A Tribute from the National Academies

The Rock From Mars: A Detective Story on Two Planets has been selected as one of two runners-up, or finalists, from among 250 nominations for the 2007 Communication Award in the book category. The awards recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering and medicine to the general public. The National Academies present them annually in association with the W. M. Keck Foundation.

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The following are taken from selected chapters in the book:

Chapter 1 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 13

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The Rock From Mars

In 1984, a young woman named Robbie Score plucked a grayish-green rock from the ancient ice of Antarctica. Twelve years later, in the summer of 1996, international headlines trumpeted that this found rock contained possible signs of ancient microbial Martian life.

In THE ROCK FROM MARS: A Detective Story on Two Planets, journalist Kathy Sawyer tells how a fist-sized chunk of Mars became the center of one of the most heated scientific controversies of the last century. She follows the twists and turns that embroiled the scientists and changed their lives. She portrays the collision of science, politics and the fledgling 24/7 global media beast.

As the rock’s impact rippled from NASA’s space center in Houston to the Clinton White House and beyond, meteorite ALH84001 became a catalyst for advances in the fields of geology, biology, interplanetary exploration and others while creating new respect for the search for extraterrestrial life. It even played a key role in a sex scandal that led to the resignation of a top presidential advisor…


“Sawyer, a celebrated science journalist who writes with energy, clarity, and levity, vividly portrays the key players and thoroughly explicates the complex science involved...”

“This book is an engrossing read for science buffs and general readers alike.”

“The Rock from Mars is a unique tale of scientific investigation, a page turner that commands rapt attention to the very end.”

"This riveting story is skillfully told with authority and in great detail by Kathy Sawyer, one of the nations leading science journalists. In this time when invented controversies associated with evolutionary biology are being promoted...”

“Most of the action in this unique story takes place in a tiny, submicroscopic world, but that hardly diminishes the drama..."