The Sirens of Mars

In honor of Perseverance's successful landing, we take a look at the human side of Mars research

The sirens of Mars: searching for life on another world

Johnson, Sarah Stewart. Crown, 2020
271p index, 9781101904817 $28.99, 9781101904824

Johnson (Georgetown Univ.) is a female planetary scientist who has been a member of the science teams for several recent spacecraft missions to Mars. In this book, she not only shares the rich history of Mars science, providing plenty of stories about the important people in that history, notably Carl Sagan, but also unfolds her own biography. While Johnson focuses mostly on the successes and insights from the study of Mars as pursued in recent decades, she also devotes space to personal recollections about being mentored and inspired by one of the few senior female planetary scientists involved in these missions. She openly shares details about meeting her spouse and having her children while studying Mars, providing important background for readers who wish to learn and teach about the human side of doing science, and not just the science itself. Science is done by scientists—an idea this reviewer has stressed in his courses for years, often in order to call attention to important work that may not have received the attention it deserved. Books like this one make exemplary sources for teaching about the people behind the science.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
C. Palma, Pennsylvania State University
Subject: Science & Technology – Earth Science
Choice Issue: May 2021