and steam explosions create a local cone when the lava finds an area where it can dig into the lower rock.  When the water is locally exhausted, the mini crater stops.  Usually these are found in fields.  On Mars the rootless volcanoes are all found over the northern 'polar sea' area with the exception of one field found east of Hellas Basin.  They are larger and steeper on Mars than on Earth, because the low air pressure gives better explosions and the lower gravity allow the mixture of sedimentary and igneous rock to be thrown farther.

The next chapter talks about large strange mounds (layered terrain) on the floors of Valles Marineris and the connected Valles Candor.  There is strong evidence that these were formed by volcanic eruptions under glaciers 4+ km thick.  If they are caused this way, they are huge.  The typical layered terrain in these valles are 10,000,000,000 times the size of similar structures on Earth.  For example the Ganges Mensa Interior Layered Deposit is 105 km long and 4 km deep.  (It holds a similar volume of lava as the entire Hawaniian island chain.)  As has been seen before, Martian geologic structures are huge.

After a chapter they discuss wind blown land forms.  Mars has big dunes.  There are dunes composed of sand sized particles but they seem to move much slower than Earth's dunes.

The next essay they suggest that some of the gullies found on Mars are debris flows.  These are formed with loose rock is saturated by water (ice) which then melts causing a 'mud & rock' slide.  So many of the gullies on Mars are not caused by a trickle of water every year but a mass slump caused at rare intervals.  Debris flows in Jameson Land (Greenland) look very much like many of these Martian land forms.

Some outflow channels on Mars look much like Siberian rivers flowing over permafrost.  The erosion is caused both by water and the heat the water carries melting the permafrost.  The flows on Mars were very large compared to the Lena river in Siberia.

The chapter on Cataclysmic flood channels was interesting but I knew most of it already.  They pointed out that we have found signs of catastrophic floods on Earth, Mars, Venus and Titan.

The geology of playa's (dried lakes) are discussed which concentrate minerals in a variety of ways.  Some land forms on Mars are likely to be playas.  (Paleoshorelines are found in many craters.)

The next chapter was very interesting.  It talks about very high altitude lakes in the Andies at over 6+ km.  These lakes get a lot of UV radiation.  I found that clear water allows UV to go fairly deep, but if the water is cloudy with biological biproducts it quickly stops UV rays.  Someone on this forum was asking how well water stops UV rays.  Apparently 45 cm of clear water reduces the UV flux by 1/3. 

They looked at bacteria, plankton and diatoms in these lakes and found that they showed increased UV resistance.  (But plenty had DNA damage from the radiation.)  The condition lakes are in now are similar to Martian lakes during the transition between the Noachian/Hesperian period of Mars history.  (At the end of the heavy bombardment and during the warm / wet period of Mars' history.)  A 5 year study of these and other high lakes is being taken by astrobiologists.

I learned about hourglass grabbens (valley like depressions caused by blocks of land pulling apart and a middle section sinking).  These were caused enmass as the Tharsis region bulged upwards.

The chapter on Geochemical Analogs & Martian Meterorites talked about how elements differentiate on planetary surfaces.  They suggest that some of the Martian meteors are low level KREEP basalts.  KREEP basalts are common in the Lunar highlands and are named after Potassium (atomic symbol K), Rare Earth Elements, and Phosphorous.  This is further evidence that there has been geochemical differentiation on Mars which will have created useful ores.

This essay suggests that acidic volcanic gases (acidic mists) may have broken up many rocks into the Martian soil.  It should be enriched with lead, bromine, antimony, mercury and arsenic since water has not moved these away.

Some clays such as saponite may be formed on Mars.  My impression is that this class of clays are rare on Earth.

The final chapter is how to do studies on Earth to get the most training and preparation for Mars missions.

There were no chapters on rock glaciers or geometric terrain tho both are mentioned in passing.  If you are curious about these formations, pick up "Mars: A Warmer Wetter Planet."

I generally had a lot of fun reading this book.  Mars has so many strange features!  I am glad to have bought it as I don't have anything else like it in my library.  However, because of the cost, I would suggest that you ask your local university library to pick up a copy if you want to read it.

Warm regards, Rick.


#14 2023-01-31 20:26:08

Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 13,992

Re: Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming. … 00616.html

This is for Terraformer ...

Science fiction focuses on the far future of terraforming, with a tie-in to today’s cities
Alan Boyle

Tue, January 31, 2023 at 11:32 AM EST

An artist’s conception shows a city taking shape on Mars. (SpaceX Illustration)
Billionaires such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos dream of making Mars more like Earth, or seeing millions of people living and working in space — but could such dreams ever be turned into reality?

In a new novel titled “The Terraformers,” science writer Annalee Newitz imagines that tens of thousands of years from now, future billionaires (who are likely to be quintillionaires by then) will figure out exactly how to tailor planets to their customers’ liking. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.

“There’s a lot of hand-wavy technologies that we would’ve had to have invented,” Newitz admits in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast. “You know, I do think it’s realistic that humans are going to eventually try to set up shop off Earth in some way. … So I think for me, the question is: terraforming in the name of what, and under the auspices of what organizations.”

Newitz is due to discuss “The Terraformers” and the plot’s parallels to our present day during two meet-ups in Seattle: at Third Place Books on Friday, and at Fuel Coffee on Sunday.

