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Martian Summer: My Ninety Days with Interplanetary Pioneers, Temperamental Robots, and NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission [Paperback]

Andrew Kessler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

15 July 2014
Get up close and personal with science as Andrew Kessler narrates his hilarious journey inside NASA's Phoenix Mars mission-a historic enterprise manned by a motley crew of rocket scientists The Phoenix Mars mission was the first man-made probe ever sent to the Martian arctic. Its purpose was to find out how climate change could turn a warm, wet planet (read: Earth) into a cold, barren desert (read: Mars). Along the way, Phoenix discovered a giant frozen ocean trapped beneath the north pole of Mars, exotic food for aliens, and liquid water, and laid the foundation for NASA's current exploration of Mars using the Curiosity rover. This is not science fiction. It's fact. And for the luckiest fanboy in fandom, it was the best vacation ever. Andrew Kessler spent the summer of 2008 in NASA's mission control with one hundred thirty of the world's best planetary scientists and engineers as they carried out this ambitious operation. He came back with a story of human drama about modern-day pioneers battling NASA politics, temperamental robots, and the bizarre world of daily life in mission control. "An informative and even charming semi-insider account of how such a mission operates, how humans fare on Mars time, and how scientists and administrators behave under extreme stress." -The Washington Post "Readers will thrill to this slightly offbeat firsthand account of scientific determination and stubborn intellect. . . . This behind-the-scenes look delivers a fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor." -Publishers Weekly "A candid and precise account of the ups and downs of a space mission. This book shows what it is to participate in a short and intense landed Mars expedition. It gives the feel of the pressure and excitement at mission control, where engineers, managers and scientists work together while trying to satisfy contradictory requirements, showing the human side of science with refreshing honesty." -Nilton Renno, professor of atmospheric and space sciences, University of Michigan "It is as if I imagined Holden Caulfield writing about the mission. Martian Summer is a riot." -Peter Smith, professor, Lunar and Planetory Laboratory, University of Arizona, and principal investigator of the Phoenix Project Andrew Kessler is a writer living in Brooklyn. He holds a degree in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley. Martian Summer is his first book about Mars-or any planet, for that matter.

Product details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (15 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1497641446
  • ISBN-13: 978-1497641440
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.3 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Review

Martian Summer gives the feel of the pressure and excitement at mission control, while showing the human side of science with refreshing honesty. --Nilton Renno, Professor of Atmospheric and Space Sciences, University of Michigan --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Andrew Kessler is a writer living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in The New York Times and on The Discovery Channel. He holds a degree in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley and works as a creative director at HUGE. Martian Summer is his first book about Mars-or any planet for that matter. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A "you are there" reading experience 16 Aug 2011
By Jaylia3
Format:Hardcover
So far no one has had a chance to walk around on Mars, but the scientists and engineers involved with the Phoenix Mars Lander mission lived as if they were there on the red planet during the summer of 2008, and Martian Summer takes its reader along for the ride. Since the length of Martian day is 37 minutes longer than an Earth day special watches were commissioned--it would be great to have one of those Mars adapted timepieces--and blackout curtains were deployed to keep everyone at the warehouse that served as Mission Control on Mars time. "Everyone" included "everyman" author Andrew Kessler, an ordinary, non-genius guy, who has written a mesmerizing behind the scenes account of the kind of passion and nonlinear problem solving that goes into a big, exciting, collaborative science venture. Phoenix was a partnership program under the direction of NASA, but led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona and it was Peter's idea to give Kessler inside access so he could write a book about the mission for the general public. NASA has since canceled the Scout Program that Phoenix was a part of, so for the time being there will be no more citizen accounts of freelance-led missions to Mars or anywhere else. The next NASA mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, is scheduled to launch in late 2011.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story, Interesting Look Into Mission Control 2 April 2011
By Joe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I lucked into an advance copy of this book and it's a great read. Kessler's unique access into the weird and wacky world of space, space robots, space politics, and the long Martian day is something anyone who has ever thought about being an astronaut can appreciate (and who hasn't thought about being an astronaut?).

