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Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission Hardcover
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers will thrill to this slightly offbeat firsthand account of scientific determination and stubborn intellect. Kessler, producer of a Discovery Channel documentary on Mars and the self-professed winner of "the space-nerd lottery," was allowed to shadow the 2009 Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which would make the groundbreaking discovery of water and ice on Mars. A product of NASA's 1990s "faster, cheaper, better" mantra, Phoenix had none of the space program's usual bells and whistles, with a recycled lander and a mission control with a decided "church basement aesthetic." But there was free ice cream. Offered this unique opportunity, Kessler felt some self-doubt and had trouble adjusting to a work schedule set by the long Mars days. But along with his own witty personality, he captures the lively scientists behind the project, from Peter Smith, "world's greatest Martian Photographer," to Matt Robinson, a robot arm expert. Kessler also captures the frustrations and triumphs of a project in which a 15-minute communications lag between Mars and Earth meant anything could go wrong. This behind-the-scenes look delivers a fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor. (Apr.)
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“Readers will thrill to this slightly offbeat firsthand account of scientific determination and stubborn intellect. . . . This behind-the-scenes look delivers a fascinating journey of discovery peppered with humor.” —Publishers Weekly
“A candid and precise account of the ups and downs of a space mission. This book shows what it is to participate in a short and intense landed Mars expedition. It gives the feel of the pressure and excitement at mission control, where engineers, managers and scientists work together while trying to satisfy contradictory requirements, showing the human side of science with refreshing honesty.” —Nilton Renno, professor of atmospheric and space sciences, University of Michigan
“It is as if I imagined Holden Caulfield writing about the mission. Martian Summer is a riot.” —Peter Smith, professor, Lunar and Planetory Laboratory, University of Arizona, and principal investigator of the Phoenix Project
Top customer reviews
In it's journal-like style, the reader sees the mission through his eyes and gains a thorough picture of both the engineering challenges and triumphs as well as the relationships between team members, the interaction between the Phoenix team and their superiors at NASA headquarters, and their constant battle to engage the public somehow while resisting the media's thirst for sensational stories, while Kessler's quirky personality keeps the narrative fresh and engaging. A rare book.
He eventually reveals both the amazing scheduling and discovery involved in commanding a Mars mission taking place 100 million miles away and some of the challenges the team faces when dealing with NASA politics and tough mission choices. The day-by-day play-by-play can become a bit tiresome, but this is definitely an interesting book to read for the space enthusiast or the budding Mars researcher.
and knowing many of the participants personally, I was eager to read this account
of the landed operations, although like the mission itself, early results were
The book contains a number of factual errors (e.g. the Cassini camera was not the
first to use CCDs in space, the person referred to as a chief scientist for NASA
was not the NASA Chief Scientist, etc.) which reinforces the impression that the
author doesnt fully understand everything he writes about (an innocence the author
The color photo section is very poorly thought-out: images seemingly chosen at random
and often shown in an aspect ratio that leaves details invisibly small while leaving
60% of the page as white space.
I found the style a bit jarring - while informality is great, it can be overdone (the
author adds a presumably onomatopoeic 'pew pew pew' at just too many mentions of
the LIDAR). Lots of short sentences and paragraphs. In short, written more like a
blog than a book.
All the above aside, this really is a fascinating story of a mission unfolding, warts
and all. The interactions between scientists, and between scientists, engineers, managers
and the media, and the team's (and the author's) fight against fatigue while working
on Mars time, are shown in a first-hand, close quarters account, full of direct
quotes. I'd consider it essential reading for anyone planning a landed mission
on another world.
Kessler spends one summer in Mission Control getting the fly on the wall perspective on the Phoenix Mars mission. From the beginning he admits that he is not your typical space journalist - he loves space, but doesn't hold a PhD in rocket science. This means he spends paragraphs breaking down complicated scientific jargon into something a liberal arts major would instantly relate to.
Hilarious observations & never-waning enthusiasm for discovery make Martian Summer a wonderful book every Earthling should read.
Most recent customer reviews
As a space program history buff, I have read dozens of books on the subject.Read more