To Mars with Love, by Patricia Ann Straat, is the true and intimate account of a young woman's journey into space exploration sciences. As Co-Experimenter of the Viking Labeled Release Experiment (LR), Dr. Straat worked side by side with engineers to develop one of three life detection experiments sent to Mars on the 1976 Viking Mission. Her experiences in laboratories and conference rooms are juxtaposed to her parallel experiences in the beach side communities of Los Angeles, and with the equestrian worlds

of Maryland and California.


Author with LR Test Instrument

47-1974 Hunt_website.jpg

The controversial LR results, positive for microbial life, have been published many times, but the story of the development of the LR flight experiment—with all its challenges, trials, and tribulations—has never before been told. The book encapsulates the six years prior to the Viking landing as well as the primary mission in its tense and humorous moments, bringing to life both the atmosphere and people involved in the mission.

A Maryland Hunt Starting out on a crisp fall day.

The engineering aspects, with never-before-published details, emphasize the enormous problems encountered in such an endeavor. 


The question of life on Mars is discussed in balanced perspective along with possible problems and directions for future Mars exploration.

Straat_Front Cover_website.jpg

To Mars with Love

by Patricia Ann Straat

ISBN: 978-1-64111-150-8

Full Color Hardcover Limited Edition

304 pages with 91 Photos and Figures

Publication Date: January 16, 2019

Price: $29.99 (USD) plus shipping


Author with Test Lander at JPL

The book includes photos of Viking scientists, Viking memorabilia, and the author’s compelling reflections as she takes us back in time to the unprecedented Viking years.


Reviews & News

“To Mars With Love offers a wonderful, behind-the-scenes, unique, well-written account of the Viking program, and of the men and women who dared to be bold and meld scientific inquiry and technology to look for life on Mars. Dr. Straat’s personal account is one of pioneering persistence and underscores her unquestionable dedication to excellence.  This book is a treasure, a fascinating read from an investigator on the frontlines of discovery.”

~ Leonard David, Space Insider Columnist,

“To Mars with Love tells the amazing story of how 
the Labeled Release life detection experiment was 
developed into a flight instrument for NASA’s 1976 
Viking Mission to Mars, and the surprising positive 
results obtained on Mars.  The story is told in more 
detail, and more convincingly, than has been reported elsewhere.  The book also provides vignettes, some hilarious, some frightening, of how Dr. Straat kept her sanity during her ten grueling years on the project.  The book makes a strong case for breaking the ancient Paradigm ‘we are alone.’  Indeed, Pat, with her To Mars with Love, may be casting the first jewel. 

Gilbert V. Levin, Experimenter

Viking Labeled Release Experiment

“I just finished reading your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Handling fluids on Mars is not an easy task as I have learned first-hand with the SAM wet chemistry experiment on Curiosity. Even though I have read many of the scientific publications from the analysis of Viking data, your book really helped me understand the context of the measurements and the tremendous amount of work that went in to making a successful set of experiments. I remain optimistic that we will eventually find unambiguous evidence of life on Mars, but it will require many missions and measurement strategies. You are a true pioneer in the search for life on Mars. Thank you for sharing your story!”

Danny Glavin


“A well-written tale whose insights make a good read into what led to a successful experiment on the Martian surface – a superior instruction  on what’s behind making planetary exobiology exploration a reality.”

~ Fred S. Brown, Viking Biology Project Scientist, TRW and (later) Vice-President, Space & Electronics, TRW.

“To Mars with Love is a must read for anyone interested in the search for bacterial life beyond Earth. A female pioneer in space exploration, Dr. Straat offers a fascinating look into the earliest days of Mars exploration.”

~ Sherry L. Cady, Editor-in-Chief, Astrobiology magazine; Chief Scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Following a laudatory review in Astrobiology, I just finished reading To Mars With Love, a very interesting book by Patricia Ann Straat, one of the lead scientists of the Viking landers’ biology package. Never before have I seen the Labeled Release (LR) experiment results so clearly explained and discussed. The reader is walked through the train of thought and challenges that were faced during the development of LR, and then coming to grips with the results. The book is also interesting from a human perspective, as the author includes several anecdotes of her experience developing a space instrument in 1970s California. 

For those curious about any of the following: (1) search for life, (2) surface chemistry, and/or (3) Mars exploration history, I highly recommend that you read this book.

Jorge L. Vago

ExoMars Project Scientist

Directorate of Science

European Space Agency

“Dr. Straat has provided an accessible, technical, sophisticated, and vulnerable inside account of our only planetary life detection mission to date.  Her insight goes beyond the available scientific literature to illuminate the humans who shaped the mission and the instruments.  For a young, female, martian enthusiast and astrobiologist, her story is a resource and an inspiration.”

~ Melissa Guzman, ExoMars MOMA team member; LATMOS PhD student