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Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet
Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet
By author: Alexandra Siy
Product Code: 
Binding Information: Hardback 
8 and up
In Stock
Price: $18.95
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This is no ordinary road trip!

In Cars on Mars readers can follow the course of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission as twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity explore the Red Planet. Learn how scientists determined that there was once water on Mars and how the Earthbound NASA team resolved problems with the rovers from afar in order to prolong the mission, which continues today.

The author provides insight into scientists' quest to discover whether life may have or still might exist on Mars. Back matter includes glossary, source notes, and resources.

This book is good for your brain because:
Astronomy, Discovery, Technology

Download the cover image!

For more information on Mars and Mars rovers, visit these websites:

  • Google Mars
  • NASA's Mars Exploration Program: Fun Zone
  • Mars Exploration Rover Mission
  • The Whole Mars Catalog
  • Solar System Exploration
  • Pancam Images
  • Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Multimedia: All Raw Images

    If you like these books, you'll love these:

  • Life on Earth--and Beyond
  • Faces of the Moons
  • Faraway Worlds
  • Night Wonders
  • Big Bang!

  • Related Products:
    Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet
    By author: Alexandra Siy
    ISBN: 978-1-57091-463-8
    Availability: In Stock
    Price: $9.95

  • Booklist Top Ten Science & Technology Books for Youth
  • An NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Emme Junior Award for Astronautical Literature (finalist)
  • NY Public Library's Children's Books 2009
  • PSLA YA Top 40 Non-fiction

  • Reviews
      NSTA Recommends - May 15, 2009
    "Go 303,000,000 miles, then stop at the fourth rock from the Sun." So begins this marvelous book about the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. From the first page to the last, great information and tidbits are sprinkled throughout the text. The author explains her fascination with Mars and the rovers and includes a glossary and numerous websites and resources for further information.

    This is the first book I've found that describes the journey of the rovers, from Steve Squyres' dream as a college student to the actual movement of the rovers on Mars. The author's light writing manner makes the book irresistible. There is an abundance of photos taken by the rovers along with artists' conceptions of what the rovers could possibly have encountered when in areas for which there aren't actual photos. The author takes readers on a step-by-step journey, from the design of the rovers (with a large labeled illustration) to their actual movements on our neighboring planet.

    Two pages are devoted to Sofi Collis, a child who lived in an orphanage in Rumania and named both rovers. She states, "In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the spirit and the opportunity." The rovers are about the size of golf carts and are 10 times slower than a wood turtle-averaging less than two feet per minute. The drivers of the rovers sit on Earth.

    The rovers' landings on Mars were not pretty sights-more like belly flops with lots of beach balls. Explanations are given for the naming of Mars' rocks, craters, and other physical features. I was especially touched with the Columbia Hills, each one named after one of the astronauts who perished on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

    The rovers photographed their tracks, including the deep impressions made by a broken wheel on Spirit. Each mission was to last approximately 90 days, but the rovers are still working after almost five years. They have sent back more than 217,000 photos while driving a total of about 12 miles.

    This is the most conclusive and comprehensive book I have found on the Mars rovers. I've read many articles about the rovers, but I've never found a book that tells the amazing journey of these rovers from their beginning until the end of 2008. The reading is great for elementary students who love space science and anyone who wants to know more about the rovers.
      Kirkus Reviews - June 1, 2009
    Originally expected to last only 90 days, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been exploring the geology of the Red Planet since they arrived in 2004. The information they send home includes striking panoramic and close-up images of the Martian landscape, the heart of this intriguing account. Organized as a series of instructions to the robot cars, the text follows their progress from an idea in the mind of geologist Steve Squyres, through launches and landings on opposite sides of the planet, to their subsequent stops and starts. Diagrams, composite images and pictures of work Earthside complement the rovers' beautifully reproduced photographs. Presented chronologically, their story is told in a conversational tone, with familiar food comparisons (the Victoria crater's layers are likened to a 15-scoop ice-cream cone). Still readers may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and be confused by which rover is where doing what. A series of maps would have helped. Siy's enthusiasm is evident and she includes extensive suggestions for continued exploration of this exciting, ongoing project. (further reserach, glossary, bibliography, photo credits, index)
      School Library Journal - July 1, 2009
    Dubbed Spirit and Opportunity in a naming contest won by a nine-year-old, the two golf-cart-sized rovers sent to Mars in 2003 were designed to last for three months. Battered but game, they’re still inching along all these years later. Here Siy not only pays affectionate tribute to their longevity–titling her final chapter “Shake off the dust, recharge at the rest area, and continue indefinitely”–but also describes and explains in exact detail their most stirring discovery: strong evidence that water once “drenched, dribbled, dripped, doused, trickled, gushed, and poured” on the Martian surface. An array of large illustrations includes a labeled diagram that identifies all of the rovers’ scientific gear, plus color photos, photo composites, and (carefully identified) artists’ conceptions of Martian vistas, craters, rocks, and even microscopic features. Closing with plenty of useful end matter and a full-page planetary portrait, this title will sweep readers up in an exploratory mission that has come closer than any other so far to finding sure signs of extraterrestrial life.
      A Fuse #8 Production - July 6, 2009
    Sometimes I think that adult authors of children's non-fiction subjects get so wrapped up in their material that they forget (or, more likely, never knew how) to make the thing they are talking about palatable to kids. Here's a pretty good litmus test for any work of non-fiction: If you, the grown-up, fall asleep mid-sentence, then there's a pretty good chance a kid will do the same. Then they'll vow never to read non-fiction ever again. And I admit, I don't always notice this. I read a lot of children's literature, and it's easy to forget how boring a kid would find one type of writing or another. The nice thing is that when I read something really readable and child-centric, I notice. I noticed with Cars on Mars, as it happens. Picture this: robots with extraordinary life spans exploring a planet 303,000,000 miles away. It's not science fiction, it's fact. And so kids can learn about two exploration rovers who beat the odds and withstood storms, freezing winters, and even sandpits in their efforts to explore a planet none of us have ever been to. Woot! Go, team, go!

