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Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity

Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity [Kindle Edition]

Roger Wiens
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Washington Post "[Wiens] is a good guide through the process of building a space probe... His inside narration of how things go wrong at NASA is the great strength of this book. It is rich with details of how both the ChemCam team in particular and the Curiosity rover in general overcame engineering challenges such as faulty lenses and awkward temperature distributions." BBC Sky At Night "This engaging new book by Roger Wiens whose team built Curiosity's ChemCam instrument, gives a unique insider's view... Wiens's accessible and conversational writing is a major strength of Red Rover, providing a thoroughly human perspective on a complex technological subject." Booklist "An engaging history of robotic space exploration... A remarkable memoir and testament to the ingenuity of the space program's many scientists who build the tools needed to explore our solar system." Scientific American "Wiens offers a backstage tour of the delights and disappointments of working on missions." Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly "Wiens's writing is clear and engaging... A unique contribution ... this book reinforces a vision of outer space as emblematic of technological progress, but also nicely encapsulates the external, messy factors that influence, hinder, and help the development of a robotic explorer." Publishers Weekly "This entertaining insider account of Wiens's work on two groundbreaking robotic space explorers--the Genesis and Curiosity Rover--captures all the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of modern space science ... Wiens brings his work to life, candidly addressing the inevitable technological and bureaucratic obstacles and failures that compose the frustrating prelude to scientific victory." Kirkus Reviews "The author provides fascinating insight into the struggle to solve scientific problems despite technical constraints and equipment failures...A winning memoir of great achievement." Steve Squyres, Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University, and author of Roving Mars "We live in a new golden age of exploration, as robotic spacecraft fan out across the solar system, extending the human experience to other planets. With Red Rover, Roger Wiens provides a delightful, candid, and highly personal insider's view of this great endeavor." Jim Bell, Professor of Planetary Science, Arizona State University, President of the Planetary Society, and author of Postcards from Mars "Roger Wiens has crafted a delightful and very personal history of planetary exploration that takes us from his boyhood fascination with the Apollo Moon missions to his leading role as a key scientist on the latest Mars rover. His journey from a small prairie town to the laser labs of Los Alamos reminds us that passion, imagination, and perseverance are what propel us to explore the frontiers of space." John L. Phillips, retired NASA astronaut, and former NASA Chair Professor, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School "Red Rover offers an enticing personal look at the exaltations and disappointments of unmanned space exploration. Roger Wiens vividly portrays the genius and perseverance of the dedicated scientists and engineers who have made robotic exploration of the solar system a reality." Laurie Leshin, Dean, School of Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute "In Red Rover, Roger Wiens gets you up close and personal with the highs and lows, the triumphs and disappointments that come with pushing the scientific envelope, and the great persistence required to succeed. A great read for anyone interested in exploring the frontiers of space."

Product Description

For centuries humankind has fantasized about life on Mars, whether it’s intelligent Martian life invading our planet (immortalized in H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds) or humanity colonizing Mars (the late Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles). The Red Planet’s proximity and likeness to Earth make it a magnet for our collective imagination. Yet the question of whether life exists on Mars—or has ever existed there—remains an open one. Science has not caught up to science fiction—at least not yet.

This summer we will be one step closer to finding the answer. On August 5th, Curiosity—a one-ton, Mini Cooper-sized nuclear-powered rover—is scheduled to land on Mars, with the primary mission of determining whether the red planet has ever been physically capable of supporting life. In Getting to Mars, Roger Wiens, the principal investigator for the ChemCam instrument on the rover—the main tool for measuring Mars’s past habitability—will tell the unlikely story of the development of this payload and rover now blasting towards a planet 354 million miles from Earth.

ChemCam (short for Chemistry and Camera) is an instrument onboard the Curiosity designed to vaporize and measure the chemical makeup of Martian rocks. Different elements give off uniquely colored light when zapped with a laser; the light is then read by the instrument’s spectrometer and identified. The idea is to use ChemCam to detect life-supporting elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen to evaluate whether conditions on Mars have ever been favorable for microbial life.

This is not only an inside story about sending fantastic lasers to Mars, however. It’s the story of a new era in space exploration. Starting with NASA’s introduction of the Discovery Program in 1992, smaller, scrappier, more nimble missions won out as behemoth manned projects went extinct. This strategic shift presented huge opportunities—but also presented huge risks for shutdown and failure. And as Wiens recounts, his project came close to being closed down on numerous occasions. Getting to Mars is the inspiring account of how Wiens and his team overcame incredible challenges—logistical, financial, and political—to successfully launch a rover in an effort to answer the eternal question: is there life on Mars?