The environmental issues on the one planet that we’re currently capable of terraforming — our own — illustrate how tricky things can get when you start tweaking a planet’s parameters. You could argue that we’re already reshaping Earth’s environment to pump more greenhouse gases into the air, adding to a terraforming trend that’s getting us into more and more trouble.

In an effort to reverse the trend, a group of Harvard researchers proposed conducting an experiment in Sweden that would eventually involve spraying particles into the upper atmosphere to dim the sun’s warming effect. But the experiment was put on hold after an outcry from the region’s indigenous residents and conservationists.

Even the experiment’s principal investigator admits that solar geoengineering probably isn’t a great idea. “I seriously hope we’ll never get in a situation where this actually has to be done, because I still think this is a very scary concept and something will go wrong,” Harvard’s Frank Keutsch told MIT Technology Review. “But at the same time, I think better understanding what the risks may be is very important.”

When it comes to other planets, some suggestions sound even scarier. A few years ago, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said one way to make Mars warmer and more Earthlike would involve setting off nuclear bombs above the Red Planet’s atmosphere to vaporize the ice caps.

“Not risky … and can be adjusted/improved real time,” Musk tweeted.

Annalee Newitz portraitAnnalee Newitz (Credit: Sarah Deragon)

Newitz said such schemes to geoengineer Earth’s environment — or the environments of other planets — “raise a lot of questions for me.”

“In my novel, I have a terraforming project which is being run by an interstellar real-estate development corporation, which I think is kind of realistic,” said Newitz, who uses they/them pronouns. “I mean, it’s basically the equivalent of billionaires in space.”

But the billionaires aren’t the ones doing the work. The terraformers of “The Terraformers” are a motley crew of Homo sapiens, plus other flavors of hominin species, plus totally non-human workers ranging from cats and moose to naked mole rats and earthworms. “They’re just typical first responders and construction workers and environmental engineers just trying to get by,” Newitz said.

“I can imagine the future of terraforming being kind of like Amazon warehouse workers in space,” they explained.

One of the novel’s crazy twists is that the workers aren’t conceived in the traditional way. Instead, they’re manufactured in bioreactors, which gives their corporate overlords the option of providing full human-scale intelligence (even for earthworms!) — or tamping down their intelligence if they’re meant to do menial tasks.

“It’s this kind of built-in limiter on people’s brains that can be removed, and is only put in there essentially through cruelty and through a kind of Homo sapiens supremacy,” Newitz said.

As you can imagine, that’s one of the sources of conflict driving the plot. An even bigger question has to do with who owns the property when a private enterprise takes charge of a planet. That question has long been debated in policy circles. In 2015, Congress enacted a law that supported private property rights for resources extracted from off-Earth celestial bodies while leaving aside the issue of extraterrestrial territorial claims.

The remodeled world that’s the focus of “The Terraformers” starts out being a privately owned planet.

“The Terraformers” by Annalee Newitz. (Tor Books / Macmillan)

“It’s owned by these real-estate companies,” Newitz said. “So there’s a movement for a public planet, and for public transit, and for public land. I think that’s a really basic lesson that cities have had to learn over and over again. … Having accessible transit, giving people mobility, giving people access to education and housing and health care, all of that stuff is part of providing good infrastructure in a city.”

When it comes to the subject of cities, Newitz has more than science fiction in mind. For a previous book titled “Four Lost Cities,” Newitz talked to historians and urban planners about what the rise and fall of ancient cities can teach us about making modern cities work.

“Workers are the people who make the city wonderful,” Newitz said. “These people are the lifeblood of the city. It’s not the dude living in a tower with a billion dollars. He has nothing to do with what makes a city good. So, I think one of the things that’s a very easy lesson to learn is, don’t mistreat your workers.”

Newitz, who lives in San Francisco, said the tale of “The Terraformers” draws in part upon personal experiences and observations.

“I think we’re going through a period in our history, especially in places like Seattle and San Francisco, where the tech industry is slowly awakening people to the idea that maybe they need to have more worker solidarity,” they said. “That’s something that I deal with a little bit in ‘The Terraformers.'”

Newitz has a lot of fun with the non-human characters in the novel — including some R-rated references to robot sex in the year 60,610 — but by the end of the book, you’re likely to be reflecting more deeply on the prospects for cities and societies on 21st-century Earth.

“I’d like to see Earth become a public planet,” Newitz said. “I think that would be a really good step forward.”

Annalee Newitz is in the midst of a book tour for “The Terraformers,” and their itinerary includes a conversation with Seattle librarian Misha Stone at Third Place Books Ravenna at 7 p.m. Feb. 3, co-sponsored by the Seattle Public Library. Newitz will also do a meet-up and book signing at Fuel Coffee in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood at 4 p.m. Feb. 5.

My co-host for the Fiction Science podcast is Dominica Phetteplace, an award-winning writer who is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and currently lives in Berkeley, Calif. To learn more about Phetteplace, visit her website,

Check out the original version of this item on Cosmic Log for bonus reading recommendations from Annalee Newitz. And stay tuned for future episodes of the Fiction Science podcast via Anchor, Apple, Google, Overcast, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket Casts, Radio Public and Reason.



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