- Series: Springer Praxis Books
- Paperback: 408 pages
- Publisher: Springer; 1st ed. 2018 edition (March 28, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9783319681443
- ISBN-13: 978-3319681443
- ASIN: 3319681443
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job (Springer Praxis Books) 1st ed. 2018 Edition
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From the Back Cover
This book describes the most complex machine ever sent to another planet: Curiosity. It is a one-ton robot with two brains, seventeen cameras, six wheels, nuclear power, and a laser beam on its head. No one human understands how all of its systems and instruments work. This essential reference to the Curiosity mission explains the engineering behind every system on the rover, from its rocket-powered jetpack to its radioisotope thermoelectric generator to its fiendishly complex sample handling system. Its lavishly illustrated text explains how all the instruments work -- its cameras, spectrometers, sample-cooking oven, and weather station -- and describes the instruments' abilities and limitations. It tells you how the systems have functioned on Mars, and how scientists and engineers have worked around problems developed on a faraway planet: holey wheels and broken focus lasers. And it explains the grueling mission operations schedule that keeps the rover working day in and day out.
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This is actually the first part of a two-volume set - a companion volume, focusing mainly on mission science, is due out next year. Even if it's only "half" a book, this is still a substantial reference work. The first chapter covers the evolution of Curiosity and the rocky road, full of budget cuts, "descopes," and launch delays that it faced in the decade prior to launch. The second chapter looks at the journey to Mars, focusing on the notoriously complex Entry, Descent, and Landing phase. The third chapter describes surface operations, including planning processes and a summary of the mission so far, while the fourth chapter covers power systems, thermal control, avionics, etc. The final four chapters, roughly half the book, describes all of the scientific, chemistry, and geological instruments, explaining the engineering design of each, how they work, some of the results obtained so far, and some of the problems they've encountered. The text is accompanied by a large number of color photographs and diagrams, annotated images of rover hardware, graphs, and summary tables.
Where this book really delivers is in a superbly detailed presentation on exactly WHY MSL, for all its great cost, is such a unique, powerful, and versatile vehicle for scientific and geological studies. This isn't the kind of book that tells us how many millimeters in diameter the drill is, or what type of metal the bits are made of. Instead, Emily Lakdawalla explains how the drill is actually used, its internal arrangement, some of the anomalies encountered on Mars, and how a bit could be changed if need be. For a more complicated instrument, such as MAHLI, she describes how the camera is focused, the different imaging modes, and the use of the calibration target. The hard details, such as camera specifications, image scales, motor counts, and the dates mosaics were taken, are all included as side tables. The appendix is an extremely useful summary of the first 1,648 sols, providing information on scientific activities, drive distances, arm usage, surface temperature and pressure, and so on.
I really want to give this five stars, but some publisher issues unfortunately mar it. Although Springer/Praxis has published a huge number of excellent space titles, they've always lacked somewhat in production values. The photo quality is merely decent; most of the pictures look fine, if a little soft, but quite a few are very murky or have poor contrast. The index is very skimpy, so be prepared to spend a lot of time browsing if you want to find a particular piece of data. There's also no glossary, which considering the huge number of acronyms is a frustrating omission. That aside, this an excellent book which deserves to be read by anyone who has a serious interest in the inner workings of MSL.
This is a fact-packed but very readable overview of the most sophisticated robotic mission flown to Mars. The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla lays out in accessible detail (backed by abundant references) the evolution of the Mars Science Laboratory, the crises during its development, and how its various systems and instruments work. By drawing together in one place both the nuts and bolts, and the scientific intent, of rover operations, the book takes the reader to the red planet with explanations of everything from heat shields to image compression and chemical analysis. Especially illuminating are the discussions of issues that operators have had to work around.
The book has ~200 images, carefully chosen and composed (as one might expect from Emily, a well-known image-processing maven). Particularly useful are the annotations she has added to many images to label various details. Also tremendously useful are the many tables listing such details as when different kinds of images were taken, or when short-circuits occurred, etc.
If I were to have any criticism of the book, it is that the index is a little anemic. However, as a designer of mobile robotic planetary missions myself, I doubt this deficiency will be grievous, as I'll probably get to know where everything is just by regular consultation. This book has instantly become my indispensable guide to Curiosity.
Ralph Lorenz – Author, Cassini-Huygens Owners Workshop Manual
Lakdawalla also learned from her many conversations with the team how a number of details in the Rover as built ended up different from all previously published descriptions of it.