Like my previous atlases of space exploration, this book is about places, in this case places on Mars: where they are, what they look like, what happened (or might have happened) there and why they were chosen. It is a historical atlas, describing and illustrating events primarily through the medium of maps. It is not a book about science, the geology of Mars, the people who work on spacecraft and missions, technology or politics. Those topics may be mentioned in passing here, but can be explored more fully in the books, journal articles, online presentations and websites cited throughout the atlas. This book fills a different niche not well represented anywhere else, and was in fact created specifically to fill that void. This is a reference work, not a novel, and if it is to be followed from beginning to end, the sequence of illustrations rather than the text might form a more satisfying narrative.
The first volume of The International Atlas of Mars Exploration described missions and events up to the Mars Express mission and its lander, Beagle 2. The Mars Express and Mars Odyssey missions were in progress when that book was compiled, but every other mission had already concluded. This volume includes two rover missions that are still active as the book nears completion, and for which route maps and day-to-day activities had to be brought as far up to date as possible prior to publication, compiled as the events were unfolding.
Work on this atlas began as the first volume was submitted to the publisher in January 2012, prior to the Curiosity landing and on about sol 2825 for Opportunity. The Opportunity material prior to that was historical, based on pre-existing sources. After that, and throughout the surface mission of Curiosity, maps were updated every time a rover moved or a feature name became known. The tables listing activities, necessarily very abbreviated for such long missions, were based on tabulations in the online Analyst's Notebooks in NASA's Planetary Data System, with additional details taken from the Science Operations Working Group (SOWG) documents from the same website. (In some tables, underscores are used to turn a proper name into a similar computer filename, as used in the technical documents.)