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Mars, the red planet, demystified for young readers

destination Mars

ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan writes the forward of a new book on the red planet

destination MarsNew Delhi: Indian Space Research Organization’s historic mission to Mars makes for fascinating reading and will spark the interest of young minds in space science and space journeys, says ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan in the forward of a new book on the red planet.

“India’s tryst with space science dates back to ancient astronomers and mathematicians who have striven to understand our place in the Universe. Now, in 21st century, we stand at a unique time in exploration of our heavens,” says Radhakrishnan in the foreword of book ‘Destination Mars: Secrets of the Red Planet Revealed’.”

Authored by S K Das, an honorary advisor to the ISRO, the book takes readers to the ‘most exciting planet in the solar system’ and talks about the secrets that astronomers and scientists have unearthed about it over the years.”Das’s book is a welcome and timely development. It tells the story of Mars as it captured the imagination of people in the early days, first as a red object in the sky with its eccentric motion and later as a planet where people thought life might have existed in a similar form as on Earth,” says Radhakrishnan.

“Our Mars Orbiter will take almost 300 days to reach the intended Martian orbit, and the long flight of the craft through space is indeed challenging. This will prove ISRO’s technological capability of sending a spacecraft so deep into space,” he says.

The slim volume has information about how Mars was formed, what it looks like up close, whether or not there was any water on it and if there was ever any life there. Das, the book’s author, explains that Mars had been called the Red Planet by ancient Greeks and the Romans because it appeared in the night sky as a star bathed in the color of blood.

“This led the ancients to equate Mars with war and aggression. People thought of it with awe. Every time they looked up at the night sky and saw a blood-red dot moving ominously from west to east, they were filled with fear,” says Das.

After the invention of the telescope astronomers discovered that the planet changed color in seasons, had dust storms and white polar caps in winter, which disappeared in the summer.

In the last five decades, as many as 42 Mars probes have been attempted, says Das, who details the missions by Russia, US, European Space agency, Japan and China.

“We are on way to discovering more about Mars. Countries have been sending space probes for fifty years now, and within another twenty years perhaps humans will visit it too.” he says.

Written in simple language and dotted with numerous diagrams and photographs, the book also explains how rockets and spacecraft are designed and sent to Mars.

Among the color photographs in the book include ‘The face of Man’ a photograph, taken by rover Sojourner in the Rock Garden Ares Vallis plain in July 1997and Diemos, the Mars’ moon taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on February 21, 2009.

Priced at Rs 195, the book is brought out by Red Turtle, children’s and young adult imprint of Rupa Publications. Das has also authored a number of books including “Mission Moon: Exploring the Moon with Chandrayaan 1″ and “All about Rockets.”

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