First Interplanetary Library Will Land on Mars

For Immediate Release
May 22, 2008

Mat Kaplan
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

The Planetary Society's Visions of Mars DVD aboard Phoenix will land on Mars on May 25, 2008. This first of NASA's Scout missions is led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith at the University of Arizona. Attached to the deck of the Phoenix lander, the DVD includes a collection of 19th and 20th century science fiction stories, essays and art inspired by the Red Planet, as well as the names of more than a quarter million inhabitants of Earth.

"A Message from Earth to future Martian explorers, this DVD is The Planetary Society’s gift to those who will someday expand the human presence to other worlds," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, who conceived the idea for Visions of Mars. "We hope astronauts will one day retrieve this first Martian library and enjoy the visionary works and good wishes sent from our time to theirs."


To celebrate this milestone, The Planetary Society has teamed with science centers and planetariums across the country to offer special events where the public can gather to share the excitement of the Mars landing. The centerpiece event will be held in Pasadena, California: Planetfest ‘08 New Visions of Mars.

Already sold out, Planetfest ’08 will host more than 700 participants at a day-long celebration that includes watching the landing live on the big screen, talks by Mars experts, and selected readings from Visions of Mars. Speakers will include Bill Nye the Science Guy® and science-fiction legend Ray Bradbury. Additional events will be held in Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix and Cleveland, to name a few of the participating cities.


Visions of Mars – the first library on Mars – contains materials that represent 20 nations and cultures. Visions of Mars includes works by The Planetary Society's co-founder Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Kim Stanley Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke, Percival Lowell and many more.

Phoenix will be the first lander to explore the Martian arctic, touching down near 70 degrees north latitude. Designed to search for and study water ice, the spacecraft is a fixed lander with a suite of advanced instruments and a robotic arm that can dig half a meter into the soil. The Phoenix team hopes to uncover clues in the icy arctic soil about the history of near surface ice and the planet's potential for habitability.

"For more than a century, Mars has beckoned, inspiring tales of wonder and adventure," remarked Bruce Betts, Director of Projects for The Planetary Society. "Many men and women who now work in the space program first turned their eyes to the sky because of the childhood wonder kindled by the astronomical artists and science fiction authors featured on Visions of Mars."

The disk will appear in some of the calibration images that Phoenix takes to adjust its cameras, so people may be able to see it on the Martian surface.

The library should be able to last at least 500 years on Mars, so there will be plenty of time for a future generation to discover and enjoy the works included on the DVD.

Putting a spacecraft safely on Mars is hard and always carries risk. This will be The Planetary Society's second attempt to send Visions of Mars to its namesake planet. It was originally created by the Society to ride aboard Russia's Mars ‘96 spacecraft, which failed shortly after launch.

The Phoenix mission is led by Principal Investigator Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, with project management at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a development partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems. International contributions for Phoenix are provided by the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland), the University of Copenhagen, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

About The Planetary Society

With a global community of more than 2 million space enthusiasts, The Planetary Society is the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization. Founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman and today led by CEO Bill Nye, we empower the public to take a meaningful role in advancing space exploration through advocacy, education outreach, scientific innovation, and global collaboration. Together with our members and supporters, we’re on a mission to explore worlds, find life off Earth, and protect our planet from dangerous asteroids. To learn more, visit