Red Rover

Red Rover

Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, From Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity

eBook - 2013
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Baker & Taylor
A geochemist and planetary scientist describes the story behind developing and building the world's most sophisticated robotic rover, which was launched with the Curiosity to explore and send photos back of Mars. 12,500 first printing.

Perseus Publishing
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?

Publisher: New York : Basic Books, c2013
ISBN: 9780465051991
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xii, 233 p.) : col. ill


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ChristchurchLib Sep 30, 2014

Among other achievements, geochemist Roger Wiens was instrumental in building the ChemCam, a device - currently mounted on NASA's Curiosity Rover - that uses a laser to reveal the mineral composition of Martian rocks. In this memoir, Weins recounts his career in science, discussing personal triumphs and setbacks, as well as exploring the political, financial, and bureaucratic hurdles that routinely hobble space exploration. Red Rover will appeal to anyone fascinated by astronomy, but fans of rovers and robots in particular should also check out Steve Squyres' Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet. Science and Nature Newsletter October 2014.

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