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Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet Paperback – May 10, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; Reprint edition (May 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401308511
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401308513
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cornell University scientist Squyres is the principal investigator on the Mars missions that landed the rovers Spirit and Opportunity in January 2004. Expected to operate for only a few weeks, they are still going strong a year and a half later. But as Squyres recounts, their development was plagued with problems, and shortly before the launch of Spirit, it looked like the missions might be scrubbed; the giant landing airbags had failed in test after test. Spirit has endured a communications breakdown and a troublesome rear wheel, but Opportunity quickly found geological evidence for the existence of water millions of years ago. Squyres relates the toll that monitoring the rovers took on his colleagues. The Martian day is 39 minutes longer than a day on Earth, so the team had to reset their watches and their internal clocks to work, eat and sleep like Martians. Squyres communicates the excitement and the anxieties involved in a project of this magnitude, steering clear of technical jargon, though more casual science buffs might want to fast-forward occasionally in early chapters packed with detail on the ins and outs of NASA's approval process for proposals and institutional politicking. 16 pages of color illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

NASA's two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which are currently driving around Mars, have been astoundingly successful; but as Squyres recounts, they came close to staying earthbound. Buffeted by budgetary and technical problems, the rover missions received the green light only in 2001, giving the engineers and scientists just two years to get ready for a 2003 launch. The resulting freneticism of prelaunch preparation permeates Squyres' blow-by-blow narration of his work, which concentrated on several instruments. A geologist designated as the lead scientist for the missions, Squyres had to negotiate with engineers to fit his stuff on their spacecraft--a fundamental antagonism in the space--exploration business. In fact, Squyres bluntly states he distrusted the lead engineer, Peter Theisinger. The working out of their differences, amid other examples of mollification between engineers and scientists, depicts the daily human drama (from Squyres' viewpoint) of diagnosing and solving technical problems, an angle that ought to augment the author's base readership of space-program fans. Couched in conversational prose, Squyres' enthusiasm for exploring Mars shines brightly. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The book is tedious, with a lot of details that don't add to clarity, rather confuse with acronyms that hide the goal and the mission.
That quick epiphany led to an astonishing journey to becoming the principal investigator for the most successful Mars project ever, The Mars Exploration Rover mission.
Donald Mitchell
Overall, the book is excellent and very highly recommended to anyone interested in Mars, space exploration, or how science really gets done.
James Sexton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Kevin W. Parker on September 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
(Let me start off by saying that I reserve 5 stars for books that are truly outstanding, not, like some Amazon reviewers, for any book that is just pretty good. For me, 4 stars is a VERY good rating.)

I have felt some lingering jealousy watching the videos of the rover control center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I support spacecraft for a living, but somehow what I've been doing hasn't seemed quite as exciting or sexy as working with rovers on Mars (and particularly not now, with Goddard's heyday apparently in the past.)

Squyres' book both dulls and enhances the glamor. He spends some time talking about the long, hard slog he took to become Principal Investigator for a Mars mission, starting in 1989 with an effort to develop a camera to fly on a NASA Mars mission. He proposed sticking it on a mission called MESUR Pathfinder in the early 90's and was turned down. He tried again to develop a science package to go to Mars in 1998, and that was turned down. NASA expressed interest again a few years later, he resubmitted, and it was turned down again. He put a lot of work into a complex set of missions set to start going to Mars in 2001, a program that was killed when Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander failed in quick succession.

By 2000, though, NASA was looking for a glamorous mission to redeem its Mars reputation, and Squyres' rover seemed to fit the bill. Not only was his mission chosen, but he was asked for two of them.

The schedule ended up being brutal, having to develop a complex mission inside of three years with the unforgiving, inflexible 2003 Mars launch window looming up ahead.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By pkeahi on August 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For fans of Spirit and Opportunity and the team that made them what they are, some of this book will be familiar - like Dr. Squyres' quotes about the launches, landings and images - but fans will still want to have it for all the other goodies.

Dr. Squyres answers questions we didn't see in media interviews - like:
-who is that EDL guy who looks like Elvis' younger brother?
-what does Dr. Steve hope for the Rovers centuries from now?
-how was beer involved in the MER project?
-how do smart, strong, stubborn people come together to do something so challenging?

Technical details abound - including stories about getting the airbags right, making it to the launchpad, and the INIT_CRIPPLED command that saved the day. The technical details remind me a bit of Tracey Kidder's Soul of the New Machine. So, I think it would be a fun read for fans of Kidder's book.

There are some press release images in the two sets of mostly color pictures, but there are also some fun surprises.

There is also an Appendix listing over 4,000 names - the best effort to name the entire MER team - wow.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Lorenz on August 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Squyres is smart, dynamic and articulate, and gives the inside

story not only of the construction and operation of the rovers,

but also all the politics that led to the project in the first

place. It's a pretty gripping read, and makes the personalities

involved come to life, as well as the rovers themselves. Tech

fans will not be disappointed with the details of software,

grounding, parachute design and all of the nitty-gritty

problems that had to be fixed. I loved it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Mudd on August 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
There's a book-length irony in Roving Mars. Early on, author Steve Squyres talks about the difference between scientists and engineers. Scientists want perfection, engineers whatever's "good enough." Scientists are inspiration, engineers perspiration. Scientists are idealistic, engineers are pragmatic. Steve Squyres is a scientist. In fact he's the chief scientist on the project. Yet, if ever there was an engineer's book, this is it. Roving Mars is far more about how Spirit and Opportunity were assembled than why. More about what the rovers found than what the discoveries mean. And a thousand times more about the minutest details of the two patches of Mars the rovers explored than the planetary big picture the terrain is part of. In other words, the book is relentlessly reductionist. Reading it feels like looking down a microscope for hundreds of pages. There's precious little context. It's virtually all trees, branches, leaves and cells, and almost no forest.

Is this a fair complaint? That depends on who there book was "written for." Unquestionably it was written for a lay audience, not the scientific community. But which lay audience?. If Squyres set out to write a book for people who are thrilled by the tiniest technical details about how many watts this resistor can bear versus that resistor, or how to wheedle your way through the labyrinth of NASA project approval, then he has succeeded brilliantly. But if he intended his book for people interested in the planet Mars, in thoughtful musings about why man explores and the significance of what he finds, or even just in some broader geological hypotheses around what the rovers are looking at, then he has fallen way short.
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