Books: The Sirens of Mars – Searching For Life on Another World By Sarah Stewart Johnson

On February 18, 2021 NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars. Perseverance is the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world. It travelled 472 million kilometers over 203 days and the intact landing was broadcast live via the internet for anyone with an internet connection to witness.

Humanity is deep into exploration of another planet. If that doesn’t whet your appetite to know more about the possibilities of planetary exploration and planetary biology – including all of the philosophical and metaphysical implications they bring…we’re not sure what will!

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World ...
Sarah Stewart Johnson’s The Sirens of Mars

In 2020, Sarah Steward Johnson‘s publishers released The Sirens of Mars – Search for Life on Another World. At a little-over 200 pages in hardcover, the publisher’s categorize the book as “biography and memoir” given the frequent inclusion of personal anecdotes and reflections of the author’s life and relationship to the subject.

Sarah Stewart Johnson is an assistant professor of planetary science at Georgetown University. A former Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow, she received her PhD from MIT and has worked on NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers. She is also a visiting scientist with the Planetary Environments Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Countdown to Mars | Astrobiology

Stewart Johnson’s writing style is very approachable and relatable. It is a meaningful and worthwhile trend that scientists publish books which reflect their individual humanity as well as the humanistic principles that are deeply embedded in the work that they do.

The book includes a history of Mars exploration beginning with Plato,
Galileo and Isaac Newton through to both NASA’s and Russia’s programs as well as informative glimpses of the science behind one of humanity’s most astounding projects. The book is aimed at a broad and general audience but it isn’t a “picture book”, so if you’re looking to be inspired by photos of the red planet, the internet is a better source.

At the end of the book, Stewart Johnson writes, “In writing this book, I’ve come to understand better the meaning I find in searching for life. I’ve also come to appreciate all the people who came down this path before me and the astonishing lives they led, as well as the remarkable colleagues with whom I have the privilege of working today. In my final acknowledgements, I wish to extend my gratitude to all of those people, throughout the generations and across the disciplines, who have created and continue to deepen this field. If we find life on Mars, we will have done it together. In the meantime, we have this great human project, and we have one another.”

The book is worth the time and resources you may spend in its acquisition and study.

Side view of tilted rock layers on Mars

Citations, References And Other Reading

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