And because the author is a layman, it's accessible for a normal person. A good story peppered with wit, incredible science, and good ol' fashioned space drama. Highly recommended.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not great literature, but a fun eyewitness account of a mission 5 May 2011
By Ralph Lorenz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having been involved in some early testing of instrumentation on the Phoenix lander
and knowing many of the participants personally, I was eager to read this account
of the landed operations, although like the mission itself, early results were
frustrating.

The book contains a number of factual errors (e.g. the Cassini camera was not the
first to use CCDs in space, the person referred to as a chief scientist for NASA
was not the NASA Chief Scientist, etc.) which reinforces the impression that the
author doesnt fully understand everything he writes about (an innocence the author
freely admits).

The color photo section is very poorly thought-out: images seemingly chosen at random
and often shown in an aspect ratio that leaves details invisibly small while leaving
60% of the page as white space.

I found the style a bit jarring - while informality is great, it can be overdone (the
author adds a presumably onomatopoeic 'pew pew pew' at just too many mentions of
the LIDAR). Lots of short sentences and paragraphs. In short, written more like a
blog than a book.

All the above aside, this really is a fascinating story of a mission unfolding, warts
and all. The interactions between scientists, and between scientists, engineers, managers
and the media, and the team's (and the author's) fight against fatigue while working
on Mars time, are shown in a first-hand, close quarters account, full of direct
quotes. I'd consider it essential reading for anyone planning a landed mission
on another world.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "you are there" reading experience 16 Aug 2011
By Jaylia3 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
So far no one has had a chance to walk around on Mars, but the scientists and engineers involved with the Phoenix Mars Lander mission lived as if they were there on the red planet during the summer of 2008, and Martian Summer takes its reader along for the ride. Since the length of Martian day is 37 minutes longer than an Earth day special watches were commissioned--it would be great to have one of those Mars adapted timepieces--and blackout curtains were deployed to keep everyone at the warehouse that served as Mission Control on Mars time. "Everyone" included "everyman" author Andrew Kessler, an ordinary, non-genius guy, who has written a mesmerizing behind the scenes account of the kind of passion and nonlinear problem solving that goes into a big, exciting, collaborative science venture. Phoenix was a partnership program under the direction of NASA, but led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona and it was Peter's idea to give Kessler inside access so he could write a book about the mission for the general public. NASA has since canceled the Scout Program that Phoenix was a part of, so for the time being there will be no more citizen accounts of freelance-led missions to Mars or anywhere else. The next NASA mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, is scheduled to launch in late 2011.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Way funnier than expected 17 May 2011
By Ross Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After glimpsing the photo of the author on the back cover flap, I assumed (naturally) that Martian Summer would be a nerds-eye view of the space program, and in particular, the Phoenix landing. Well, there's plenty of that, but what I didn't expect was all the humor. Andrew Kessler is great with a joke, and finds ways to infuse humor into the process as well as spotlight all the zany antics that naturally occur when the world's best scientific minds are racing against the odds and the clock on Martian time.

It's a breezy read considering the subject matter. The chapters concerning the discovery of water are particularly thrilling and make me hope that Martian Summer will eventually make for an excellent interplanetary beach read. Irregardless, I imagine when civilians are able to finally visit the red planet, Kessler's book will be prominently featured in the gift shop.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life from Mission Control 10 Mar 2013
By Alexa Rose - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This witty gem is a great read. Kessler takes his reader on a fascinating journey that few people have seen before. His writing style make you feel as though you are experiencing the journey right there beside them, and his humor keeps you chuckling in the process. Despite knowing the outcome, I felt involved and invested in their work, anxious to know how it all played out.
Mission Control seemed like something only in the movies, not ever imagining I could see a glimpse of in real life. Now I feel like I was part of it.
The most fascinating part to me is the drive and dedication of all the people involved in the Phoenix mission. You see how much work really goes into these missions. I now have a much greater appreciation for everything space, and feel inspired to put their amount of enthusiasm into my life.
You don't need much outer-space/science knowledge because Kessler does a fascinating job explaining "rocket science" to a grade school student. It is a must read if you have even the slightest interest in space, robots, or the life of a freelance scientist.
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