    In the summer of 2003 two little Mars Exploration Rovers named Spirit and Opportunity were launched from earth towards our distant neighbor. Both rovers landed safely and spent their time exploring their new home. Running on sunshine, the rovers were expected to last around three months. As of this book, they've covered almost six years and taken more than 217,000 photographs. They've survived several near death experiences, and yet they keep on plugging along. This is their story of what they found, with tons of photographs taken along the way. The book contains a Glossary of terms, a Bibliography, Source Notes, Photo Credits, Index, and a remarkable list of websites, including one that offers "the most up-to-date reports on the rovers." As of this review, they still appear to be functioning and moving along.

    I have two theories about the scientists who worked on the Mars project and why this book is so kid-friendly. It could just be that they all have childlike sensibilities leading to incredibly fun information for children. One area of Mars is labeled Home Plate, and when a rover accidentally digs a ditch and exposes a bright patch of dirt there, the path is "Named Gertrude Weise, in honor of the 1944 star left-handed first baseman in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League." Huh! They have a way with names, these scientists. A patch of rubble accidentally crushed is dubbed Innocent Bystander. And then between the RAT (Rock Abrasion Tool) holes and the blueberries (little circular balls of hematite), the names keep you fascinated.

    My second theory is that Siy is the one making it interesting. What she chooses to include makes all the difference. Sometimes it's a case of including photographs of people like the kid who won the Name the Rovers Contest. Other times it's how she chooses to describe things. For example, when it comes to the rovers, "Cruising speed is ten times slower than that of a wood turtle - averaging less than two feet per minute." The rover stumbles on a "Berry Bowl" and it's described as "A bunch of blueberries clustered closely together, like berries in the bottom of a cereal bowl." Layers of rock are compared to cakes, and referred to as a good thing when it comes to scientists studying the chemical composition of the layers. So therefore, when coming across bedrock Siy will sometimes mention, "There were no yummy rock layers here." It's that kind of writing that keeps kids from nodding off while reading. There's always some way of describing a situation or a scene that's going to keep the reader going. You just have to look for it.

    There's also the fact that the story is so much fun. I mean, when you break it all down this is basically a tale about exploring. And, as with any explorer, things do not always go according to plan. Everything's just going fine and dandy until THWWPT! Spirit shuts down and the scientists have to figure out how to fix it. The problem? It crashed. The computer crashed. Even with all our smarts and our technology, computers still crash on Mars. I mean, the scientists manage to fix it from earth (no mean feat) but it's still one of those stories that gets you thinking. One of many.

    So here's the thing about the pictures. It's not as if the two rovers have ever run into one another. So basically, if you see a picture in this book of a rover sitting on Mars, it's a fake shot. A computer generated simulation of what the scientists think it would look like. I guess it's as close as you can get to factual information, but it's still odd to pair photographs with CGI suppositions. Not that the book doesn't distinguish between the two each and every time. If there's a fake shot to be had, Siy is going to tell you. Just the same, it's hard to know what to think when you come across the third kind of photograph: the false color image. What does that mean? Dunno. No explanation is given, so kids will just have assume that if it says "false color" then the shades and hues seen there are fake.

