Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery

Overview

The Red Planet has been a subject of fascination for humanity for thousands of years, becoming part of our folklore and popular culture. The most Earthlike of the planets in our solar system, Mars may have harbored some form of life in the past and may still possess an ecosystem in some underground refuge. The mysteries of this fourth planet from our Sun make it of central importance to NASA and its science goals for the twenty-first century.  

In the wake of the very ...

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Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery

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Overview

The Red Planet has been a subject of fascination for humanity for thousands of years, becoming part of our folklore and popular culture. The most Earthlike of the planets in our solar system, Mars may have harbored some form of life in the past and may still possess an ecosystem in some underground refuge. The mysteries of this fourth planet from our Sun make it of central importance to NASA and its science goals for the twenty-first century.  

In the wake of the very public failures of the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999, NASA embarked on a complete reassessment of the Mars Program. Scott Hubbard was asked to lead this restructuring in 2000, becoming known as the "Mars Czar." His team's efforts resulted in a very successful decade-long series of missions--each building on the accomplishments of those before it--that adhered to the science adage "follow the water" when debating how to proceed. Hubbard's work created the Mars Odyssey mission, the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix mission, and most recently the planned launch of the Mars Science Laboratory

Now for the first time Scott Hubbard tells the complete story of how he fashioned this program, describing both the technical and political forces involved and bringing to life the national and international cast of characters engaged in this monumental endeavor.  Blending the exciting stories of the missions with the thrills of scientific discovery, Exploring Mars will intrigue anyone interested in the science, the engineering, or the policy of investigating other worlds.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After two dramatic failed attempts to land a module on Mars, NASA hired Stanford professor Hubbard—the "Mars Czar"—to get the program back on course. This is Hubbard's insider account of his time in Washington, D.C. as the Mars Program Director, over the first decade of the third millennium. Though a dedicated and accomplished scientist, Hubbard soon learns that NASA operations require an enormous amount of politicking, from briefing Al Gore's advisors to winning over budget committees. This inside look at Hubbard's struggles, compromises, and endless meetings gives readers a true understanding of how much diplomacy is involved in getting a rocket into space. Hubbard also includes a chapter on a topic rarely mentioned in histories of space exploration—namely, the involvement of other countries' space agencies. This not only complicates the political dimension, but adds a cultural one. The author's tale of a day in Russia drenched in vodka and coffee shows that, in addition to smarts, one must have stamina to compete in the space race. At once a fascinating scientific artifact and political thriller, Hubbard writes with wit and a passion for his work to uncover the secrets of our sister planet. Illus. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

"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

Library Journal
How did the Mars Science Laboratory come to be after two major robotic mishaps at NASA? In Exploring Mars, Scott Hubbard explains the history of Mars exploration from his personal experience. Tasked with getting the Mars Program back on track, the “Mars Czar” describes in great detail the inner workings of NASA, from engineering to politics. He also surveys what it takes to do science on another planet, the team behind the missions, and their decade of success.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal
Although it isn't exactly what its title suggests (it's more Navigating Washington than Exploring Mars), this first-person narrative provides an interesting perspective on the logistical issues—technical, scientific, and political—that Hubbard (aeronautics and astronautics, Stanford Univ.) faced as NASA's "Mars Czar" during a reorganization of its Mars Exploration Program. Covering the period between the disappearances of the Mars Climate Orbiter and the Mars Polar Lander late in 1999 and the launch of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft in April 2001, Hubbard details the excruciating process of simultaneous planning and approval seeking for multiple missions as far as a decade in advance. He focuses on how program goals emerged, including the basic strategy to "follow the water," the programmatic shorthand of the "ladder to Mars," and the "seek, in situ, and sample" approach. VERDICT Not for readers looking for an overview of what NASA has learned from the past decade's explorations of Mars. However, anyone seeking insight into the inner workings of a large NASA program will find this a revealing read. Recommended.—Marcia R. Franklin, MLIS, St. Paul
Kirkus Reviews
NASA "Mars Czar" Hubbard (Aeronautics/Stanford Univ.) draws an intimate picture of the Mars Exploration Program, which he fully revamped starting in 2000. After a series of failed, high-profile projects in 1999, the Mars project was an embarrassing mess. The agency hired Hubbard, a veteran director of its Ames Research Center, to pick up the pieces and reignite the program as well as public perception as to the meaning and worth of such a costly enterprise. In an affable voice thinly covering his diplomatic shrewdness, Hubbard displays how to be in command without being suffocatingly commanding. He admits from the get-go that Mars sells itself in many ways: its strange color and weird motion, its evidence of water and the tantalizing amino acids trapped in its meteorites. But Hubbard most of all wants readers to understand how he fashioned his Mars program. Half of it concerns insider maneuvering in the snake-pit of Washington, a place often referred to as a "logic-free zone," where "inside-the-Beltway, spin doctor, agenda-setting, rumor-mongering activity...went on continuously." Still, such duplicitous, venal behavior is little but comic relief when held up against the artful qualities of the program's design and the tools created to accomplish its goals. The author explains the scientific strategy, presented for public consumption, as to what the program was doing and why; one of Hubbard's strong suits 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816528967
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2012
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

List of Plates xi

Foreword Bill Nye xiii

Abbreviations xvii

Acknowledgments xxi

1 Mars Is Hard 1

2 Getting Started 13

3 Inside the Beltway 39

4 Follow the Water 52

5 To Land or Not to Land? 68

6 The Rover Becomes Rovers 82

7 Hands across the Water 90

8 Getting the Word Out 98

9 All Things to All People 122

10 Return to Flight: A Mars Odyssey 147

11 The Queue 161

12 Zeroing In 180

Appendix: Timeline of the New Mars Program 187

Index 189

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