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Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery 2nd Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0816528967
ISBN-10: 0816528969
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Editorial Reviews


"It's high time somebody revealed the underbelly of why and how we travel to the Red Planet. Leave it to NASA's 'Mars Czar' Scott Hubbard to tell this story. Yes, we're all explorers, but every mission to space is enabled by financial, political, and cultural forces that you never hear about—without which there'd be no enterprise of discovery at all."—Neil deGrasse Tyson

"Mars is not a friendly place—and neither is Washington. Scott Hubbard knows how to navigate deftly in both places—and the end result is a Mars exploration campaign that emerged like a Phoenix from a pair of smoking holes in the rusty red soil. His story is filled with outsized egos, undersized budgets, and nail-biting tension as he performs mission impossible: turning an epic failure into a space-age triumph."—Miles O'Brien

 "Space-exploration and Mars enthusiasts will find much here to whet their appetites."—Booklist

"Hubbard's strong suit is his yearning for good science at the service of education and public outreach. He outlines the program's balance as regards orbital and land-based exploration, the systems-engineering approach, the expected high level of return, the budgetary consideration and the program's probes into ancient Mars and current Mars. The author closes with an impressive list of the program's successes over the last decade. A lucid, concentrated appreciation of the technological, political and scientific imperatives that guide the nation's approach to Mars."—Kirkus Reviews

"Exploring Mars is Hubbard's absorbing story of how he [helped NASA], starting by creating teams of talented scientists and engineers inside a headquarters building that is, as he writes, 'a combination of alphabet soup and numerology' that was rife with internal politics and power trips."—The San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Scott Hubbard is a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. He has been engaged in space-related research as well as program, project, and executive management for more than 35 years. He spent 20 years at NASA, including serving as director of NASA’s Ames Research Center and received NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press; 2 edition (February 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816528969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816528967
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You won't learn much about Mars from reading this book - or much about the exploration of Mars, although the last chapter does quickly review some of the highlights of Mars missions of the past decade, while Hubbard was "Mars Czar." Most of the book is a fairly tedious review of Hubbard's activities navigating the bureaucracy of NASA and Congress, including endless meetings and negotiations. That said, Mars missions have been quite successful under Hubbard's leadership, so those interested in the details of how things get done in Washington might find the book of interest.
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Format: Paperback
Scott Hubbard has written a very comprehensive and readable book that chronicles over a decade of discovery. Whether you have always been interested in NASA's space program or are a newbie who is enthralled with the Mars Science Laboratory and its phenomenal Rovers, you will find something fascinating in every chapter. The launch and landing of the Mars Rovers always makes headlines, but the back story is as interesting, if not more so.
Scott Hubbard was asked to restructure NASA's Mars Program in 2000 after some very public and costly failures. His responsibilities encompassed both the technical program and navigating the political waters in Washington, DC. Budget considerations are always front and center, and at the same time the technical and engineering decisions must be those that ensure the missions success. Hubbard who had served as director of NASA's Ames Research Center, and set up NASA's Astrobiology Institute, became known as the Mars Czar, and the expectations of turning the Mars project from failure to success were huge.
From it's earliest days, sample return from The Red Planet was a goal, but enormous effort was first needed to determine the best sites for a sampling return mission. Earth and Mars must be in the right alignment for a launch approximately every 26 months, so if things go wrong with a mission, a two year wait for the next one is hard for Washington to live with, especially given NASA's budget, which has been constantly diminished, while at the same time, the work that goes into science, engineering, rocketry, computer programs, communication equipment, robotics, and remote operations cannot be less than absolute! Orbiters, which get little media coverage must be able to perform flawlessly as well.
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Hubbard's book really picks apart a moment in history that almost snuck by without most of us noticing: That moment when American space exploration efforts were snatched from the jaws of defeat with no time to spare. For many of us who grew up gazing at the stars and dreaming of a space-faring future, the seeming self-destruction of NASA - and especially the pair of Mars mission disasters in the late 90s - looked like the end. But thanks to people like Scott Hubbard, the end didn't come.

This book - which is a fantastic read for anyone interested in Mars or space exploration in general - tells the step-by-step story of a brilliant (and almost blindly optimistic) scientist who stepped up to rescue NASA's Mars program, and maybe even NASA as a whole. Virtually everyone on Earth watched as the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity sent back amazing pictures and data from a mission that succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. And the entire world held it's breath as the Curiosity rover set down in August of 2012 in a terrifying and picture-perfect landing. These are some of the missions that are the fruit of Scott Hubbard's labor as NASA's "Mars Czar." And these are the missions that have recaptured humanity's interest in Mars and in space exploration as a whole.

"Exploring Mars" pulls back the curtain on NASA's process. It shows how one articulate and persistent person can build consensus, change cultural behaviors and make huge things happen. Important things. And these things - traveling to and landing on another planet - are about as difficult as it gets.

Needless to say, I loved this book. It reawakened my belief in our ability to continue exploring space. And it's simply a great story. If you want to know exactly how we go to Mars and WHY we go to Mars, check it out. In fact, check it out if you just want to be reminded of the amazing things humans can do when they focus, put petty issues aside, and work together.
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