    I keep thinking back to an old Simpsons episode where NASA is trying to figure out how to get the general public interested in space exploration again. Sometimes I feel like NASA struggles with that same question in real life. How do you get people excited about space when they feel so jaded? How do we recapture our obsession with it? Maybe the answer is the get the children while they're young. Kids have a natural aptitude for dreaming about the sky. Tap into that and what you have is a whole new generation of potential scientists and explorers. Lots of children's books discuss the original moon landings or what it means to be an astronaut. Until now, I feel like Mars has gotten short shrift. No longer. Cars on Mars grips the kids with its title, then hauls them into a great story laden with facts that are consistently interesting. Throw in a heaping handful of photographs and images and brother, you've got yourself a potential fan.

    Near the end of the book Siy mentions that "When this book went to press in late 2008, the rovers had been on Mars for almost five years." You gotta appreciate the fact that the woman places this book within the context of its times. For all she knew, the rovers would discover skeletons of ancient space bats the month after she turned in these pages. So many children's books about exploration set their stories in the distant past. How different it is to read about exploration that's happening NOW? You know those kids fascinated with exploration? Tell them about this book. Make it clear to them that explorers still exist, and that sometimes they're both 303,000,000 and sitting in a lab on Earth at the same time. The world has changed a lot since the days of De Soto. Maybe Siy's book is exactly what kids need to transfer their exploring instinct from outward to upward.
      Booklist - August 1, 2009
    In 2004, two unusual robots landed on Mars: Spirit and Opportunity. Controlled by scientists at NASA, the golf-cart-sized, remote-controlled rovers roll slowly across the planet’s terrain, collect and analyze geological samples, and transfer data (including pictures) back to earth. Although the rovers were designed to last for 90 days, they continue to work more than five years later. In this well-designed book, Siy provides a clearly written overview of the rovers’ explorations on Mars. The inclusion of many quotes from astronomer Steve Squyres, “principal investigator” for the Mars rover mission, offers a scientist’s point of view on day-to-day challenges and rewards of the project, which succeeded in finding traces of water in the planet’s geological record. The book’s fine paper quality allows for excellent reproduction of the well-captioned illustrations: photos taken on earth, color and black-and-white images from Mars, artistic conceptions of space scenes, as well as a clearly labeled diagram of a Mars rover. Appendixes include a bibliography, a glossary, a brief source note, and a page of additional information with pointers to related Web sites, including one that tracks the current status of Spirit and Opportunity. Handsome and informative.
      Children's Literature - September 1, 2009
    In 2003, two rovers were sent to the planet Mars, which was the closest to Earth that it had been in 60,000 years. In this readable and fascinating account, anyone with an interest in science and space will learn about the actual development of the rovers, their launch, the experiments they have performed, and what we have learned to date about this nearby planet. Full color pictures, artists' drawings, and black and white imagery from the rovers bring this amazing story to life. A day on Mars is called a sol, and it is just thirty nine minutes longer than a day on Earth. Was there ever running water on Mars, and is there still water hidden on this planet? Scientists have learned so much about the rocks and what has created their various layers; all of which suggest that there were cycles of wet and dry conditions on the planet. Scientists have concluded that between 3.5 and 4 billion years ago, there was underground water at Meridiani Planum on Mars, and no one has ruled out the possibility that life once existed. Originally designed to last three months and to determine if any life existed or exists on Mars, these little engines that could are still working. That means they have been at their job for nine years. They have new software, but the mechanical parts are suffering from wear and tear-no one knows how long they will keep exploring, but each sol that they are there, new information increases our knowledge about this amazing planet. Kids who want to see what the rovers are currently doing can visit where they will find even more information. In addition, the back of the book contains references to other websites, a glossary, and selected bibliography. This is a book that will fascinate the arm chair space traveler and pique the interest of budding space scientists.
      Library Media Connection - November 1, 2009
    Cars on Mars is an overview of the exploration project of Mars that began in 1997 and culminated in the summer of 2003. This account of the journey is divided into six chapters with one color photograph or more per spread. The photographs are excellent for seeing details about the planet Mars. A team of 4000+ engineers and scientists designed and built two mechanical robotic geologists (Spirit and Opportunity) to collect information. Fortunately for the project, Spirit and Opportunity survived far longer than the projected lifespan of the robotics providing a lot of information about the similarities of Mars to Earth. The flow of information is easy to follow. I couldn't stop reading until I finished the book.
      Science - December 11, 2009
    At the end of the book, Siy says that she fell in love with Mars in 2003, when she viewed the shimmering planet while on a camping trip. That love is apparent in her history of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers. She starts with Cornell University astronomer Steve Squyres and his dream of exploring Mars to learn about its past history and to look for signs that life may have existed there. The author describes the landing of the two golf-cart–sized rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) in January 2004 and the trials and triumphs of their subsequent travels across the planet’s surface. Through the story, readers will learn about the design of the rovers, the scientifi c questions that their missions have addressed, and the challenges Earth-bound researchers faced to keep them sending back information. The very readable text and excellent photographs (made available to the public by NASA, JPL-Caltech, Cornell, and the U.S. Geological Survey) depict a scientifi c and technical triumph.
      Yellow Brick Road - March 31, 2010
    The image of roaming the red planet is powerful. NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project placed twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity there to gather data supporting research on the planet. The scientists determined that there was once water on Mars, and the team was even able to effect long-distance repairs on the rovers, which continue the mission today.
      OC Family - August 1, 2010
    In January 2004, twin robotic geologists, Spirit and Opportunity, began exploring Mars. Best for readers ages 8 and up, this book chronicles their journey. Filled with facts and real-life photos, the story is great for the classroom or those interested in learning a little something about the Red Planet. Plus, the book offers a helpful glossary, websites and extended information about Mars and the two rovers.
      Book Slut - September 12, 2010
    If rockets aren't your thing then consider another vehicle out exploring the far reaches of space with Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet. In this thoroughly-researched and heavily-illustrated (with photographs) title, author Alexandra Siy provides an in-depth look at the work of Spirit and Opportunity, the two rovers launched at Mars in 2003 who have since proven the existence of past water on the Red Planet. This is seriously cool stuff, from seeing Mars up close to all the nitty-gritty details of keeping a couple of robots moving from such an extreme long distance. It's techy enough to keep any gearhead enthralled but also full of the wide open excitement about space that kept millions on the edge of their seats in the 1960s. In other words you can be robotically challenged and still find yourself cheering on these little rovers, so far from home base and tasked with making the kind of explorations that the rest of us can only dream about.