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 918 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0465055982
  • Publisher: Basic Books (12 Mar 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #620,485 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Mr M
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is more of an autobiography than a technical book although it also contains a fair amount of technical details on the instruments and missions for Genesis and Curiosity. Unusually for a technical book this one also has a really compelling story line and once you start reading it you may find it hard to put down.

You might think that the life of a space scientist is one of unsurpassed geekiness. Not so! Follow the author as he battles against competition with the brightest minds in science, NASA bureaucracy, almost insuperable technical challenges, crushing time and budget constraints, forest fires, family problems and, if all this was not enough, living with the constant uncertainty of whether his instruments will be chosen, if the mission will ever fly and, even if it does, will the spacecraft survive launch, flight and landing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Fun read 4 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a nice read, but too much about the authors experience and not so much focused on the missions and technology themselves.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Its like A Bug's Life vs Antz 11 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have a huge fascination for Mars... So much so that from reading the actual Rover Manual to studying the software code I have spent tons of hours --perhaps too many hours..

Even with my love of mars and anything that has anything to do with Mars, I was rather disappointed with this book. Dr Weins, certainly a great scientist isn't much of a story teller. If you have read "Roving Mars", the story of the Opportunity and Spirit rovers by Dr Steve Squyers - the Principal Investigator for those missions - you will appreciate the difference.

The book first tells the story of Genesis mission- collection of Solar particles and return to earth- where Dr Weins was one of the key team members...and then moves on to tell the story of the martian rover. The book can get technical at times - for instance a whole page on what a spectrometer is , what are isotopes and other things like that. But it failed to capture my imagination in the first part ( about Genesis mission). It just wasnt'...i feel ashamed to say this being a scientis enough for the story.

The story of the rover follows, and that is better than the first part. the book however just seems to lack a flow. The characters in the book aren't described in enough detail that you can picture them, which does not help. The writing style is a bit dull.

Yes it is unfair to compare 'Red Rover' with 'Roving Mars', but it is just something I couldn't help - like the movie A Bug's life vs Antz. Steve Squyers in his book Roving Mars told this story in a fascinating way ( he is a fantastic speaker too, if you check him on youtube), and this book while it tells a similar tale of toil, disappointment and then the ultimate victory , it just has some element 'missing'.

Still A decent read. If you haven't read Steve Squyers book then don't buy that yet,read this first and then buy that. Y
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars READ THIS BEFORE BUYING 22 Mar 2013
By Bob Buddy - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a frustratingly mixed bag. It has lots of really interesting tech info, including Curiosity's ChemCam, the laser-spectroscope that zaps rocks and reads their composition. But I was expecting diagrams and other pictorial aids and there are none. All text, with just 4 glossy color pages of publicity shots. And mixed in with the good stuff is the endless politics and budget issues at NASA, maybe interesting to bureaucrats, but quickly tiresome to most readers.

That said, stick with it and you will learn fascinating facts about the rovers and other robotic missions that few know.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mars and ChemCam the unforgetable journey. 18 April 2013
By Rick B - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
From begining to the end of the book, recent space history is presented in a impressive and easy to read format. Mars is in reach and present in this remarkable read. You can see the evolution of new ideas the led to the current ChemCam instrument from the previous Genesis probe that captured the early history of the sun. Now we have a SUV size probe Curiosity on Mars making it's own history while revealing the Martion past through geological analysis using the laser ChemCam tools. The author has personalized his experiences in this entire process, from family life to endless hours of designing, testing, and waiting to see if thier project whould be choosen by NASA for a real space flight. Every part of the emotional spectrum is presented and the the human spirit is lifted to literally new heights. Roger Wiens has again reached new heights both on paper and on Mars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of 5 stars 30 Mar 2013
By R. Mulford - Published on
I love all types of science books. This book however illuminated the practical application of science and gave a behind the scenes look at NASA and space exploration. It is well written and worthy of your time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eye opener 1 April 2013
By Jerry T. Searcy - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I never realized that getting these incredible machines to the surface of other worlds required so many twist, turns and just plain luck. I naively thought NASA gathered engineers and scientist into a room, decided the details of the machine, built it, launched it and the rest became history...boy was I wrong! A wonderful read!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book! 5 Nov 2013
By GA Lindsay - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very informative. Well-written. Author has hands-on personal experience with the program. Lot's of interesting historical perspectives. Roger Wiens shares a lifetime of knowledge.
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