Mars, the Red Planet: Background information when reading The Martian

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The Martian

by Andy Weir

The Martian
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2014, 384 pages
    Nov 2014, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Beyond the Book:
Mars, the Red Planet

Picture of Mars as taken by Hubble Space Telescope Andy Weir's The Martian is set on the red planet, the fourth from the sun, which has been part of human consciousness since people first started observing the night sky. Its distinctive red color sets it apart from the other celestial objects. The oldest known star map, found in the tomb of 18th dynasty Egyptian architect Senenmut (who lived around 1400 BC), includes a depiction of Mars. It's mentioned in Egyptian writing even earlier. Chinese astronomers documented its position and orbit before the founding of the Zhou Dynasty in 1045 BCE. Galileo was the first person to observe the planet through a telescope – doing so in the early 17th century.

The planet we now call Mars has had many names over the centuries. The Egyptians initially referred to it as "Horus of the Horizon" and later as "Horus the Red." The Babylonians wrote about it in conjunction with Nergal, their god of fire, war and destruction (perhaps the first association of the planet with conflict). The Hebrews...

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