We are privileged to be living in one of the greatest eras of exploration that humankind has
ever undertaken. Our current Age of Space grew out of the dark struggles of World War II
when large rockets were developed as agents of mass murder. The subsequent Cold War
rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union pushed rocket capabilities to the point
that it became possible to send vehicles into Earth orbit and beyond (even though the stated
aim was to send missiles carrying nuclear weapons over mere continental distances). The
Russians put the first human into Earth orbit.
The time required to reach other planets makes planetary surface exploration
missions prime targets for automation. Sending rovers to other planets either
instead of or together with people can also significantly reduce the danger and
cost involved. Teams of rovers are both more fault tolerant (through redundancy)
and more efficient (through parallelism) than single rovers if the rovers
are coordinated well
With a global average irradiance of 342 W/m2, the Sun is by far the largest source
of energy for planet Earth. In comparison, the internal energy produced by Earth
itself is only about 0.087 W/m2 (Pollack et al., 1993), which in turn is 3.5 times
larger than the 0.025 W/m2 of heat produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
About 31% (31 units) of the solar energy which arrives at the top of the atmosphere
is reflected back to space by scattering from clouds, aerosols, and the
Earth’s surface. Almost 20 units of solar radiation are absorbed in the atmosphere....
Over the past few decades numerous studies have shown an alarming increase in the
concentration of atmospheric particular matter called aerosols resulting from a variety
of human activities, ranging from agricultural to combustion of fossil fuels. Besides
having serious impacts on the health of all living creatures, these particles can affect
planetary radiation budget. Consequences of this change include global temperature
shifts and the altering of atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns.
Humankind’s fascination with Mars predates
recorded history. The bright planet with the reddish tint
is unique among the other celestial objects. Tycho
Brahe’s observations of its unpredictable motion were
deciphered by Johannes Kepler in the early 17th century
as he developed his laws of planetary motion.
Galileo trained his telescope on Mars and saw it as a
disk in 1610. Later in the 1600s, Christiaan Huygens
and Gian Cassini drew the first maps of the Martian
From the early explorers onwards, visitors to the
Arctic and to Antarctica have commented with
great interest on the presence of lakes, wetlands, and
fl owing waters. These environments encompass a
spectacular range of conditions for aquatic life, from
dilute surface melt ponds, to deep, highly stratifi ed,
This Atlas is not what it should be. If fate had been kinder, each of the four
planetary bodies represented here would have had its own Atlas, each
larger than this volume. Don’t blame the author, though; the culprit is an
elegant yet critical device called the HGA, explained in Chapter 1.3.
Should you pass over this book on your way to the used “pilates-at-home”
bookshelf or toss it in the recycle paper bin? I hope not.