    Siy begins at the beginning -- with the creation of the mission, naming of the rovers and introduction of the team who operates them. From there it is right onto Mars and the data they have collected, and how it has been received and interpreted back home. (It's all a "geologist's dream come true.") The action is provided by the movements of the rovers, where they go and the logistical difficulties they encounter. Readers might wonder how a small robot getting stuck in the sand could be gripping, and yet when it is framed in the context of all that the rover might still teach us about Mars, it certainly makes the book a page turner. This is real-time science and real-world science -- and a book that shows the possibility to be part of something larger than yourself. (Plus, the whole project was a major part of an episode of The Big Bang Theory, which increases the pop-culture component immensely.)

      Oneota Reading Journal - November 8, 2010
    Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet follows the car-like machine that was sent to Mars to gather information. Readers are provided with detailed information about the car, the planet Mars, and space in general. It includes many pictures of Mars and of the car as well. At times the amount of information can be overwhelming, but overall this is a great book for children who love space and learning. The book also offers a glossary and tips for further reading.
      Kiss the Book - December 6, 2010
    In January 2004, NASA started sending robots to explore the surface of Mars. They had problems, however, with software, the functioning of the robots, and how best to explore the surface of Mars. Through trial and error and flying by the seat of their pants at times, NASA was able to get some great pictures of Mars and be able to understand the Red Planet better. A unique informational book that takes a variety of resources to tell this NASA story. Readers will appreciate the usefulness of the information and the photos and documents provided throughout the book to enhance this non-fiction book. Readers who like science, Mars, space, and NASA will enjoy reading this book.
    Potential pioneers will find inspiration in Alexandra Siy's Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet (Charlesbridge, 2009; Gr 5-8), which follows the tracks of Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity in a mix of engaging text and large, evocative photos of the Martian surface.
      Ithaca Child - October 1, 2011
    In 2003 NASA launched two rovers to Mars. Dubbed Spirit and Opportunity, these two solar-powered golf-cart-sized rovers were designed to last three months. Battered but not beaten, Opportunity continues to discover new things on Mars; Spirit stopped communicating in March 2010.

    From blast-off to her final chapter, Alexandra Siy tells the story of these two invincible rovers and the scientists who built and followed them on their longer-than-expected mission. Siy mixes excellent science writing with fun. I particularly like her table of contents (titled: Get Directions). It reads like instructions from Mission Control: "Go 303,000,000 miles, then stop at the fourth rock from the sun." The book is full of photos from the Mars mission leaving one feelin grather red and dusty after reading it.

    Rovers don't move very fast; "cruising speed is ten times slower than that of a wood turtle," Siy explains. That's about two feet per minute, or 60 child-sized steps in an hour. Each rover was equipped with a RAT (rock abrasion tool) and cameras. Siy details how they collected data from the surface of the red planet and how they relayed it to Earth. She describes the strategy Earth-bound scientists used to figure out how to get one of the rovers unstuck and answer the question; Can an old rover learn new tricks?