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Excellent, concise intro to the Curiosity mission,
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This review is from: Mars Landing 2012: Inside the NASA Curiosity Mission (Kindle Edition)
Now that the "seven minutes of terror" are past and Curiosity is safe on Mars, this book is a terrific introduction to the most complex and ambitious planetary science mission ever launched. Unlike the three rovers that preceded it, Curiosity is an astrobiology mission, tasked with finding out if life ever could have existed on the Martian surface. While Mars is now a frozen desert, we know for certain from previous rovers that it was once warm and wet enough for water to run freely over the surface -- and where there was liquid water, there may have been (and just possibly might still be) life. Kaufman outlines the experiments carried on Curiosity and explains just what they will be doing over the next two years as the rover climbs Mt. Sharp.
I highly recommend reading this ebook in conjunction with Kaufman's "First Contact," in which he offers an outstanding discussion of the Viking landers' findings back in 1976. The Vikings were supposed to find out if there were bacteria in the soil -- a goal that seemed simple enough at the time. To everyone's surprise, the Viking findings were profoundly ambiguous, and scientists have argued about them for decades since. Curiosity is a descendant of Viking, with better versions of some of its instruments. To understand Curiosity, you really have to understand Viking.
I especially recommend the Appendix in the ebook, which explains all the acronyms you hear in the press briefings: MARDI, MAHLI, CheMin, ChemCam, and more. Once you have read this, you'll know what is now sitting on the surface of Mars and ready to go to work. The Appendix alone is worth the price of the book.
Kaufman is covering Curiosity for the Washington Post and it will not surprise me if he writes the definitive book on Curiosity in a few years. Watch for that.