Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer
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This is a matchless behind-the-scenes account of intrepid engineers and scientists that banded together to explore far-away Mars. Fueled by their own inquisitiveness and moxie they overcame all odds – technical problems, bureaucratic barriers, even touches of self-doubt – to successfully land the NASA one-ton Curiosity rover on the Red Planet. It is a superb, fact and fun-filled account of humans on the cutting-edge of opening up a frontier – one that is our future home-away-from-home, Mars.
Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut
This is a captivating story of hurling machines of exploration to Mars told by a top flight engineer that’s leading the charge in planting the first human footprints on the Red Planet.
Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
Rob Manning has produced a personal history of “Mars Rover Curiosity” that records for all time the complex personnal and engineering interactions required to successfully navigate the design, management and flight complexities of a mission at the frontiers of planetary exploration. We now have an outstanding record of the this process and the lessons learned along the way. This work, ably assisted by William Simon, joins the library of the best of personal stories, progressively documenting humankind’s migration away from Earth.
Senator Harrison “Jack” Schmitt
There's nothing harder in planetary exploration than landing on the surface of a planet, and Rob Manning has given us a revealing and insightful behind-the-scenes story of the world's most famous rover, Curiosity. Reading this account feels as if you are standing beside this engineer's engineer as he and the rest of the Curiosity team found solutions to one nail biting technical challenge after another. This is an insightful testament about extraordinary dedication, passion, creativity and perseverance – all required to dare such a mighty thing.
Charles Elachi, PhD, Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Although lacking the glamour of manned space flight, unmanned probes have accomplished great things, and this book delivers a thoroughly satisfying description of one of the greatest. Aided by journalist Simon (co-author, with Kevin Mitnick: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker, 2011, etc.), Manning, NASA's chief of engineering for the Mars P rogram Office, recounts Curiosity's tortuous development, from the rover's 2004 proposal to the Aug. 5, 2012, landing and subsequent triumph that "revolutionized the art of planetary exploration." No one took success for granted, aware that more than half of the probes sent to Mars have failed. The eight-month voyage presented few problems; not so the critical EDL, or entry-descent-landing, process, which required a Rube Goldberg-esque series of parachutes, rockets and thrusters that carefully deposited the rover and then flew away. Compared to previous rovers (the tiny 1997 Sojourner, modest 2003 Spirit and Opportunity), Curiosity is massive: five times heavier and 10 times more complex than its predecessor. Comparable to the Manhattan project, the development took longer and faced problems unknown to those who built the atom bomb. Many features couldn't be tested, and budgetary limitations meant that defects were often left in place if they were unlikely to affect the miss ion. Most readers know how it turned out. The engineers were not so lucky, and the authors deliver a nail-biting, nuts-and-bolts chronicle of seemingly endless technical and political problems overcome by brilliant, obsessive engineers who worked day and night and continue to do so. Readers yearning for stories of human space travel must follow developments in China, the only nation with an active manned space program. Those who appreciate the purely scientific results of planetary exploration will love this lively, intelligent account of a dazzling achievement.
THE WASHINGTON POST
"In Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account From Curiosity's Chief Engineer, he (Rob Manning) and science writer William L. Simon describe a committed, collegial bunch of guys doing some pretty amazing science."
"In Mars Rover Curiosity, Manning and coauthor Simon offer a firsthand account of designing the most complex piece of machinery ever to land on another planet. Starting with a harebrained scheme and ending with a drive across the red dust of Gale Crater, the book deftly guides readers through the many setbacks, victories and difficult decisions that came with planning an interplanetary mission."
THE SPACE REVIEW
"...the book offers a detailed, compelling tale of the rover’s development from someone who was at the center of the effort. For those who want to know how the spacecraft sausage is made, this is the book for you."
"Manning’s just published account of years at NASA’s venerable Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), co-written with best-selling non-fiction author William L. Simon, will resonate most with those who want an excellent inside take on the rigorous and often arduous task of designing interplanetary landers and the eureka moments that affords. Manning deserves credit for bringing his own sense of candor and humility to the prose."
About the Author
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With excellent readability and page-turning immediacy, Dr. Manning recounts the trials and tribulations, successes and failures, joys and sorrows of NASA's effort to land a planetary rover on Mars using a seemingly crazy technique dubbed "sky crane." Curiosity was bigger, heavier, more complicated, more capable and more power-hungry than any other rover ever flown. Designing, building, testing, launching and operating it on a very tight schedule and within stringent funding constraints presented daunting challenges that sometimes brought the project to a virtual standstill. The stunning success of Curiosity's flawless touchdown on Mars on August 5, 2012, is a testament to the skill, dedication, ingenuity and hard work of the scientists, engineers and technicians who worked on it. This book is their story.
It's all in here: planning and budgetary meetings; design reviews; trade studies; hardware and software development, testing and integration; launch and interplanetary cruise flight; the landing's "seven minutes of terror;" Martian surface operations, and even some of the science results. Dr. Manning does not concentrate on any one topic to the exclusion of the others. As an unrepentant techno-geek, I tend to most enjoy spaceflight books that are filled to bursting with arcane technical minutia, and I usually pay less attention to the budgetary, programmatic and managerial material. Not so in "Mars Rover Curiosity." I found it fascinating from cover to cover. Its level of detail satisfied my geekiness, but should not be daunting to those readers not too familiar with the subject.
For an exciting tale of planetary exploration as new as tomorrow's headlines, pick up a copy of "Mars Rover Curiosity." As I said, it's the real deal.
I looked forward to every chance I found time to read some more and the book actually prompted a lot of questions of my own. I'm attempting to contact Rob Manning so he can perhaps hand me off to someone with the time to answer them.
All in all ,a great read, I enjoyed every word of it.
It's not much appreciated how much effort goes into a project like the Mars Lander. This book provides a clear insight into the sheer amount of hard work, hard thinking and hard discussion.
The book outlined a number of other interesting engineering solutions and, most importantly, the logic and constraints that lead to them. An aside chapter on some of the aspects of a manned Mars landing showed clearly the vast magnitude of such an undertaking.