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Author: Brooks Peck


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Millennium Mars Calendar

A tool for future colonists

* Millennium Mars Calendar
* By Kandis Elliot, James M. Graham
* The Institute of Implied Science
* MSRP: $30.00

Review by Brooks Peck

The Millennium Mars Calendar is a truly Martian calendar, with a scheme of months and days that track Mars' journey around the sun. The system was developed by biologist Dr. James Graham for future Martian colonists who would need, he claims, "to order their lives according to Martian days and seasons." Since Mars orbits farther from the sun than the Earth does, it takes longer to make a full revolution--about 687 Earth days; thus its seasons are almost twice as long as those on Earth.

Our Pick: A-

Graham's system divides the Martian year into 20 months of 33 or 34 days each. The months are named for Greek gods and goddesses. The Martian week still has seven days, but the days are renamed to correspond to the planets (Solday, Mercuryday, etc., ending with Saturnday.) This particular calendar begins on the first day of the month of Hestia, Mars year 12, which corresponds to Dec. 20, 1999 (the years start with the landing of Viking 1 in 1976). It ends one Martian year and 2 months later, on Asclepius 33, year 13, or Feb. 1, 2002. This odd span was chosen to cover the Earth years before and after the millennium (January 1, 2001) and to include the more popular 1999 to 2000 turnover. Earth dates, by the way, are superimposed on the calendar.

Additionally, the calendar is a miniature textbook on Mars. Introductory pages explain the date system and then present some background on the cold little planet, as well as its climate and conditions. An overview of how Mars might be terraformed follows. The writing is marginally technical but still accessible to anyone with an interest in science. Each month presents a mural and a short article on various subjects, including Martian geology, weather, ice caps, further details on terraforming, the possibility of early Martian life, and much more.

Informative and artistic

The written material of the Millennium Mars Calendar is detailed yet readable, and it is complemented by Kandis Elliot's marvelous illustrations, which combine computer rendering and electronic airbrush work. Most of the pictures depict what Mars might look like from the surface--the color of the sky at dusk, the windswept desert dunes, and the glittering ice. Some show the Martian landscape at different stages of terraforming. For example, there's an image of a valley system filled with water, with gliders drifting over in V-formation. It's very inspiring. The articles and illustrations are so well done, complete with inset NASA photos and maps, that it feels like they could come from an issue of Mars Geographic.

The calendar itself also makes an excellent educational tool, graphically showing Mars' long seasons and year. January 2001, for instance, begins in early Poseidon 13. Turn ahead two months to Demeter, and there's April already! As a working calendar, though, it's not too useful, at least not for groundhogs on Earth. Because the Martian day is about 40 minutes longer than Earth's, the days drift and overlap in strange ways, making it tough to do any Earthly planning. And would Martian colonists really break utterly from the Earth calendar? Perhaps, but it would make communication and coordination with Earth difficult.

Of course, that's not the point. This calendar is an informative and beautiful resource for Earthlings here and now, and should fascinate both children and adults.

Let's hope the Martian computer programmers are foresighted enough to include three digits in their year fields; otherwise they'll have a Centennial Bug to contend with. -- Brooks


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